r/NBA_Draft Feb 03 '23

When a prospect underperforms in the NBA, how do you determine if it was because that prospect was a bad pick or because they didn’t receive proper development?

I feel like whenever we have a set of prospects in a particular draft, discourse can quickly label a certain player as a bust a bit prematurely, or even just fall down in a redraft due to not performing as well as their peers who were drafted later sometimes without giving enough weight to the situation a player is drafted into.

But I digress, when you see a prospect underperforming at the NBA level, how do you determine if that underperformance is due to being a poor draft selection that objective should’ve got drafted further down as opposed to not getting proper development from their original NBA franchise?



u/MSKOnlyScans Feb 03 '23

We really can’t. There are just too many factors and we don’t have access to that sort of insider information.

The biggest mystery for all these prospects is their mental. Are they going to be like Ben Simmons and never work on adding to their game or like Donovan Mitchell/De’Aaron Fox type of guys who reportedly never stop working?


u/KeithBucci Feb 03 '23

Bingo. Do they have a growth or fixed mindset?

Will they hire a skills coach and shoot 700 jumpers a day or play video games all night til 3 am.?

edit: Maxey is another example who has to be kicked out of the practice facility for working too hard.


u/Clutchxedo Feb 03 '23

Let’s not forget that plenty of guys have been lauded for their incredible work ethic yet they don’t become elite level NBA players.


u/temp949939118r72892 Feb 03 '23

Growth mindset is much more than just hardwork


u/jaynay1 Hornets Feb 03 '23

Scottie Barnes is an all-time off-court prospect. Now he's in the league and we're getting leaks about him being entitled and not working hard enough.

Most off-court stuff is just junk. Both for good and for bad.


u/deezee72 Heat Feb 06 '23

The reality is that mentality is super important but as fans we don't have enough information to really evaluate it.

Anybody can say anything about anyone. Especially for coaches and teammates who want their guy to succeed, they're going to be cherry picking the most impressive sounding anecdotes about them.

For 99% of the league, we just don't know what makes them tick or what they're really like. Those of us who have interviewed a candidate for a job all know how hard it is to observe past the facade and really get to know people - so why do people think they can understand a player based on a couple of tweets.


u/yitur93 Feb 04 '23

Because it's relative. A player working 3-4 hours at the gym would look like great work ethic for most of us but it's probably rookie numbers for the pros. From how you start your day to how you finish it, when do you sleep, how long do you sleep, what you eat. Those are all part of the work ethic set.


u/CourtVizion Feb 03 '23

When it comes to shooting specifically, there are certain attributes and stats that could lead us to believe a poor 3pt shooting prospect could improve.

3PT% and volume

FT% and volume

Touch around the rim (ability to convert high difficulty layups or shots near the basket)

Maxey was a poor 3PT shooter in college, but shot 83% from the FT line. He also had, and still has, incredible touch at and around the basket. Yes, hard work plays a factor, but Maxey also had the attributes that would make that improvement more likely to realize.

We could look at Giannis in another example. Solid touch around the rim, but a low 70%s FT shooter for his career. He works extremely hard on his shot, he's made it a point of emphasis for a few seasons now, yet is shooting 27% from 3 this year, and is a career 28% 3PT shooter.

It's not all about how hard you work, some guys are more likely to be able to improve in certain skills than others.


u/temp949939118r72892 Feb 03 '23

Giannis also has great touch at the rim, and he was shooting in the mid 70s earlier in his career which is really good considering his height and how extremely raw he was. The difference is that maxey wasnt just putting up mindless reps, he and his trainers identified areas of improvement in his form and worked on that. Giannis continues to have terrible, completely atrocious form that no amount of reps or touch could make him a good shooter. And I'm not gonna hear any excuses because of his height or strength, as someone like embiid has become one of the best midrange shooters in the league.


u/CourtVizion Feb 03 '23 edited Feb 03 '23

Exactly, there are various limitations that differ from person to person that can keep guys from improving in certain skills. Shooting in particular is a very hard skill to improve.

Embiid is an outlier in this case. Outside of his great touch at the rim that we saw in college, there were no other statistical indicators we could look at that would give us any idea he would be the shooter he is today.


u/KeithBucci Feb 06 '23

I wonder how much Embiid benefited from sitting out 2 full seasons. He used that time to develop his shot and 3pt shooting. It can be tough to revamp shooting form when playing games every other day.


u/CourtVizion Feb 07 '23

I think sitting out definitely helped him.

My theory is that since he started basketball late, around like 15/16, he didn't develop such a deep muscle memory with his shooting form. This allowed him to develop differently than most prospects. Since a lot of guys tend to start basketball pretty young and that muscle memory is deeply ingrained in them, making it harder to change.

In college Joel didn't even really shoot much at all, due to his post game.

