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NBA Draft 2017: 5 observations of Kevin Pelton’s statistical draft rankings

Pistons have good chance to land quality player at No. 12

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The NBa Draft is just over 24 hours away, and the Pistons have the No. 12 pick. That typically is not a range that delivers many exciting prospects, but this year’s crop of prospects appears loaded.

But the consensus of draft prognosticators alone is unwise, and it’s always worth it to explore analytics and draft models to try and sort through the hype, combine measurements and name recognition associated with players in major conferences on major teams who were constantly on national television.

Unfortunately, finding good draft models these days has been increasingly difficult as every time a new one crops up with a good track record the people get scooped up by NBA teams and their work becomes proprietary information.

Luckily, Kevin Pelton at ESPN has his WARP system. It’s far from perfect (nothing is) but a lot more fun than getting sucked into a conventional wisdom echo chamber.

So what does Pelton’s projection for the 2017 NBA Draft tell us? Here are five observations:

1. Dennis Smith Jr. falling could be an ideal scenario for Detroit

Smith falling to No. 12 is still highly unlikely, but he might be the steal of the draft. Anecdotally, I’ve heard some scouts who are extremely high on him, and he ranks as the sixth-best prospect in the draft by WARP. Pelton combines high marks from the eye test, statistical profile and projects Smith with the fourth-best WARP in the draft. He also notes his statistical profile is relatively close to consensus No. 1 Markell Fultz.

2. I might be too down on OG Anunoby and too high on Donovan Mitchell

I’ve never been really on board the Anunoby bandwagon because of fears of him being a workout warrior, but he ranks seventh in Pelton’s system, and his defensive potential seems off the charts. Conversely, Mitchell is throwing out Gary Harris vibes and he is looking like a core piece in Denver. However, he ranks just 25th in WARP. If Detroit is looking for a 3-and-D difference maker (harder to find than it seems), which one makes sense? Or is it best to just avoid both players to avoid another player like Stanley Johnson who might take years to develop NBA offensive skills, if they ever do?

3. Are we too high on Malik Monk?

I’ve been a big Malik Monk fan, but, ironically, I was never on board with everyone who fell in love with Devin Booker. Even as Booker filled stat sheets in Phoenix I’ve remained in a the skeptical camp. Perhaps I should treat fellow Kentucky shooting guard Monk in the same manner. Monk ranks 32nd in the WARP stats projection and falls at No. 14 on Pelton’s board. The culprit? Weak rebounding and steal rate numbers, and that should serve as a warning sign to everyone.

4. Who the heck is Monte Morris

Morris rates No. 3 in Pelton’s WARP projection, and, honestly, I don’t watch enough Iowa State basketball, because I’d never heard of him. You have to take some projections with a grain of salt, but it’s always nice to think about possible steals in the second round (if Detroit could buy a pick). Morris is a four-year PG with a decent 3-point shot and great assist-to-turnover ratio. Pelton compares his ability to protect the ball to Malcolm Brogdon, and that kind of player is always nice to find.

5. An inability to play NBA defense is bad and Luke Kennard projects poorly

Kennard might be the best shooter in the draft, and he has been lighting it up in workouts. That also happens to be the skill the Pistons are most desperate to add to their roster. But Detroit can’t be blinded by an unfortunate truth — there is a chance Kennard can’t play good enough defense in the pros. He ranks No. 31 in WARP because he doesn’t generate steals, and that is a huge predictor of success at the next level.