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How Do the Top 10 NBA D-League Draft Picks Perform Each Year?

An analysis of the production of the top 10 picks in the NBA D-League Draft that spans its 15-year history.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

While the NBA D-League as a whole is focused on development (hence the name), every team is still trying to win as many games as they can. One of the best ways of acquiring the talent necessary to be able to do that is naturally through the draft.

Similar in many aspects to the NBA counterpart, the D-League Draft differs in that it's not only players just getting out of college, but also players that have potentially spent years playing professionally both in the NBA and overseas. In addition to that, there have been a few players that have opted to give up their college eligibility and join the D-League (Rysheed Jordan this year, for example).

With it being a developmental league, there is also the added wrinkle of call-ups. If a player that a D-League team has selected high in the draft is doing well, there's a decent chance that they will be called up to the NBA, which is helpful for the players, obviously, but could hurt the team's win-loss record in the short term.

15 years of the draft have gone by, so I decided to look into how well each draft slot has performed for their teams over that span.

Pick GP GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK T/O PTS Call-Ups
#1 27.3 23.1 25.8 5.5 11.9 0.463 0.7 2.1 0.333 3.7 4.7 0.787 1.6 4.8 6.4 2.8 1.2 1.0 2.4 15.5 8
#2 28.1 23.1 32.9 6.8 14.1 0.482 1.1 2.9 0.379 3.7 4.8 0.771 1.5 4.0 5.5 4.0 1.2 1.4 2.8 18.3 7
#3 31.9 19.9 27.5 4.7 9.9 0.475 0.5 1.6 0.313 2.2 3.3 0.667 1.9 4.3 6.2 1.7 0.9 0.8 1.9 12.1 4
#4 29.7 21.5 29.3 5.1 11.1 0.459 0.9 2.8 0.321 3.1 4.2 0.738 1.2 3.4 4.6 2.7 0.9 0.5 2.3 14.4 1
#5 25.4 19.4 28.7 4.8 10.2 0.471 0.5 1.5 0.333 3.7 4.7 0.730 1.6 3.7 5.3 2.0 0.9 0.8 2.1 12.9 4
#6 32 19.7 26.2 4.2 8.8 0.477 0.4 1.1 0.363 2.5 3.4 0.735 1.6 3.5 5.1 1.3 0.9 0.7 1.7 11.4 5
#7 33 22.8 30.3 4.9 11.3 0.434 1.3 3.6 0.361 2.6 3.4 0.765 1.2 3.4 4.6 2.9 1.1 0.4 2.3 13.8 5
#8 29.9 21 29.4 4.7 10 .470 0.6 1.7 0.353 2.4 3.6 0.667 1.9 4.6 6.5 1.9 0.7 0.7 2.0 12.4 2
#9 34.5 22.2 26.8 4.3 9.9 .434 0.6 1.8 0.333 2.3 3.2 0.719 1.3 3.2 4.5 1.6 0.8 0.8 1.8 11.9 1
#10 31.5 18.5 25.8 4.2 9.5 0.442 0.7 2.1 0.333 2.3 3.1 0.742 1.2 2.9 4.1 2.1 0.7 0.4 1.8 11.3 0

There are quite a few takeaways that one could make from this data, but most surprising to me was the fact that through 15 years there haven't been any 10th overall picks that have been called up in the year that they were drafted, and there has been only one that has been called up after being selected 4th overall (Shelvin Mack, 2012).

Another portion that stood out was the fact that despite receiving the fewest minutes on average compared to the other draft positions, the 6th overall slot had been called up the third most amount of times. The strong three-point shooting may have helped, or it could be the solid rebounding numbers in the minutes that they were collectively given.

Overall, however, it appears that D-League scouting departments have been doing a great job at identifying talent and placing correct value on it. With first and second overall picks being called up at the highest rate, it appears that the players getting taken at the top of the draft board have largely been worthy of their selections.

On a wider scale from a player's perspective, it is clear that one should not be discouraged if they're not taken within the first couple of picks. With 14 players being called up after being taken in the middle of the top 10 (4-7), the opportunity is out there to catch the eye of scouts.