Orlando Magic fans met Tuesday's news that their team has reportedly offered Arron Afflalo and their two 2014 NBA Draft picks--fourth and 12th overall--to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the top selection with a mix of excitement and apprehension. The fans who like the rumored deal want to see Orlando add a franchise-caliber star and feel the Cavs' asking price is reasonable; the ones who don't like it feel that neither Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, the two best prospects in the player pool, merits such a steep outlay of assets.
It's easy to understand both points of view regarding this tricky question. Thanks to DraftExpress, there's a way we can add some context to this discussion of player value.
According to DraftExpress' research, the average top overall pick in the last 25 NBA Drafts has posted 59 Win Shares over the course of his career. For comparison, the average fourth pick has yielded 47 Win Shares and the average 12th pick has netted 15. From this standpoint, surrendering the fourth and 12th overall picks, as well as an upper-crust swingman in the prime of his career, for the top pick doesn't look like a smart move for Orlando.
But there's more than simply Win Shares to consider. Recent NBA history suggests that the surest way to contend for a championship is to have at least one elite player around whom to build. And as DraftExpress indicates, 72 percent of top overall picks earn at least one All-Star appearance in their careers, compared to 32 percent of fourth picks and 12 percent of 12th ones. The Hall of Fame numbers tell an even more compelling story: 38.9 percent of top overall picks reach Springfield, compared to 8.3 percent of fourth picks and 2.8 percent of 12th ones.
I don't mean to suggest that these numbers tell us everything; after all, they concern past performance without regard for the specific skill sets of anyone in the 2014 NBA Draft class, nor how those players might fit with the core the Magic have already assembled. But they can tell us something: that Orlando is, on average, far more likely to nab a transcendent player picking first overall than it is with any other selection.