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    How many first round picks will Kentucky have?

    by Ken Pomeroy on Sunday, November 3, 2013


    When the case is made for Kentucky being the best team in the country and possibly going 40-0, the argument is simply that they have an enormous amount of talent. Indeed, if you look at the most respected mock drafts, you’ll find seven players on Kentucky’s roster projected as first-round picks. But if you are predicting that Kentucky will have seven players picked in the first round, you are buying property at the intersection of Bad Prediction Boulevard and some other street named for bad predictions. Let me explain.

    What we as a nation should be asking is, based on everything we know right now, how many first-round picks should we expect Kentucky to have? Fortunately, this is pretty easy to tackle. I went back and looked at the mock drafts from DraftExpress before the college basketball season for each of the last six years. (I’d use Chad Ford, too, but DraftExpress’s archives were easily accessible.) After charting how those projections ended up doing, I ran a regression on the data to determine the chance of each pick being drafted in the first round. (A logistic regression against the square root of mock draft position if you care.)

    Six years isn’t as much data as I would like, especially since the some of the forecasts from last year can’t be judged yet, but it’s good enough to get us a decent ballpark estimate for each projected pick. According to this analysis, a player projected to be taken 23rd has a 48.9 percent chance of eventually going in the first round, whether it’s the year of the mock draft or some later year.

    So you have to be careful when stating that any player listed from 23-30 is a projected first-round pick this far away from the draft. Chances are against any of those players being drafted in the first round because there is so much uncertainty this far away. In addition to the potential of any of those players disappointing, a few guys listed below them will surprise some people and move up during the next seven months. For recent extreme examples, see Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, and presumably, Marcus Smart. All three were off the board at this time last season.

    Here’s where DraftExpress lists Kentucky’s two returning players and their six incoming freshmen in their latest mock, along with the chance of each being picked in the first round or the top 14 based on the model.

    Mock Player        Rd1  Lottery
     2   Randle       .944   .801
     8   An Harrison  .835   .535
    15   Cauley-Stein .676   .313
    21   Johnson*     .534   .195
    22   Aa Harrison* .511   .181
    23   Young*       .489   .167
    28   Poythress    .386   .115
    --   Lee          .050   .010
    

    * 2015 Mock

    Using these probabilities we can break down the chances of Kentucky having various numbers of first round picks on its current roster. Here we go…

    Chances of X Kentucky players being picked in first round
    0:  0.02%
    1:  0.6%
    2:  4.6%
    3: 16.6%
    4: 30.2%
    5: 29.6%
    6: 15.0%
    7:  3.3%
    8:  0.1%
    
    

    If we had to pick a number, the best guess would be that Kentucky has four first-rounders on the roster. Though it’s close enough between four and five that if you quibble with my methodology, you can go with five. For instance, you might say that Julius Randle is better than the typical player projected as the second-overall pick. I would not argue with that. However, also consider that three of the players listed are projected in the 2015 draft and I did not do any calibration for a mock draft two years out. One might assume that there’s slightly more uncertainty involved for those predictions than is accounted for here.

    For some context, last season’s projected #1 at this time of year was Shabazz Muhammad who slipped to 14. (I’m assuming we know Randle’s true age.) Perry Jones was once projected to go #2 and fell to 28. Willie Warren was projected to go third and the Clippers selected him at 54. And while all six of the projected #4’s in this sample went in the first round, just two went in the lottery.

    Speaking of the lottery, I found it interesting that, given the hype surrounding this year’s team, just two Wildcats are projected to go in the top 14. Here’s a breakdown of how many players we should expect to get picked in the lottery, based on the current projections…

    Chances of X Kentucky players being picked in lottery
    0:  3.1%
    1: 19.7%
    2: 36.0%
    3: 27.9%
    4: 10.8%
    5:  2.3%
    6:  0.2%
    7:  0.01%
    8:  zero
    
    

    Two still turns out to be the best prediction, although three is more likely than one. Anyway, the point here is that saying Kentucky returns two first-rounders and brings in the best freshman class ever is kind of misleading, at least on the former point. And whether this class can match or beat the three lottery picks produced by the Fab Five is far from a guarantee. (Though that’s not the only way to compare the classes.)

    Below, I’ve provided the complete table with a player’s chances of getting drafted based on mock draft position before the start of the college basketball season. For the purposes of computing the regression, I ignored players who did not play at an American college and subsequently weren’t drafted. I expect this inflates the chances of getting drafted at all for guys who are projected in the back end of the second round. Otherwise, I feel like these numbers are close enough to reality for the purposes of this blog-quality discussion.

    Mock  Draft    Rd1   Lottery
     1    .985    .960    .853
     2    .980    .944    .801
     3    .975    .928    .752
     4    .971    .911    .705
     5    .965    .893    .660
     6    .960    .875    .617
     7    .955    .855    .575
     8    .949    .835    .535
     9    .943    .814    .497
    10    .936    .792    .461
    11    .929    .770    .427
    12    .922    .747    .395
    13    .915    .724    .366
    14    .907    .700    .338
    15    .899    .676    .313
    16    .891    .652    .289
    17    .882    .628    .267
    18    .873    .604    .247
    19    .864    .581    .228
    20    .854    .557    .211
    21    .844    .534    .195
    22    .834    .511    .181
    23    .824    .489    .167
    24    .813    .467    .155
    25    .802    .446    .143
    26    .791    .425    .133
    27    .779    .405    .123
    28    .768    .386    .115
    29    .756    .367    .106
    30    .744    .349    .099
    31    .731    .332    .092
    32    .719    .315    .086
    33    .706    .300    .080
    34    .694    .284    .074
    35    .681    .270    .069
    36    .668    .256    .065
    37    .655    .243    .060
    38    .642    .231    .056
    39    .629    .219    .053
    40    .616    .207    .049
    41    .603    .197    .046
    42    .590    .186    .043
    43    .577    .177    .040
    44    .564    .168    .038
    45    .551    .159    .036
    46    .538    .151    .033
    47    .525    .143    .031
    48    .513    .136    .029
    49    .500    .129    .028
    50    .488    .122    .026
    51    .475    .116    .024
    52    .463    .110    .023
    53    .451    .104    .022
    54    .440    .099    .020
    55    .428    .094    .019
    56    .416    .089    .018
    57    .405    .085    .017
    58    .394    .081    .016
    59    .383    .076    .015
    60    .373    .073    .014
    

    Draft - chance of getting drafted
    Rd1 - chance of getting drafted in the first round (top 30)
    Lottery - chance of getting drafted in the top 14