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Fantasy Basketball: Third Time Is The Charm

by Dave Fuller

As most of you probably already know, a player's third season in the NBA is often the season in which they break out and set the course for the remainder of their professional basketball career. Of course, this is all reliant on the fact that said player is receiving enough consistent playing time to develop their skills. It's logical to think that a lottery pick should be making an immediate impact and may likely even start from day one and that most of the remainder of the first round picks should be seeing at least decent minutes off the bench in their rookie season. So, it's plain to see that most players with enough drive, perseverence, and sheer talent should be breaking out in their third season if they will ever be anything more than a 7th man or better.

So, let's take a look at just how well some third-year players (drafted in '05) are doing this season and if it's as good a predictor as it's hyped up to be. Before we do so, we'll see the percentage of those in the 2005 draft class who are starting for their teams, those who are reserves, those who have changed teams at least once, and those currently not in the NBA (only 1st round and noteble 2nd round picks are listed):

Rnd. Sel. Player Draft Tm. Current Tm. Starter? Reserve? Tm. Change? In the NBA?
1 1 Andrew Bogut MIL MIL Yes No No Yes
1 2 Marvin Williams ATL ATL Yes No No Yes
1 3 Deron Williams UTA UTA Yes No No Yes
1 4 Chris Paul NOK NO Yes No No Yes
1 5 Raymond Felton CHA CHA Yes No No Yes
1 6 Martell Webster POR POR Yes No No Yes
1 7 Charlie Villanueva TOR MIL No Yes Yes Yes
1 8 Channing Frye TOR NY No Yes Yes Yes
1 9 Ike Diogu GS IND No Yes Yes Yes
1 10 Andrew Bynum LAL LAL Yes No No Yes
1 11 Fran Vazquez ORL None No No No No
1 12 Yaroslav Korolev LAC LAC No No No Yes
1 13 Sean May CHA CHA INJ (Yes) INJ (No) No Yes
1 14 Rashad McCants MIN MIN Yes No No Yes
1 15 Antoine Wright NJ NJ No Yes No Yes
1 16 Joey Graham NJ NJ No Yes No Yes
1 17 Danny Granger IND IND Yes No No Yes
1 18 Gerald Green BOS MIN No Yes Yes Yes
1 19 Hakim Warrick MEM MEM No Yes No Yes
1 20 Julius Hodge DEN MIL INJ (No) INJ (Yes) Yes Yes
1 21 Nate Robinson PHX NY No Yes Yes Yes
1 22 Jarrett Jack DEN POR No Yes Yes Yes
1 23 Francisco Garcia SAC SAC Yes No No Yes
1 24 Luther Head HOU HOU Yes No No Yes
1 25 Johan Petro SEA SEA No Yes No Yes
1 26 Jason Maxiell DET DET No Yes No Yes
1 27 Linas Kleiza POR DEN No Yes Yes Yes
1 28 Ian Mahinmi SAS SAS No Yes No Yes
1 29 Wayne Simien MIA MIN INJ (No) INJ (Yes) Yes Yes
1 30 David Lee NY NY No Yes No Yes
Rnd. Sel. Player Draft Tm. Current Tm. Starter? Reserve? Tm. Change? In the NBA?
2 3 Brandon Bass NOK DAL No Yes Yes Yes
2 4 C.J. Miles UTA UTA No Yes No Yes
2 7 Ronny Turiaf LAL LAL No Yes No Yes
2 10 Monta Ellis GS GS Yes No No Yes
2 15 Louis Williams PHI PHI No Yes No Yes
2 19 Andray Blatche WAS WAS No Yes No Yes
2 20 Ryan Gomes BOS MIN Yes No Yes Yes

Well, there's quite a bit of information to take from this. First, with some quick math, those percentages come out as:

40.7% (11/27; excludes injured players) of 1st rounders are currently starting
51.9% (14/27; excludes injured players) of 1st rounders are currently reserves
70.0% (21/30; includes injured players) of 1st rounders have changed teams at least once
3.3% (1/30; includes injured players) of 1st rounders are currently not in the NBA

Since the 2nd round can be a crapshoot, I only included 1st-round players. As you can see from players such as Brandon Bass, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Andray Blatche, and Ryan Gomes, even 2nd-round players can make an impact. However, as I only consider these 7 worth mentioning as relatively developed players, it's safe to say only 25-30% of 2nd rounders will make a notable impact in the NBA.

