Top 5's 1996-2005

I wanted to look back to the drafts -- specifically the top five picks -- from ten recent drafts, in order to get a feel for how long a player typically stays with his first team, and whether age has anything to do with that.

First of all, I should point out that I removed Jay Williams from the equation and replaced him with the first pick in the 1995 Draft, Joe Smith.  I only did that because Williams had an unexpected end to his career that was wholly unrelated to his play on the floor. 


For these ten drafts, the average tenure of a player with his first team is 4.8 years.  Now, some of these players (12 out of 50) are still with their first team, so that average is artificially low, due to the ongoing careers of these guys.  But, I still found it shocking how few top five picks play a lengthy career with their first team.


Of these fifty players, only two (Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson) played more than a decade with their first team.  Of the twelve that remain with their first team, most are superstars, and some have only played five seasons -- and will likely move around, sooner than later.  The list of players in this time period that remain with their original team are as follows:


Tim Duncan (13+ Seasons)

Yao ming (8+ Seasons)

LeBron James (7+ Seasons)

Carmelo Anthony (7+ Seasons)

Chris Bosh (7+ Seasons)

Dwyane Wade (7+ Seasons)

Dwight Howard (6+ Seasons)

Andrew Bogut (5+ Seasons)

Marvin Williams (5+ Seasons)

Deron Williams (5+ Seasons)

Chris Paul (5+ Seasons)

Ray Felton (5+ Seasons)


The obvious trend in that list is that most are superstars, and the ones that are not, (Williams/Felton) have not been in the league very long, and may likely be on a new roster, shortly. 

I tried to graph entering age versus tenure, but there was no strong correlation at all. 


What this tells me is something that I guess should have been obvious.  The better the player, the more likely he stays with one team.  But, what I did not expect to see was the overwhelming evidence that non-superstars taken in the top five ALWAYS end up relocating. 


What does this mean for the Timberwolves in the 2010 Draft?


It could mean a few different things.  First, it means that from a purely basketball perspective, DeMarcus Cousins is a wiser choice than Wesley Johnson with the 4th Pick.  I am more skeptical than most about Cousins' upside, but I realize that he could be a 20 & 10 guy and an All-Star, and this empirical data suggests that this type of player is more likely to be a fixture of the franchise than a non-star, and that the talent/star-potential is the overwhelming factor in this determination. 


But, it also means that the Wolves should do whatever they can to get Evan Turner in this draft.  In my view and I think in many people's view, Evan Turner has star potential -- and with various concerns about Cousins, Turner is more likely to reach that potential in a Timberwolves uniform. 


Anyway, this somewhat brief look back at ten recent drafts was enlightening to me, as I didn't quite realize how strongly superstardom correlated with tenure on a single franchise.  It almost seems that if you're picking in the Top 5, there should be homerun swings and nothing else.


Here is the data:

<!--StartFragment--> <!--EndFragment-->
Name Age Years w/Team
Kenyon Martin 22 4
Stromile Swift 21 5
Darius Miles 18 2
Marcus Fizer 21 4
Mike Miller 20 3
Kwame Brown 19 4
Tyson Chandler 18 5
Pau Gasol 20 7
Eddy Curry 18 4
Jason Richardson 20 6
Yao Ming 21 8
Joe Smith* 19 3
Mike Dunleavy 21 5
Drew Gooden 20 1
Nikoloz Tskitishvili 19 3
LeBron James 18 7
Darko Milicic 18 3
Carmelo Anthony 19 7
Chris Bosh 19 7
Dwyane Wade 21 7
Dwight Howard 18 6
Emeka Okafor 21 5
Ben Gordon 21 5
Shaun Livingston 18 3
Devin Harris 21 4
Andrew Bogut 20 5
Marvin Williams 19 5
Deron Williams 21 5
Chris Paul 20 5
Ray Felton 21 5
Allen Iverson 21 11
Marcus Camby 22 2
Shareef Abdur-Rahim 19 5
Stephon Marbury 19 3
Ray Allen 20 7
Tim Duncan 21 13
Keith Van Horn 21 5
Chauncey Billups 20 1
Antonio Daniels 22 1
Tony Battie 21 1
Michael Olowokandi 23 5
Mike Bibby 20 3
Raef LaFrentz 22 4
Antawn Jamison 22 5
Vince Carter 21 7
Elton Brand 20 2
Steve Francis 22 5
Baron Davis 20 6
Lamar Odom 19 4
Jonathan Bender 18 7
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