The only thing that Minnesota Timberwolves fans can think right now about is Ben Simmons. The prospect of adding Simmons to this roster has the fanbase at a fever pitch near the level of when the Wolves might’ve possibly gotten close, maybe, to trading for Kyrie Irving.
With Timberwolves news stalled until the Simmons situation is resolved, I’ve got the opportunity to get creative and look back at some of this offseason’s moves from every angle.
Since the Wolves cut bait on Jarrett Culver so quickly it got me thinking about the history of “Jarrett Culvers” in the draft. How many No. 6 overall picks in draft history actually panned out — and, really, how many of those players are better than newly minted Timberwolf, Patrick Beverley.
Last year, Dylan and I did a deep dive to see which lottery picks provided the most value over a 30-year span. A look back at history doesn’t predict the future, but I think that patterns aren’t arbitrary. Everything happens for a reason. We used VORP as a sort of catch-all for measuring player value. One season of VORP doesn’t really mean anything, but a career’s worth of VORP is significant. VORP is cumulative, so it’s easy to rank players by value by using this metric. The average of each draft position’s VORP can be thought of as a historic value or an expected value.
In a perfect world, the NBA draft would be a linear process. The best player goes No. 1, the second-best goes No. 2 and so on. But, we are imperfect beings, and the draft never quite goes that way. Beyond each draft position’s average VORP number, we wanted to see where players ranked within their own draft classes.
What we learned is that players drafted No. 6 overall produced an average VORP of 5.9 over their careers. For context, picks 1-5 produced no less than 15 career VORP. The difference in value between No. 5 and No. 6 is larger than the difference between No. 6 and any pick after it. In fact, No. 6 ended up being the 10th-most valuable lottery pick throughout history.
Additionally, players drafted No. 6 were ranked as the 24th best players in their respective draft classes. Again, there are exceptions to the rules, but since the draft can be such a crapshoot, one might as well find any pattern worth examining.
Beverley has a career VORP of 9.5 which means that he has performed better than the average No. 6 pick. Beverley’s VORP would actually have him rank eighth among average lottery picks in expected value.
But, Beverley is on the back end of his career. Last season he took a big dip in production and struggled to stay healthy. Part of the appeal of Culver is that he is on the opposite end of his career. Bev is in the final year of his contract and will need to have a bit of a bounce-back if he intends to sign one more lucrative contract. Conversely, if Beverley does perform well and the Timberwolves intend to bring him back, they will have to be good enough to entice Bev to rejoin. Beverley has always been on contending teams; I’m sure they will come knocking if he shows he can still play.
Indeed, comparing Beverley today to any draft pick has a fatal flaw: Beverley is a 33-year-old rental. But, if you simply acknowledge that Culver was a sunk cost for the Wolves, getting one potential year of value out of Beverley is better than going down with the S.S. Culver.
Just look at the players who were picked No. 6 overall between 2010-19.
I would take Damian Lillard, Marcus Smart and Buddy Hield over Beverley right now, but I think Beverley will play better than every other player in that time span. In that 10-year window, that’s a 30% hit rate on the No. 6 pick. Looking back at history, it seems like getting Beverley on this roster is a solid value proposition.