Draft Trends: Where seniors, juniors, sophomores, frosh have been taken

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The NBA Draft remains an interesting puzzle, but there are clear-cut trends. (USATSI)

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This year's NBA Draft will be the 10th iteration in which no players are available straight from the pool of high school. Can you believe it's been a decade since Dwight Howard's star-crossed career took flight? Jeez. We are old, and time is a cruel spell.

Today's Draft Trends piece is looking at how franchises have gone about selecting players out of college. I've also included foreign-born picks as well, just for contrast's sake. The results might surprise you a little? They did for me.

With new commish Adam Silver seemingly set on raising the minimum NBA draft requirement to 20 years old/two years removed from high school, we could be seeing the final years of freshmen eligiblity. If it comes to that, how much will we be missing?

First off, the most surprising stat I came about for today's post.

Average age:

Of all picks since 2005: 21.44 years old
Of lottery picks since 2005: 20.64 years old.

Oldest pick: Bernard James (27 years old in 2012, picked by Cleveland). After that, all of these fellas wer 25 years old on draft day: Vernon Macklin (Florida), Lester Hudson (Tennessee-Martin), Joey Dorsey (Memphis) and Stephane Lasme (UMass), all of whom were 25.

I'd have guessed the average age of an NBA pick since 2005 would've been in the 20.5 range. Truth is, these players on the whole have more experience than we're led to believe -- it's just that the most popular picks tend to be younger, so it's easier to tell (or lament) the story that way.

I tallied up all 540 picks since Andrew Bogut was taken first overall back in June of '05. Here's how it shakes out. Surprised by the number of seniors -- or freshmen?

If you take those overall picks and break them down to percentages, here's how they shake out since 2005.

Seniors: 32.2 percent
Foreign: 22.2
Juniors: 19.8
Sophomores: 14.4
Freshmen: 11.3

Compare that ratio to our latest mock draft from Gary Parrish.

Seniors: 26.6 percent
Juniors: 23.3
Sophomores: 23.3
Freshmen: 15
Foreign: 11.6

Now, these are just projections, and if I took Matt Moore or Zach Harper's forecasts, the percentages would be different (but still in the same ballpark). Point is, seniors are still running the roost across both rounds. It's a pretty positive development for doyens of the college game. There's been an erroneous message that's been passed along over the past 15 years or so that staying four years hurts your draft stock. It really doesn't.

But it does hurt your odds of being taken in the lottery, and to a lesser extent, in the first round.

Here's the proof.

It makes sense in a lot of ways. The more experience in college you have, the less mystery there is to your game, and a lot of bad teams are drafting based on potential, hope, a wish that the best is yet to come. There still remains a widespread belief -- and this is objectively based in some truth -- that seniors seldom have enough evolution in their game to warrant being taken in the top three, five, 10.

But when we look at the progression of picks per class/foreign-born players since 2005, the data shows freshmen and foreigners have endured the most erratic path to getting picked.

 
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