John Hollinger’s Draft Rater likes Lawson

Earlier in the day, I wrote about how Chad Ford is hearing that Ty Lawson is shooting up some draft boards, and now John Hollinger’s Draft Rater (where he takes college statistics and a few other metrics to predict a player’s production in the NBA) says that he’s the top player in this draft. Yes, he’s even ahead of Blake Griffin.

Lawson, who is coming off an electric performance in leading North Carolina to the championship, grades out highly for several reasons: Although he’s short for a point guard, his shooting numbers (47.1 percent on 3-pointers), strong assist rate and microscopic turnover ratio (9.1, first among point guard prospects) all point to him as an NBA keeper.

The Draft Rater puts Lawson slightly ahead of Griffin for first, but this doesn’t mean a team should take Lawson first. The standard error in the projections for point guards is higher than it is for big men, which means random noise could be putting Lawson ahead just as easily as on-the-court performance. If the consensus is that Griffin is the better player, I don’t think Lawson’s statistical record alone is strong enough evidence to refute it. Additionally, we’ve heard questions about Lawson’s work ethic and injuries.

But the rating is emphatic enough for me to say Lawson should be at the top of the college point guard ladder, ahead of Jonny Flynn, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague & Co. (If you’re wondering about Ricky Rubio, I’ll have more on him next week.)

Hollinger’s Draft Rater isn’t error-proof but it’s not a bad second opinion when trying to pick a player out of a group of two or more.

Or when you’re trying to avoid a bust…

From 2002 to 2007, 15 players were (a) among the first 10 collegians drafted and (b) excluded from the top 12 by the Draft Rater. In other words, these were the college players the Draft Rater thought were drafted too high. Of those 15, not one has played in an All-Star Game. The only two who have started a significant number of games in the long term have been Kirk Hinrich (who was 13th in the Draft Rater in 2003) and Charlie Villanueva.

Who were the other top-10 picks not favored by the Draft Rater? Spencer Hawes, Acie Law, Fred Jones, Melvin Ely, Marcus Haislip, Jarvis Hayes, Rafael Araujo, Ike Diogu, Channing Frye, Randy Foye, J.J. Redick and Patrick O’Bryant.

In other words, when the Draft Rater has suggested avoiding a player, that has turned out to be good advice.

His system also had Carlos Boozer (2nd), Josh Howard (5th), Danny Granger (3rd), Rajon Rondo (2nd) and Rodney Stuckey (5th) much higher than they were actually drafted.

Other than Lawson, Austin Daye was a surprise in the top 5. The Rater also has Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, DeJuan Blair, Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden and Earl Clark in the top 12.

On the flip side, the Rater doesn’t like Jordan Hill (26th), B.J. Mullens (28th), James Johnson (30th), Chase Budinger (31st), Sam Young (52nd), DeMar DeRozan (54th) and Patty Mills (68th).

I think Hill will turn out to be a player. He picked up the game late, which will explain some of the ball handling issues that Hollinger says are an important indicator for the Draft Rater. DeRozan had the biggest disparity between current ranking (in the top 10) and projected performance.

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