Category Archives: DMX

Studying Abroad 2017

In my previous post, I gave some background on my “DMX” draft metric and looked at the top NCAA prospects. The goal of integrating international prospects into DMX was to estimate how they would have performed in NCAA by establishing the relative strength of schedule for the multitude of overseas leagues. This method has its flaws, some that I will get into, but overall I am satisfied with where it ranks internationals among their NCAA counterparts. In the interest of making this read-able, I will hone in specifically on the prospects listed on DraftExpress’ most recent mock draft.

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Isaiah Hartenstein

There is a lot to like about Hartenstein (pictured), an athletic, teenaged 7-footer who can shoot threes, rebound, block shots, and pass. Isaiah’s biggest weakness is that he is an over-aggressive goon, resulting in high turnover and foul rates and inconsistent playing time this season for Zalgiris. Between his projection and a Hoop Summit performance where he acquitted himself well against future lottery picks like Mo Bamba, I am open to the possibility that Hartenstein is the best international prospect in this draft.

Rodions Kurucs

Kurucs, a 6’8″ forward from Latvia, is another young prospect with good numbers at the U18 level. He did play 24 games this year in Spain’s second-division, but a preseason injury robbed him of possible garbage time minutes in the Euroleague for FC Barcelona. At #22 in the DraftExpress mock and #25 in DMX, Rodi would seem to be rated accurately by the scouting consensus.

Frank Ntilikina

French PG Frank Ntilikina, widely considered the best international draft prospect, grades out a bit lower than both Kurucs and Hartenstein. However, the case for Ntilikina is an easy one to make if you parse the numbers.

Ntilikina’s DMX is pulled down by a 308-minute sample as a 17-year old playing for Strasbourg in the France Pro A, so in other words he is unfairly penalized for playing at a high level at an especially young age. If you remove those minutes from the equation his DMX spikes to 6.3, which would be #14 in this class and tops among international prospects. The question for Ntilikina isn’t so much how he compares to the other Euros, but rather how he stacks up against a loaded class of one-and-done NCAA point guards, and even in the best light Frank still looks to be a tier below De’Aaron Fox (7.4 DMX) and Dennis Smith Jr. (8.1), let alone Ball and Fultz.

Aleksandar Vezenkov

It speaks to Vezenkov’s track record overseas that he is the fourth-ranked auto-eligible draft prospect by DMX behind Monte Morris and Josh Hart, both of whom I singled out as winners, and Derrick White, my favorite draft sleeper. Vezenkov is an un-athletic tweener, but he has succeeded at every level from starring on the Bulgarian junior national team to his current role for FC Barcelona. His production and efficiency this season against top-tier competition in the ACB and Euroleague is fitting of one of the best young players not in the NBA.

PLAYER TS% PT/40 RB/40 AS/40 ST/40 BL/40 TO/40 DMX
Aleksandar Vezenkov .697 18.7 7.1 2.2 1.4 0.6 1.6 6.3

Mathias Lessort

Jonathan Jeanne

These two French bigs grade out similarly; Lessort is more productive in Pro A, Jeanne is younger, taller (7’2″), and has stretch five potential. I think Lessort is a good bet in the second round as a big who can bring defense and rebounding off the bench, while Jeanne’s upside could push him into the late-first conversation.

Alpha Kaba

Yet another big man from France, Kaba seems like a version of Lessort with more shooting and less rim-protection.

Jonah Bolden

Bolden is an interesting case as a guy who went from looking like a non-prospect in the NCAA (UCLA) to killing it overseas in the Adriatic League and the Serbian League for FMP Beograd.

SEASON TEAM PT/40 RB/40 AS/40 ST/40 BL/40 TO/40 DMX
2015-16 UCLA 8.3 8.7 1.9 1.2 1.5 1.5 1.1
2016-17 FMP 18.5 10.7 2.5 1.7 1.6 3.0 4.6

I don’t think this is an indictment of the level of competition overseas, but rather a case of a much-improved player as Jonah’s rise on draft boards would suggest. He looks like a legit second round pick.

Anzejs Pasecniks

Pro scouts and people with better insight into European hoops are high on Pasecniks and thus he is #28 on DraftExpress. I will defer to the experts on Anzejs being draft-able (not a hard sell at 7’1″ with offensive game), but his DMX is too bad for me to buy the first round hype. Pasecniks’ career trajectory most resembles an NCAA player who wasn’t any good until his junior or senior year. Even his current “breakout” season in the ACB doesn’t knock you over.

PLAYER TS% PT/40 RB/40 AS/40 ST/40 BL/40 TO/40 DMX
Anzejs Pasecniks .668 18.7 8.0 0.6 0.6 1.9 1.8 4.5

Terrance Ferguson

Saving my hottest takes for last, I probably wouldn’t even waste a draft pick on Terrance Ferguson, a consensus first-rounder. Everything past Ferguson’s age and physical profile is a red flag: Prime Prep, weak FIBA stats, couldn’t remember his short-list of schools at the McDonald’s game, commitment to/withdrawal from Arizona, terrible in the Australian NBL, incurred a 2-game suspension for punching an opponent. Ferguson is dead last in DMX and there are any number of non-prospects who would grade out better. I would bet against him panning out.

