NBA Draft 2011: Tracking the mock drafts [Updated as of 9 AM 6/23]

Hit the jump for updated tables showing how eight of the most well known mocks have evolved over the last month.

Mock drafts fascinate me. I think they provoke a certain amount of interest from every NBA fan. None of us expect mock drafts to give us a perfect look into the future, but I think they are a source of interest because on some level they claim, either implicitly or explicitly, to have at least a piece of the information we all want. Who do NBA GMs like? In what range are players expected to be drafted? Who is getting hyped? Who is getting snubbed?

Ask someone a general question like "what do you think about this year's draft" and you might not get a great answer or a stimulating conversation, but put a mock draft in front of someone and it can be an entirely different story. When you see the projected order that players will come off of a draft board (regardless of the source), it is nearly impossible to not have at least a few things interesting things to say on the subject. We all have our hunches and theories about which players will succeed and fail at the NBA level, and a mock draft provides a comfortable and practical framework for draft discussion by linking the players with actual teams. With that in mind, we decided it would be fun to take it a step further and find out whether any of these guys who do mock drafts actually know what they are taking about.

Even though mock drafts all provide a base level of entertainment value and  workable draft ranges for most lottery players, there can still be a whole lot of misinformation perpetuated through the mock process. I'm not so sure you couldn't just track where lottery players go for team workouts to get a general draft range for such prospects, so do they really provide any additional information or just take pseudo-scientific guesses at all reasonable permutations of the draft? The most well known mock draft experts undoubtedly work hard to scout and acquire insider information, but the draft is designed to be opaque to the general public, mainly because teams have an incentive to be opaque with their intentions and interests.

Mock drafters with more access than the average fan have to deal with a deluge of intentionally misleading information provided by NBA teams used to enhance the value of their pick and obscure the players in which they have genuine interest. If these NBA 'sources' can be convincing enough to get any of these news outlets and draft writers to believe their misinformation, beneficial stories emerge about purported interest in players other teams are targeting, and perhaps other teams feel pressure to trade up while the real player being targeted remains unknown to the public. In fact, the Bucks did exactly that with Larry Sanders in 2010. I am sure these mock drafters feel pressure to try and be right, so they have to make tough decisions about who and what to believe; if they trust the right information, they look like a genius on draft night, and if they trust the wrong information they look like an idiot. Then again, they might be just fine reading SB Nation blogs and making some educated (or lucky) guesses. 

Here is what I did: for the two weeks leading up to the draft, I tracked changes in the lottery pick projections for most of the major online mock drafts. Why limit it to lottery picks? Because it is tough enough to pick the first fourteen picks as it is, and that's also what most of us really care about. Why only look at the month leading up to the draft? Two reasons: (1) I didn't think to do this earlier, and (2) I can't figure out a good reason for why mock drafts should change so much after the lottery and combine are over and players are engaged in workouts and interviews that couldn't possibly undo their much larger bodies of work on the court in real games. While interviewing can be important, I tend to discount big changes based on workouts because players don't actually play basketball in these workouts--generally they play some debased version of basketball (either skill drills or 3-on-3 type stuff). The scouting work done on the fifteen most important 5-on-5 competitive basketball games of a prospect's career can't possibly be overridden or undermined by a couple of skill drills or some 3-on-3 games, can it? That doesn't pass the smell test. Instead, the movement might be due to decisions mock draft creators make regarding what rumors to believe and what rumors to discount. Draft boards for the scouting departments and GMs of NBA teams probably don't significantly change in the two weeks preceding the draft, and the more information (read: rumors and smoke-screening) that becomes available to the public and mock drafters likely leads to more risks being taken in what to believe and what to discount. It is still possible that some mock drafters might have better and more reliable sources than others, and some just might make better decisions on what to believe. After the Draft we will break down the results in the open categories listed below, but I am also willing to take any suggestions from the crowed for additional things, so make sure to comment! For now, you can see the current trend of some of the better known mocks below.

Visualization of the Mocks: [Upward change in Green, Downward Change in Red, Out of Lottery in Red Text]

PROPOSED CATEGORIES FOR POST-DRAFT ANALYSIS:

(1) Most Accurate Final Mock Draft -

(2) Least Accurate Final Mock Draft -

(3) Four Lottery Picks Most Final Mocks Got Right -

(4) Four Lottery Picks Most Final Mocks Got Wrong -

(5) Five Worst Projections -

(6) How Did The Most Resolute Mock Drafter Do?

(7) How Did The Most Fickle Mock Drafter Do?

(8) Four Sources/Guesses That Made Someone Look Smart -

(9) Four Sources/Guesses That Made Someone Look Stupid -

(10) The Mock Drafter Who Most Wished They Hadn't Changed Their Mind

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