Predicting the NBA Draft: Richard Yu's Undergraduate Research with Dr. Jared Fisher and the Sacramento Kings

Predicting the NBA Draft: Richard Yu's Undergraduate Research with Dr. Jared Fisher and the Sacramento Kings

Earlier this summer, UC Berkeley undergraduate Richard Yu presented his research on predicting the NBA draft to the Sacramento Kings Basketball analytics team and members of the front office, over Zoom (screenshots below).

Beginning in Fall 2020 with the Statistics Department's Undergraduate Research Mentorship Program (organized by Will Fithian and Deb Nolan, under NSF grant 1745640) and continuing through the Spring 2021 semester, Richard worked with former UC Berkeley RTG Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer, Dr. Jared Fisher on understanding the information that mock drafts may contain about the actual NBA draft and how to employ that information. This was made possible with an in-depth dataset and periodic consultations from the Kings’ Director of Analytics, Colin Montague.

The annual draft is one of the main pipelines professional sports teams have for bringing talented players to their teams. Because teams take turns choosing players and can trade their picks, each team must anticipate other teams' decisions before and after theirs. Many enthusiasts and experts publish their forecasts for these decisions, known as mock drafts.

Using a novel accuracy metric, Richard analyzed how well the authors of mock drafts, known as “draftniks”, learned draft information over time and how well they performed year to year. Richard also found accurate/successful predictions from combining information from multiple draftniks using ideas from rank choice voting. The insights Richard and Dr. Fisher shared with the Kings can help interpret the value of information sources before each year’s NBA draft.

Richard Yu is starting his senior year as an Engineering Math and Statistics major and expects to graduate in the Spring. Dr. Fisher was a Postdoctoral Scholar and Lecturer at UC Berkeley Department of Statistics at the time and has since started as an Assistant Professor at Brigham Young University. This year’s NBA Draft was on July 29.


screen shot of Zoom meeting with Richard Yu and Jared Fisher presenting researchscreen shot of conclusion slide from Richard Yu and Jared Fisher research talk