The Post-NBA Draft Lottery Effect on College Basketball Programs

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The Post-NBA Draft Lottery Effect on College Basketball Programs
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Former UNLV big man Anthony Bennett is introduced to the Cleveland media.

UNLV and Indiana had signature moments for their programs last Thursday in the NBA draft.

Indiana had two players—Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo—go in the lottery. Anthony Bennett became the first No. 1 pick that UNLV has produced since Larry Johnson in 1991.

What does it mean for the immediate impact of those programs?

For recruiting purposes, landing multiple players in the lottery has been a big win in recent years. John Calipari used the crown achievement of winning the national title in 2012 coupled with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going 1-2 in the draft to land six McDonald’s All-Americans in the 2013 recruiting class.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images
After losing Anthony Davis (right) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, John Calipari (left) missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005 when he was at Memphis.

But everything was not all rainbows and sunshine for the Kentucky program following Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist’s exodus. Last season’s 21-12 campaign was a rare down year for the Wildcats. It proved how difficult it is, even with Calipari’s recruiting, to stay at the top of the college basketball landscape after losing top NBA prospects.

Was Kentucky’s dissent the norm or an extreme? Should Indiana fans be prepared for a down year? What should be the expectations for UNLV?

Recent history gives us a pretty good answer to each. I went back through every draft in the 2000s to see how teams fared with their lottery picks and how each team bounced back after one or multiple players got drafted in the lottery.

This included 124 teams worth of data. There were 20 mid-majors programs and 104 teams that played in one of the six BCS programs at the time.

  Pre-draft record Pre-draft win % Post-draft record Post-draft win %
All Teams 26.4-8.5 0.755 22.5-11.2 0.667
BCS Teams 26.4-8.6 0.754 22.7-11.0 0.672
Mid-Majors 26.1-8.2 0.762 20.7-11.9 0.636

 

The drop off was expected but not as much as I thought it would be, especially for mid-majors. There were several extreme outliers for both the big-conference schools and the mid-majors.

For the mid-majors, big men were the most difficult to replace. These three mid-majors had the steepest declines after losing a draft pick.


Lottery pick Pre-draft record Post-draft record
Central Michigan Chris Kaman (2003) 25-7 6-24
BYU Rafael Araujo (2004) 21-9 9-21
Utah Andrew Bogut (2005) 29-6 14-15

 

That list gives UNLV and Gonzaga both reason to worry after losing Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, although the Zags have consistently produced NBA talent in the post. Both programs, from a talent standpoint, are more in line with the major-conference schools.

BCS programs were not all that different from mid-majors when it comes to what is most difficult to replace. The extremes for those teams were typically either the impact of losing a big man or losing multiple lottery picks.

Here are some examples. The only one that doesn't fit is Indiana after losing guard Eric Gordon in 2008, but that had more to do with the Hoosiers going on probation the next year than losing Gordon.


Lottery pick(s) Pre-draft record Post-draft record
LSU Stromile Swift (2000) 28-6 13-16
UConn Gay/Armstrong (2006) 26-7 19-13
Ohio St. Oden/Conley (2007) 35-4 24-13
Florida Horford/Brewer/Noah (2007) 35-5 24-12
Indiana Eric Gordon (2008) 25-8 6-25
Oklahoma Blake Griffin (2009) 30-6 13-18
UConn Hasheem Thabeet (2009) 31-5 18-16
Wake Forest Al-Farouq Aminu (2010) 20-11 8-24
Kentucky Davis/Kidd-Gilchrist (2012) 38-2 21-12

 

Next year's Indiana squad could fit in this list after losing two lottery picks, but don’t panic yet, Hoosiers. A lot of the programs that are able to produce multiple draft picks have enough depth and recruiting prowess to handle it.

Sixteen teams had multiple draft picks from 2000 to 2012 and only one (Connecticut 2006) did not win 20-plus games the following season. In fact, the teams that lost multiple draft picks performed at a higher level the next year than those that only lost one. 

  Pre-draft record Pre-draft win % Post-draft record Post-draft win %
Multiple lotto picks 32.3-5 0.866 24.4-9.9 0.71
One lotto pick 25.5-9.1 0.738 22-11.4 0.66

 

These numbers got the biggest boost from Kansas and Kentucky.

Kansas followed up losing Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry in 2010 by going 35-3 the next season. It helped that Bill Self had two more lottery picks in Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, but Self’s ability to build a consistent program had something to do with it as well.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Former Kansas big man Thomas Robinson (left), the fifth pick in the 2012 draft, was a reserve for the Jayhawks until the Morris twins left for the NBA in 2011.

After the Morris twins left—meaning KU had lost four lottery picks in two years—the Jayhawks went 32-7 and made it to the national championship game in 2012.

One of Calipari’s most impressive achievements is taking the 2011 team to the Final Four following the departure of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

It definitely helps your title chances if you have a lottery talent. Louisville joined Florida (2006) and Duke (2010) as the only title teams of the new millennium without a lottery pick in the following draft. Florida deserves an asterisk, because three Gators (Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah) returned to school and were lottery picks the following year after winning a second straight title.

Also, landing a player in the lottery does not rule out a team from winning the title the following season. Both Kansas in 2008 and Duke in 2010 won the national championship a year after getting a player drafted in the lottery.

If you’re trying to predict next year’s champ, it would be wise to look at the first 14 picks in the mock drafts. Those mocks will tell you that Kentucky, Michigan and Kansas have the talent to compensate for losing lottery picks, which leads us to the obvious takeaway from this exercise. Top NBA prospects are best replaced by top NBA prospects. 

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