I don't have the type of information I'd love to have access to, so I can't compare 2005's draft class to those of other years. The 1st round information from 2005, though, seems to show some pretty solid development overall. Just over 40% of non-injured players are currently starting for their team, which is spectacular considering their experience and the skill level of players already with starting roles. The fact that only one player has left the NBA and only two are currently inactive is also impressive. If one thing stands out as a negative, it's the high change rate (70.0% in a mere two and a half seasons). The NBA, however, is a business, and that's what happens with professional sports. Likely not much of a deviation from the norm.

Here are the approximate top 10 statistical improvement lines from 1st-round players of the 2005 draft class (from second to third season):

1. Rashad McCants :: PG/SG, Minnesota Timberwolves
Minutes (+11:48), FG% (+7.1), 3PT (+1.5), FT% (+5.5), Rebounds (+0.8), Assists (+1.0), Steals (+0.2), Blocks (+0.1), Points (+8.7)

2. Jason Maxiell :: SF/PF/C, Detroit Pistons
Minutes (+9:13), FG% (+6.5), FT% (+14.1), Rebounds (+2.9), Assists (+0.5), Blocks (+0.4), Points (+4.3)

3. Andrew Bynum :: C, Los Angeles Lakers
Minutes (+6:43), FG% (+6.2), FT% (+1.3), Rebounds (+3.9), Assists (+0.4), Steals (+0.2), Blocks (+0.4), Points (+4.5)

4. Chris Paul :: PG, New Orleans Hornets
Minutes (+0:43), FG% (+4.2), 3PT (+0.3), FT% (+7.3), Assists (+1.4), Steals (+1.1), Points (+4.0)

5. Marvin Williams :: SG/SF, Atlanta Hawks
Minutes (+2:36), FG% (+6.7), Rebounds (+0.3), Turnovers (-0.3), Steals (+0.4), Points (+4.6)

6. Francisco Garcia :: SG/SF, Sacramento Kings
Minutes (+9:48), FG% (+1.3), 3PT (+0.6), Rebounds (+0.9), Assists (+0.5), Steals (+0.7), Points (+7.5)

7. Antoine Wright :: SG/SF, New Jersey Nets
Minutes (+11:54), 3PT (+0.5), FT% (+4.8), Rebounds (+0.4), Assists (+0.8), Steals (+0.2), Blocks (+0.4), Points (+4.3)

8. Martell Webster :: SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers
Minutes (+8:05), FG% (+2.7), 3PT (+0.5), FT% (+3.1), Rebounds (+1.2), Assists (+0.8), Steals (+0.2), Blocks (+0.3), Points (+3.7)

9. Deron Williams :: PG, Utah Jazz
Minutes (+0:19), FG% (+5.1), FT% (+1.0), Steals (+0.1), Blocks (+0.1), Points (+3.1)

10. Danny Granger :: SG/SF, Indiana Pacers
Minutes (+0:53), 3PT (+0.3), Rebounds (+0.9), Assists (+0.6), Steals (+0.2), Blocks (+0.4), Points (+2.2)

Of course, I'm not saying Rashad McCants is a better real-life NBA player than Chris Paul or Andrew Bynum. Danny Granger and Deron Williams (perhaps a top 3 PG in the league) weren't that low on the top 10 players from the 2005 draft class for the professional game, either. It's merely a ranking of how well each player has developed between last (second) season and this (third) season. Well, fantasy-wise, anyway.