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Nets get high marks in ESPN Draft Analytics ranking

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In an ESPN survey of how teams use analytics in making Draft decisions, the Nets get high grades, being ranked behind only the data-heavy quartet of the Rockets, Celtics, Spurs, and Thunder.

Ben Alamar of ESPN Stats and Scores admits he was surprised at where the Nets are ranked in his poll of current and former NBA executives and analysts. He wanted “to get a sense of which teams do the best job of incorporating analytics in an impactful way in their draft process,” he wrote.

Here’s what he wrote about the Nets and Sean Marks, who worked for years with R.C. Buford, the Spurs GM and analytics aficionado...

“Perhaps a surprise entry, but another Buford disciple (notice a trend?), general manager Sean Marks, has changed the process in Brooklyn, and folks around the NBA have noticed. Said one current NBA front-office type: “Sean is definitely doing things the right way.”

The Nets have certainly incorporated analytics in their decision-making on the court, on the bench and in the front office. Now, says Alamar, they’ve become a leader in the draft war room as well.

Alamar described just how big data is being used in those war rooms (and in the run-up to the Draft). It’s essentially assigning values to a variety of data points that the GM has to address when differentiating talent and coming up with a systematic way to rank the dozens of players who are draft-eligible. Nets executives for example have to compare college players with international players, not an easy job when the games are very different, from the 3-point line to refereeing.

It’s not a substitute for other, more traditional means of ranking prospects, but an added tool for the GM, Alamar wrote, one that goes hand-in-hand with “opinions from scouts, their own observations, interviews with the athletes and “background” information from teammates, coaches, trainers, team managers and other people who have some connection to the athlete.”

And just by incorporating analytics into the Draft process, the Nets are ahead of the game, Alamar writes since his poll showed that only 40 percent to 60 percent of teams use analytics in an effective way in the draft.

Alamar’s story was a companion to ESPN’s annual Draft Analytics Model, which uses big data to rank draft prospects. Hard to know if the ESPN model matches what the Nets use, but their rankings are quite different from those of Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz’s mock drafts.

For example, the analytic model shows Marvin Bagley III as the top prospect, not De’Andre Ayton or Luka Doncic who are next in line. At the 29th spot, the analytic model has Villanova point Jalen Brunson, with Boise State swingman Chandler Hutchison at No. 40 and Landry Shamet, the Wichita State combo guard at No. 45.

Some of the names linked to the Nets are either higher —Moritz Wagner is listed at No. 23, or lower — Jerome Robinson of Boston College at No. 55 and Hamidou Diallo all the way down at No. 61.

The model attempts to project the prospects “best average early career;” playing at “an All-Star level in their first five seasons;” or simply a “bust.”