NBA Draft: ESPN uses advanced stats to rank prospects

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of relying heavily on PER, ESPN's latest advanced stats basketball writer emphasizes WARP to rate prospects.

Love him or hate him, I always looked forward to John Hollinger's yearly NBA Draft Rater, especially when Ty Lawson was ranked the best prospect by his analysis and ended up falling to the 20s (and past the Pistons who instead went with Austin Daye).

Hollinger has moved on to more bear-infested pastures and Kevin Pelton has accepted the challenge of bringing NBA fans an advanced metrics-enhanced view of the NBA draft.

Here is Pelton on his methodology:

I start by translating a player's college statistics to their NBA equivalents. That produces a per-minute rating, player win% (equivalent to PER), that projects how we can expect rookies to perform in the NBA next season. By adding age, I come up with a projection of how many Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP), on average, prospects will produce over their first five years -- the amount of time teams control a first-round pick between the four-year rookie contract and one year as a restricted free agent.

The piece is NBA Insider but I'll pull out some highlights, especially considering the players Detroit fans have bandied about for the past month.

1. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope needs to get more love.

I remain perplexed by the lack of admiration for the game of Caldwell-Pope among Pistons fans. The team has a glaring need for both a quality defender and someone who can reliably hi the 3-ball and KCP provides that, and he also happens to rank third overall in Pelton's analysis. And as an added bonus you'll never confuse him for a combo guard. He's a legit shooting guard through and through.

2. The point guards are closer in quality than you think.

Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams are like polar opposites as far as point guard products go, and both have legitimate reasons that one should be ranked ahead of the other. C.J. McCollum, meanwhile, has always seemed like somewhat of a consolation prize for losing out on Victor Oladipo and Burke. But McCollum is the player that rates as the best point guard in this draft class.

Why? It largely comes down to rebounding. McCollum was very good and efficient so he rates best, Burke was a poor rebounder but efficient so he rates second and MCW was a very good rebounder but prone to the turnover and a poor shooter so he rates third.

3. Red flags on Oladipo, McLemore and Muhammad.

It's no surprise that Oladipo would fare poorly in the advanced stats prism because he had two mediocre years before blowing up big time in his junior year. Collectively, it means he's the 17th-best prospect by Pelton's system. But Pelton acknowledges that even if his offense regresses he'll be an impact defender. But people might be overlooking some evidence at their own risks.

McLemore, meanwhile, was the biggest surprise for me of any player rating. He ranks 18th with a poor usage rate and an inability to get to the free-throw line. He also turns the ball over too much for a catch-and-shoot player. It could be youth or it could be a warning sign that a player with a lot of hype from a big program is getting overrated.

I've ceased being afraid that the Pistons will actually draft Shabazz Muhammad (did I just jinx it?), but it's still nice to see advanced metrics viewing Shabazz as poorly as I do in person. He is one of two likely top-30 picks that registered a negative WARP from Pelton. That means he's basically as good as a 10-day contract type.

4. Andre Roberson the steal of the draft?

I've never heard of the Colorado big man but he registered the third-best rating of any prospect according to WARP. Of Roberson, Pelton writes, "Roberson fits a second-round stereotype -- an undersized power forward with big-time athleticism. He struggled last season trying to play more on the perimeter, but has excelled defensively and on the glass against bigger players. Consider Roberson a poor man's Kenneth Faried."

I know Dumars is probably going for a stretch four but I'd love to have a poor man's Kenneth Faried with a second-round pick.

5. If Pistons don't get a point guard at pick No. 8, they should have good options in the second round.

While it might just be a flaw in Pelton's metric, I noticed a lot of point guards rate quite well in his system. D.J. Cooper, Nate Wolters and Pierre Jackson all rated with a WARP above 2.0, which is quite good. Obviously, they compiled those stats against lesser competition in most cases but they are probably worth taking a flyer on.

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