NBA draft data bit: Drafting a champion

Spurs Duncan Basketball
Tim Duncan with the Spurs’ five NBA championship trophies.

NBA championship teams are built from the draft up. Right?

Perhaps. There are lots of factors that go into winning a title, such as coaching, free agency, and toasters. But with our NBA Draft Data Tool, we can examine how well NBA championship teams have drafted in the years leading up to their crowning moments.

(For an explanation of the methodology and what win shares, expected win shares, and percentage of expected win shares are — and why we’re only studying the first 54 picks — read the first entry in this series.)

For today’s data tidbit, we looked at the previous eight years of drafts for each NBA champion. Why eight? Any number would be arbitrary, but it seems sufficient enough to capture a significant number of the players who contributed to a team’s title from the draft.

Champs of the Draft?

How NBA champions have drafted, by percentage of expected win shares, over the eight drafts previous to their titles.

T.J. FURMAN / Staff

There are a few conclusions to draw from this chart:

  • Drafting players is, more often than not, important.
  • In hindsight, it’s easy to see why the Bulls dynasty didn’t just end, but turned to dust after Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen left: Once they started winning titles, their ability to pick players vanished.
  • Have LeBron James, will outperform draft results.
  • The Spurs’ front office must be staffed by nothing but Jedi masters.

Take a spin through the draft data tool above. If you find any interesting trends or tidbits, let us know in the comments below or on social media. We’ll have another draft data bit on Wednesday.

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