What To Expect from #7

A look at the history of the #7 pick

By Michael Zarren
June 13, 2006

#7 Picks, 1986-2005
1986Roy Tarpley
1987Kevin Johnson
1988Tim Perry
1989George McCloud
1990Lionel Simmons
1991Luc Longley
1992Walt Williams
1993Bobby Hurley
1994Lamond Murray
1995Damon Stoudamire
1996Lorenzen Wright
1997Tim Thomas
1998Jason Williams
1999Richard Hamilton
2000Chris Mihm
2001Eddie Griffin
2002Nene Hilario
2003Kirk Hinrich
2004Luol Deng
2005Charlie Villaneuva

The Celtics currently have the #7 pick in this year's NBA draft. While it's possible that a pre-draft trade could change our drafting position, it seems appropriate to take a quick look at the statistical history of the #7 pick.

There have been many significant number 7 picks, led by the Celtics all-time scoring leader John Havlicek (Boston, 1962), and including current NBA players Kirk Hinrich (Chicago, 2003), Richard Hamilton (Washington, 1999), and Charlie Villanueva (Toronto, 2005), among others. In addition, there have been some more forgettable picks, such as Ollie Johnson (Boston, 1965) and Al Bunge (Philadelphia, 1960), neither of whom played a single NBA minute. But not every #7 pick can be an Hall of Famer, and most will actually end up being contributing members of NBA teams. So what should we expect from the #7 pick in the draft? We took a look back at the NBA drafts since 1986 in order to find out.

Because it is difficult to analyze a player's career by just looking at a single year's statistics, we'll look at each player's first four years, the length of the standard NBA rookie contract. Therefore, because our sample includes only 14 draft-years, it makes sense to look at picks 6 through 8 in order to have a larger group to study. Of the 51 players picked 6-8 between the 1986 and 2002 drafts, every single one played at least one thousand NBA minutes during their rookie contract - the only one to play fewer than two thousand minutes was Bo Kimble (#8, Clippers, 1990). The most minutes were played by former Celtic Vin Baker (#8, Milwaukee, 1993), who averaged 38.2 minutes per game over his rookie contract, for a total of 12,399 minutes. In fact, of the 51 players, only three did not appear in at least one game during each year of their rookie contract: Kimble, Eddie Griffin (#7, New Jersey, 2001), and Dajuan Wagner (#6, Cleveland, 2002). The group includes the following NBA All-Stars: Baker, Hinrich, Hamilton, Kevin Johnson (#7, Cleveland, 1987), Wally Szczerbiak (#6, Minnesota, 1999), and Antoine Walker (#6, Boston, 1996). It also includes several players who have missed time due to off-court injuries or issues, like Bobby Hurley (#7, Sacramento, 1993), Roy Tarpley (#7, Dallas, 1986), Baker, and Griffin.

So what does the average #7 pick look like? In his first season, the average player in the study group averaged 10.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.72 turnovers per game played, while shooting 45.6% adjusted from the field. Over the course of their rookie contracts, the average study group player averaged 11.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 1.8 turnovers per game, on 46.8% adjusted shooting.

Of course, this masks significant differences between players at different positions. Below are the first-season and first-four-season averages for point guards, wing players, and "bigs" in our study group. There were 10 point guards, 22 wing players, and 19 "bigs" in the sample group -- obviously this is not a big enough sample from which to draw detailed statistical conclusions, but it should illustrate the type of player a team could expect to draft at #7.

First Season Averages
Point Guards 12.4 2.9 5.0 1.2 0.2 2.3 44.7%
Wings 12.4 4.1 2.1 1.0 0.5 1.8 45.0%
Bigs 7.5 5.2 0.9 0.6 0.8 1.3 46.9%
All Players in Group 10.6 4.3 2.2 0.9 0.6 1.7 45.6%

First Four Years
Point Guards 14.0 3.2 5.6 1.4 0.2 2.5 45.5%
Wings 13.2 4.1 2.4 1.1 0.5 1.9 46.7%
Bigs 8.6 5.8 1.1 0.6 0.9 1.4 47.6%
All Players in Group 11.4 4.6 2.4 0.9 0.6 1.8 46.8%

eFG% = Adjusted Field Goal % = (Pts - FT Made) / FGA / 2.

As you can see, players drafted number seven have been significant contributors to their teams over the course of their rookie contracts, though few have been among the top players in the league. Of course, we hope to do better than average in this year's draft, regardless of whether online analysts believe this year is a "strong" or "weak" draft. For example, Delonte West, whom the Celtics picked at #25 two years ago, is already performing at a level above that of the average #7 pick, and other recent Celtics draft picks like Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes, among others, have shown early signs of being able to exceed these levels over the course of their rookie contracts. It's no accident that these players have performed well; our staff works hard to provide Danny Ainge with the best information. In addition to one of the most experienced scouting staffs in the league (including Chris Wallace and Leo Papile), Danny will have physiological, psychological, and advanced statistical analysis at his fingertips. That way, on draft night, when it comes to the Celtics' turn to draft, Danny will have a good shot to select a player who should be more like the next Havlicek than he is like the next Al Bunge.

Michael Zarren is the Celtics' Basketball Operations Analyst, responsible for assisting team decisionmaking through the use of quantitative and legal analyses.

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