The Second Annual Bulldog-NBA Comparisons List

One of my favorite things about sports is statistics. I love it because my favorite sports are basketball and football which I never could play in high school due to my lack of height, girth and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

I also pride myself in being a smart and well-informed sports fan that avoids regurgitating the cliches coaches, athletes, sports writers and most sports fans say, like being a “gym rat” or “wanting it more” than the other team. Instead, I try to use numbers to quantify why someone is really good, undervalued or why a team is succeeding or failing.

This desire manifests itself several ways. It makes me “that guy” that spouts off a bunch of seemingly meaningless numbers in a crowd of casual fans, explain to my friends (most of which don’t really like sports) why they’re wrong about certain players and become a shut-in for several days while I work out formulas to use for Union’s team.

I created a spreadsheet over the last year or two that allows me to input the Union Bulldogs box score stats and crank out the same numbers talent evaluators, sports statisticians and front office people use in the NBA to figure out how valuable a player is. Value is one of the most important qualities for professional basketball franchises because value is based on how much the player gets paid, performance on and off the court and efficiency.

Since Union doesn’t trade players or technically work like an NBA team these analytics won’t help us find the diamond-in-the-rough as much as it can help us understand how good our guys are through comparisons.

This is The Second Annual Bulldogs and their NBA Counterparts List. First, we have to go over some ground rules again:

Only Union players who had played at least 100 minutes through the first 17 games this season qualified because any less would not give sufficient data(Sorry Jonathan and Stu).

– PER(Player Efficiency Rating) is one of the key contributors to the comparison for most of the guys on this list. PER is a stat that is supposed to calculate a player’s value into one number. It takes almost every known stat on a box score into consideration to look at how efficient a player is when on the court. In the NBA a 15 is the average and scoring a 22 or higher usually means the player is having an All-Star-level season. PER is supposed to be calculated for pace, meaning the amount of possessions a team has compared to the league average is taken into account. This helps balance it for team that plays at a slower pace. Division II doesn’t give those stats out, so I modified the PER formula to not need pace to get the results. When tested with NBA players my formula was off by 2.2 points at the most, but the average range of error was -1.2 points.

– Rebound Rate is the another contributor. It is the percentage of rebounds a player gets while on the floor.

– Assist Ratio is the third category being looked at as the something more important for guards. This stat looks at only the plays that a player finishes through either shooting, turnovers, getting to the free throw line or recording an assist. The number represents the number of times the player finishes a possession with an assist as opposed to shooting or turning it over.

– I added True Shooting Percentage this year because it is one of the best ways to see how good of a shooter a player really is. It takes into account field goal percentage, three point percentage and free throw percentage to form a more complete stat that we can use to see how guys are as pure shooters.

– The reason for using these stats is that they are based on minutes played, so if a player has played 200 minutes or 400 you should be able to still get a pretty unbiased number as opposed to per game stats which would help out a player that plays more.

– The NBA counterparts are chosen based on how the numbers through this point in the season combined with their style of play.

Jarad Scott = Joel Embiid
Scott has a 26.33 PER, 17.75 rebound rate, 10.44 assist ratio and 76.10 true shooting percentage.

Scott is the most efficient player the Bulldogs have through the first 17 games due to his incredible shooting—he’s shooting 57 percent from three and 61.7 percent from the field (leading the Gulf South Conference in field goal percentage). It feels like the ball is always going in whenever he shoots. The Embiid comparison is a tough one though because Scott’s game is much more of a finesse game and centered around his shooting prowess. Embiid is a low-post and athletic monster that also happens to be a decent shooter from outside. Embiid is also an excellent rim defender due to his incredible blend of quickness, timing and size while Scott isn’t a bad defender he’s certainly not as dominant as Embiid is. Scott also likes to face-up and isn’t as much of a back-to-the-basket kind of guy like Embiid. The problem is that Scott’s so efficient and such a good shooter that no big man outside of a guy like LeBron, who Scott is not like, is as good as him in terms of pure numbers. Expect Scott to have continue having an incredibly efficient season for the Bulldogs.

