I just wanted to give an update since it’s been a bit since I posted an article. I’m shifting my focus towards the NBA draft and scouting rather than NBA topics although I’ll still talk about free agency, the playoffs and events I deem worthy of a post. For quick hit thoughts on the NBA check out my twitter. I don’t post on there that much either but I’ll try to do so more usual. My twitter will just be strictly scouting, NBA draft and NBA topics. (@oldmanbball1)
In the meantime I’ve been doing nothing but taking notes for scouting grades and scouting reports. I’ve briefly shared some thoughts on a couple of players on my twitter. I should’ve been sharing my reactions more frequently but I wanted to lock down my grading criteria for my new scouting grades. No more draft big boards since I think my bias will undoubtedly show through and cloud my judgement. Read my last article about my thoughts on draft biases. I also don’t think draft big boards reliably emphasize my true analysis about particular prospects. That’s why I wanted to minimize bias as much as possible, broaden my assessment and sticking purely to grades was the best option.
I wanted to scout 5-10 games per player before I published anything online and considering I’m at 100 players scouted to date it’s taking me a bit. Next season I’ll have articles up more regularly once the college season begins, talking about initial impressions and being more engaged. I was just really focused on making my grading system as legit as possible even though over time changes will inevitably be made.
I wondered if I should grade prospects Pro Football Focus style and grade based on a per play expectancy. Every play is graded on a sliding -2 to +2 point scale. I decided against that since so much of basketball is communication driven and a lot of that data could be noisy. Instead I went with a list of criteria and certain markers to meet. Over the last four years I’ve taken a substantial amount of notes and have complied a grading rubric. The players will be graded on “offense”, “defense”, “star potential”, “role potential” and “system dependence” all on a 1-99 scale. The grading system will have slight differences and weights for ball handlers, combo guards, wings, small ball fours and bigs.
“Offense” will be broken down into these categories: shooting, scoring, finishing, screen setting/roll-man, driving/handle, feel, off-ball movement and passing/creation. Each category will have certain set markers and the more the player fulfills the better the grade. For example on “finishing” certain markers include extension around the rim, fast-to-slow two step gather, one step gather, off hand finishes, off foot finishes, euro steps, side steps, body control etc. Obviously something like screen setting will hold more weight for bigs and creation more for ball handlers.
“Defense” will be broken down into team defense, creation, on-ball defense and IQ. Just how it was with “offense” the more markers the player meets the better the grade. For example on team defense certain set markers include communication, how do they defend at the nail, low-man position, overall weak side principles, can they cycle through rotations or do they just make the initial rotation, do they go vertical at the rim or stay grounded etc. Things like straddling the line between ball handler and roll man on pick-and-roll contain defense will be graded with more weight for bigs rather than ball handlers. Pick-and-roll defense will fall under team defense.
The next three grades are pretty experimental. “Star potential” deals with upside but not how likely they’ll meet that upside and “role potential” deals with what NBA role they can attain and how likely they can achieve that selected role. For example someone like Cam Reddish last year would’ve had a high “star potential” grade with 3-and-D swing forward as their potential role BUT a not too flattering “role potential” grade. Someone like Matisse Thybulle would’ve had a not too flattering “star potential” grade and a 3-and-D wing role with a high “role potential” grade. Now someone like Zion Williamson would’ve obviously had a high “star potential” grade AND “role potential” grade as a do-it-all combo big.
The reason why I wanted to make “star potential” and “role potential” was to give more context to the grades. Just because a player has a high “offense” and “defense” grade doesn’t automatically make them a candidate to be a star player at the next level. Someone like Ty Jerome would’ve had high “offense” and “defense” grades but that wouldn’t have met I think he’s some star player in the making. I think making that distinction was important. Obviously this is new and something I’m tinkering around with. It won’t be perfect from the start and errors will be made. If it ends up confusing a bunch of people then I might second guess myself. My hope is that in time it will be a nice component to scouting.
The last grade is the one I’m on the fence on. “System dependence” is all about system fit and situation. Both factors play such a crucial role in a players success that I thought it needed a grade on it’s own. It’s one thing to identify system fit and situation as important in terms of scouting, it’s another to approximate a grade. That was the original plan, to give “system dependence” a 1-99 grade just like the other four grades. This was partially the reason why I’ve delayed posting. But the more I thought about it, the more I nixed the 1-99 grade. Instead I’ll just list the teams I think the prospect would flourish under and the teams the prospect would deteriorate or stagnate under. For example I would’ve listed Tyler Herro Philadelphia, Boston, Atlanta favorably and Orlando, Detroit and Charlotte unfavorably. “System dependence” is still a work in progress but nevertheless think incorporating situation and fit are vital to a players prosperity.
Switching from a draft big board to a grading scale will hopefully minimize bias, improve clarity, enhance accuracy, and expand on details. Like with every other test run there will be bugs to fix and things to get better at. Along the way I’ll give more updates to clarify any irregular matters. I do have a twitter (@oldmanbball1) account now so if there are any questions contact me there.