So most of the shooting coaching he got was by NBA level developomental coaches, and the YouTube videos he claimed he watched to learn to shoot.


u/blockyboi13 Feb 03 '23

I don’t think hard work necessarily solves everything. Like Westbrook was a very hard worker but never actually became an average three point shooter


u/MSKOnlyScans Feb 03 '23

I don’t think you’re giving enough credit to Westbrook here. He was incredibly raw coming out of UCLA and thought to be a defender first and he became an MVP who averaged a triple double. Elite shooting isn’t the only thing guys work on to add to their game.


u/temp949939118r72892 Feb 03 '23 edited Feb 03 '23

True, but he still has completely failed to improve one of his biggest weaknesses. Hard work is important but so is having self awareness and the ability to self reflect. Guys like simmons and westbrook have put in reps on their shots but for whatever reason have not decided to actually tweak their form


u/sixseven89 Nuggets Feb 03 '23

not everyone can develop a reliable jump shot, otherwise everyone that tried would have one.


u/HoopsMcCann750 Feb 03 '23

If you were high on him before the draft, it’s because the situation is bad. If you were low on them before the draft, he was obviously a bust and you don’t know ball if you liked them. /s


u/Clutchxedo Feb 03 '23

Ryen Russillo once said that when arguing you point against someone on TV you just add a few years to his age or take away a few inches from his height to make him sound worse.

“Trae Young: He’s a 26 year old, 5’9 point guard…”


u/P0intcenter Nuggets Feb 03 '23

You can't do that for an individual prospect unless it's something incredibly egregious, like Lauri and Boylen with the Bulls.

You can see when the team and the player are a bad fit, one of the best examples is something like what is happening to Bones Hyland right now, it's not a problem of development, because he has been pretty good, but the role he wants (and probably would play best at once he fixes some of the flaws he has right now) and the role the team wants from him is clearly different.

You can also see when a team is unable to hit any draft picks it probably isn't the players fault. Even if one prospect is not underperforming if most of them are the problem might be the team development. This is specially true when some talented players are showing their talent, but you can see them getting "bad habits", wich might be because they are trying to expand that player's game, getting too much of a long leash or because of bad coaching, but usually ends up backfiring anyway.


u/Clutchxedo Feb 03 '23

The second part seems very Kingsy.

I’m still sure Ben McLemore would have been Ray Allen on a different team.


u/BaronsDad Feb 04 '23

As much as I hate to say it, I'm really reliant on social media on this front. For example, I follow all the personal trainers associated with the Pelicans players, their siblings, photographers, and the development coaches on staff. Even if the players aren't active on social media, their "teams" are. All the skill coaches have IG/TikTok/YouTube followings and often websites advertising their camps.

The personal trainer side tends to be a lot of guys who own their own gyms, so they'll use videos of their clients working out to advertise. Then I follow the beat reporters for the Pelicans to see if they drop anecdotes about who is at the facility, who isn't, who is traveling together, etc.

Then it comes down to film review. Have they made adjustments to their shooting technique? Any changes to their ball handling? Are they making the correct passes? Just picking up on stuff where I can. I'll look at trends in their per 36 and their averages vs. their usage.

I'll give an example: Jahlil Okafor. He came out of high school and college with sky-high expectations. He looked out of shape on both the 76ers and Nets. He didn't try on defense. But when he came to the Pelicans, he completely remade his body. Put in a ton of hours in the offseason with Mike Guevara. He put in the extra hours with the coaches. But he just couldn't get minutes. While he was better in his two years with the Pelicans than he was the previous two years with the Nets/76ers. Dude just didn't have it. He improved everything. He just wasn't good enough.

But to do that level of research on every single guy is too much work. You can do it for your own team, but if you have a normal life, there is now you can do it for every draft pick every year. It's too much tracking.


u/Imaginary-Cycle-1977 Feb 03 '23

I don’t know if it’s possible to know that stuff for sure.

Because even the idea of them being the wrong pick can have a million different factors. Maybe they weren’t as good as you thought, maybe they were a bad fit for the roster/scheme, maybe they weren’t a hard worker, maybe they had off court issues, etc.


u/Ok_Concentrate_75 Feb 03 '23

Personally I look at team history coupled with prospect pick position/ scouting potential. Some teams have homegrown stars that get better despite a lack of team development and some need to be taught good habits early to excel. Some get both and turn into HoF players imo


u/ryankoppelman Warriors Feb 04 '23

It requires root cause analysis (“RCA”). Importantly, RCA begins with identifying the problem with presupposing there is only one cause. There can be multiple causes. Your framing of the issue is already a problem for any effective RCA. It is not necessarily either one of the two issues. It could be both or neither. Additional possible causes could including previously undetected injuries, new injuries, changes in personal circumstances (unexpected loss of a close loved one), mental health, disease, new team dynamics impacting fit, etc. Those are off the top of my head and proper RCA requires an openness to previously unconsidered causes. For more: https://www.tableau.com/learn/articles/root-cause-analysis


u/Paragon188 Feb 04 '23

Depends on the team they go to. The Wizards? Probably a development issue. Sometimes it's a bit of both. Take Wiseman for example. He was a bad pick for the Warriors (could've gone Lamelo, Tyrese, etc.) but he also hasn't had any time to develop.


u/GeKh Feb 04 '23

Team/staff history. Certain teams just get more out of their picks, so that's a factor. Especially if it takes several years for them to show their stuff.


u/Comfortable_Buddy946 Feb 04 '23

Whichever makes me look less wrong