Charlie Wilson = Karl-Anthony Towns
Wilson has a 23.53 PER, 13.22 rebound rate, 6.96 assist ratio and a 62.45 true shooting percentage.

Wilson is, at times, the most dominant player for the Bulldogs. His ability to post-up (Wilson’s crazy strong) and run the floor causes him to draw a lot of double teams in the post and draw a ton of fouls. His athleticism and strength makes him a nightmare for teams with a slow but strong big man or a quick but weaker big man. He also can step out to the perimeter and knock down threes just like Towns can. Towns also is a matchup nightmare for teams due to his athleticism and size, and has a pretty polished game that will continue to get better as he learns more about defense and gets to put in more time learning post moves and improving his jumper. I feel like I’m nitpicking holes in his game, but Wilson also has the ability to turn into a two-way force if he can improve as a rim protector and develop a more seasoned post-up game. Having said that, he’s still an incredible young player and the offense is run through him posting up for a reason— he’s really, really good. The improvements I mentioned are the steps he could take to reach another level that would make him unstoppable.

Tray Boyd = Otto Porter Jr.
Boyd has a 18.90 PER, 4.42 rebound rate, 13.41 assist ratio and a 57.83 true shooting percentage.

Boyd is already one of the better guards in the Gulf South Conference. Considering that he’s only a freshman, he has the size, talent, athleticism and shooting ability to become one of the best in Division II. He hits 42.3 percent of his threes while attempting nearly seven a game (leading the conference in three point percentage out of guys who make at least 2.5 threes a game). That’s incredible. He’s also been impressive by avoiding a ton of turnovers despite his youth. Porter has made leaps in his game this season by becoming a better shooter and all-around player. He’s not as keen on the three as Boyd is, but that’s really hard to find in an NBA player that’s still efficient as Boyd. Porter has the makings of a potential all-star for years if this trend continues. The real hope for Boyd is to continue learning the offense and defense as he gets older because he has so much time left to get even better than he already is. GSC opponents will worry about this guy for a long time, and we’ll get the opportunity to watch him grow into a great basketball player.

Ashanti Day = Jabari Parker
Day has a 19.75 PER, 13.76 rebound rate, 17.42 assist ratio and a 59.00 true shooting percentage.

Day is the kind of player that can do almost everything. He’s a willing passer, strong, quick, can play on the perimeter or in the post and loves to body guys and create contact. He gets to the free throw line 5.44 times a game. His strength allows him to play bully ball when he wants to since Wilson and Scott being on the floor typically causes a smaller defender to be on him. Sometimes the Bulldogs go small and Day plays at power forward and he can post-up with the rest of the conference due to his strength. He was the leading rebounder in the conference last year and now he starts as a small forward in most games causing a matchup nightmare. Parker is similar in the way that he’s an oversized three and good small-ball four. Parker is an athletic freak that knows how to get to the rack and create contact, and, just like Day, if he improves as a shooter he’ll become almost unstoppable offensively.

Nick Velasquez = Klay Thompson
Velasquez has a 15.77 PER, 3.28 rebound rate, 11.90 assist ratio and a 62. 78 true shooting percentage.

Velasquez came to Union to shoot the ball. Shooting 44 percent from three on five attempts per game is absolutely lethal. Velasquez was even in a bit of a slump to start the season so his shooting is even better than the numbers suggest over the last 10 games. He’s the kind of offensive player that knows when to shoot, when he should pass and avoids turnovers. In that way, he’s much like Klay Thompson, the third-best shooter on Golden State’s grotesquely talented super team. Thompson is the kind of player teams love because he’s a good, long defender and knows how to play within the flow of the offense. Velasquez doesn’t have the length Thompson does, but he knows when to take his shots and has the ability to get hot just like Thompson can.

KC Goodwin = Jrue Holliday
Goodwin has a 16.82 PER, 6.89 rebound rate, 33.66 assist ratio and a 61.50 true shooting percentage.

