As we plunge into the 2011 NBA Draft, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look back at the picks John Hammond has been involved with during his NBA career as VP of Basketball Operations with the Pistons and as GM with the Bucks. Although Hammond has only been involved in drafting three lottery players prior to this season (Darko Milicic, Joe Alexander, and Brandon Jennings), his overall draft record offers hope that he understands how to properly identify first round NBA talent. Although the memory of Joe Alexander is forever burned into the minds of Bucks fans as a Hammond whiff, a cursory glance at the players the Bucks' GM helped to bring to the Pistons during his tenure is certainly enough to feel good about the chances of getting a very nice player in this draft.
This year's lottery feels like the middle of the first round in most seasons; nobody seems to know what will happen, because very few players have distinguished themselves from the pack and nearly all of the lottery prospects have seriously holes in their games. The good news for Bucks fans is that with so many successful mid and late first round picks for the Pistons, Hammond has experience and success sorting through a muddled and flawed group of prospects to find a player that can contribute to a winning team. With all of this in mind, let's take a closer look at what picks Hammond has been involved with in past seasons:
Here are the picks:
***Note: recall from our PER Draft Lottery Study that "Qualifying Season" means one in which the player plays in at least 50 games and averages at least 12.0 minutes played per game (if one of those two conditions is not met, that player's season is rendered non-qualifying), and that "3-year PER peak" means the average of the player's three highest consecutive qualifying seasons' PER measurements.
Not too shabby, right? Taking guys off this list of largely mid to late first round picks, you could probably assemble a team that would outperform the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers. That really isn't a great litmus test for scouting talent, but I wonder how many other GMs could make a similar claim using only past picks outside of the draft lottery.
The Good News: Hammond has drafted a solid rotation player from every position group. At PG he has taken Brandon Jennings, at Combo guard (PG/SG) he has taken Rodney Stuckey, at SG he has taken Arron Afflalo, at SF he has taken Tayshaun Prince and Carlos Delfino, at PF he has taken Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell, and LRMaM, and (if you will grant me a slight bit of leeway and ignore the expectations of the draft slot) at C he has taken Darko Milicic. In fact, Bucks fans should be excited that in a season where the Bucks desperately need a SG or combo guard, we can point to arguably the best pick Hammond with which has been involved. In terms of the highest 3-year peak PER (16.3) and most career PER improvement (4.7), Hammond can hang his hat on a very shrewd value pick in the form of Combo Guard Rodney Stuckey.
Based on the list of picks provided above, I think Bucks fans should feel very comfortable about the thought of either trading down or acquiring an additional mid to late first round pick, because Hammond has been great in this area of the draft. Of all the first round picks he has been involved with, there are only two players (Darko Milicic and Joe Alexander) that would not be taken much higher in a re-draft scenario. This means Hammond has a proven track record of finding value with his first round picks. The other good news? He has also found several very nice players in the second round (Amir Johnson, Mbah a Moute, Jodie Meeks), which should be enough to keep us interested in the tail end of the draft...and maybe even Darington Hobson.
The Bad News: The two biggest first-round whiffs (Darko Milicic and Joe Alexander) have been made with the two highest picks. Neither Alexander nor Milicic made any improvements over their rookie PER output, and if you expand to include Jennings at #10 it means the three highest picks associated with Hammond have improved the least of any of his first round picks. It might be too early to write off further improvement in efficiency by Jennings, but this general trend still doesn't sit very well with me. Furthermore, it might be unrealistic to expect the Bucks' pick to be an immediate difference maker, because the only first round Hammond pick who ever posted an above average PER in their first season with any real playing time is the infamous Darko Milicic. As with most rookies, patience will be a virtue with a Hammond pick, because he certainly hasn't been drafting finished products in the first round.
In any case, what do you guys think about the John Hammond draft résumé?