Re-Introducing DMX: 2017 Rankings

After posting “DMX draft rankings” on social media accounts and referencing the metric frequently on this blog, some have begun to ask “what is DMX?” Fair question! I once tried to explain it in an article breaking down last year’s international prospects, but I made so many wholesale changes to the model that the article became obsolete and I took it down. So let’s try this again.

When I began blogging about the NBA draft, I leaned heavily on NCAA statistics since I am not a paid scout and I saw it as an objective approach that had worked for some sharp draft analysts. The problem I ran into was there were so many trade-offs between each prospect that when it came to ranking players outside of the lottery, let alone the second round, it was like splitting hairs. What I wanted was a literal equation to supplement the one I was trying to do in my head, which gave way to “Draft Model X”.

“The Process”

While I think the DMX results are interesting, the process behind it isn’t overly scientific. To grade each player’s Per 40 minute stats I used Kevin Ferrigan’s DRE Daily RAPM formula and catered it  to draft prospects (greater emphasis on steal rate, for example). To give context to those stats, I adjusted each player’s statistical grade (their “DMX Per 40”) for age, height, playing time, and NCAA strength of schedule (via KenPom). I kept the international model the exact same, only I assigned SOS values for international leagues by using FIBA stats to estimate their level of competition relative to the NCAA. I then tinkered with the weight of each adjustment based on previous drafts, which produced the current version of the model. Save for a handful of outliers, each prospect is assigned a grade between 0-10, with the average for drafted players being just over 4.

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The greatest testament to DMX is that the very top of the list is littered with hall of famers, all-stars, and future all-stars. Even the misses were top draft picks who failed arguably (or in Oden’s case, definitely) for reasons other than their basketball skills. There’s also the curious case of “Ground Jordan” Adams, who probably would’ve been a steal for Memphis had he been able to stay healthy.

2017 NCAA Rankings

Since several international leagues are still ongoing, I’m going to focus on this year’s top 25 NCAA prospects. They are good. By DMX this is easily the best draft class of the one-and-done era with thirteen players earning top-five level grades:

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#TeamLonzo

I’ve already shared my thoughts on Lonzo Ball this year, but I couldn’t let his absurd DMX go without mention. Not even LaVar Ball is as bullish on Lonzo’s NBA potential as DMX. Ball’s mark puts him at #5 all-time between Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, perhaps lending some credence to the “next Jason Kidd” hype. Though I still think Markelle Fultz is the #1 prospect, Lonzo was the guy who I couldn’t take my eyes off of this season, and I might look back in a few years and wonder how I missed the signs.

The Center Field

Big men are viewed as the weakness of this draft, so it is notable that there are three centers in the DMX top ten: Zach Collins, John Collins, and Justin Patton.

Zach Collins

Collins was a key component to Gonzaga’s best team ever and is easily the best C in this draft class. Few freshman have ever scored, rebounded, and blocked shots at the rate Collins did, and if not for turnover issues he would have totally crushed DMX. He’s probably in my subjective top ten.

John Collins

Wake Forest product John Collins (no relation) has the same DMX as Zach Collins, but is a more dubious draft prospect. His case as an ACC PER beast who doesn’t shoot threes or defend is most comparable to Jahlil Okafor and Carlos Boozer.

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DMX definitely overrates J. Collins, however it is inarguable that he was one of the most productive and efficient teenagers in major conference NCAA history, which should probably count for something.

Justin Patton

In addition to his stellar DMX projection, Patton was dominant when I watched him play against Butler and Georgetown. He is an amazing roll man and lob-catcher on offense, and flashed the ability to change shots and defend pick and rolls on the other end. I see him as a version of Brandan Wright who can potentially step out and make jumpers.

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The Reverse One-and-Done

Derrick White spent three years playing at Division-III Colorado Springs before sitting out a year as a transfer and finally completing his college career with a lone D-I season at Colorado. That means White’s stats aren’t weighed down by previous seasons like other NCAA seniors, but the adjustments for age and strength of schedule (for D-III seasons) should offset that advantage. Oregon’s Chris Boucher is a JUCO transfer with very good NCAA stats, and is not in the top 60 of DMX. The reason Derrick White still grades out so well is that his one NCAA season was epic, even compared to other senior guards.

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White finished the season with back-to-back 30 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist games against Arizona and UCF (#18 ranked defense), which would be pretty good for an NBA player dropped onto a college team. My preferred theory is that White is not a small sample fluke, but rather a guy who slipped through the cracks before getting a chance to show what he could do in the Pac-12. He’s got a spot on my big board.