Goodwin improved as a shooter and driver this year as his shooting percentages went up. He’s still not a great shooter, but he isn’t the liability he was at times last season, and his ability to run the offense in his second year on the team is what the Bulldogs need. His assist ratio is insane and helps move the great shooters Union has get their open looks or get the ball in the post in the right spots. Holliday’s a good comparison as both are point guards that help their teammates and play pesky defense. Holliday’s return to the Pelicans helped them go from being a lottery team to a potential playoff team because of his ability to move the offense and help Anthony Davis on offense. If Goodwin continues improving year-to-year he’ll be on track to play even more like Holliday than he currently does.

Bennett Fuzak = Ryan Anderson
Fuzak has a 13.92 PER, 9.96 rebound rate, 6.19 assist ratio and a 59.64 true shooting percentage.

This was the easiest player comparison to make. Fuzak is a big man that loves shooting the deep ball which creates a lot of space for guards to drive or the other big to post up. The fact that he’s a freshman and will get bigger and stronger each year means he can develop into the kind of inside-out presence that terrifies opposing teams. Anderson is the same kind of player—a big man that loves to shoot the three, except he doesn’t have the upside Fuzak does to fill out the rest of his game.

Alex Keel = DeAndre Liggins
Keel has a 4.54 PER, 6.13 rebound rate, 18.91 assist ratio and a 39. 24 true shooting percentage.

According to the numbers, Keel is having a difficult season. Keel’s a freshman and the step from high school into college ball should be a difficult transition for most players so it’s not shocking that he’s struggled at times. His senior year of high school he averaged 22.5 points, six rebounds and five assists per game, so he probably had the ball in his hands a lot and was “the guy.” As the freshman backup point guard that’s not going to happen as much so he has to adjust to a new role as well, and he’s been doing a decent job of it. In Union’s last game against West Alabama, he played 22 minutes because of his defensive effort. DeAndre Liggins isn’t a point guard like Keel, but he can give him a bit of a model to follow. The whole reason Liggins is in the NBA is because he plays incredible perimeter defense, and Keel has the potential to do the same and when the game starts to slow down for him a bit on the offensive end he’ll become the kind of player people thought he’d be coming out of high school.

Braden Burnside = Sam Dekker
Burnside has a 13.07 PER, 10.40 rebound rate, 13.65 assist ratio and a 54.27 true shooting percentage.

Burnside is a fascinating player because he’s long (6’5’’), thin (170 pounds), a great shooter and a fiery competitor. When a lot of Union’s bigs get in foul trouble, Burnside has come in to play power forward even though he’s a perimeter player due to his willowy frame and it’s incredible to watch him battle with players much bigger than him. He never backs down. Sam Dekker is kind of the same player—a thin dude that likes to shoot threes (In the one game he started this season, he took 11 threes and dropped 30 points). Both of them have the ability to heat up and become really good players, especially if they pick up some weight and get stronger. If Burnside becomes stronger and fills out his game a little more, he’ll be an incredible offensive player because he’s already such a good shooter.

Felipe Rocha = Aron Baynes
Rocha has a 13.07 PER, 8.83 rebound rate, 6.48 assist ratio and a 52.5 true shooting percentage.

Rocha’s contributions to this team are different than others as his role is to encourage, bring energy and play smart minutes when the other bigs get in foul trouble. His rebounding rate is lower than most of the bigs because Rocha’s jobs is to box out his man so another teammate can get the rebound instead of going for himself. Aron Baynes and Rocha really aren’t that similar outside of their numbers and being backup big men. Baynes is a stout rim protector that can’t shoot well so he’s a pick-and-roll guy on offense. Rocha is more of positional defender and has the ability to knock down threes and midrange jumpers in the soft spots of other teams’ defense. However, both have been used this season to foul the opposing team’s worse free throw shooter in a bit of the enforcer role. It’s one of my favorite things about both players.

About Caleb Lay 41 Articles
Caleb Lay, class of 2016, is the sports editor of the Cardinal & Cream. He is a journalism major from Paducah, KY. Caleb enjoys running, music, film, and sports.