Unskewing the Stats: Jarnell Stokes and Alex Len

The raw statistics I start with when evaluating college prospects are skewed. The per game statistics that are the basis for handing out awards and a lot of the quickie analysis we see and hear in the media never tell the entire story. That’s why we start the unskewing process by turning per game numbers into per minute numbers. Those numbers are then adjusted for pace, because a team that plays at a fast pace is going to put up more impressive numbers than a team that slows it down. It’s also a good idea to factor in strength of schedule and player age. Beyond that, factors like height, wingspan and off-court issues need to be considered.

Another thing I’ve noticed in watching player stats is prospects tend to put up better numbers in November and December than January through March. My theory on the reason for this is the competition is softer for most teams in November and December. That’s when major conference teams fatten up their records against smaller conference opponents and the players do the same with their stats.

This brings us to Len and Stokes. Both were freshmen last year who missed time in the early part of the year and with it the opportunity to pad their stats. Len was suspended 10 games for “amateurism guidelines”. Stokes graduated high school early, enrolled at Tennessee in January and took the court with the Vols for their final 17 games. Both put up decent stats that could have been better with more minutes played in the preseason. Here are the per 40 minute stats of each player for the 2012 season, followed by what those stats may have looked like had both players started at the beginning of the season.






Alex Len (actual)






Alex Len (unskewed)






Jarnell Stokes (actual)






Jarnell Stokes (unskewed)






This process is fairly simple, because I keep month-by-month numbers of the prospects I track. I factored in the average uptick the typical freshman big man sees in his numbers in November and December over the rest of the season. While the boost seems small, there are some fairly significant changes here. Upping the rebounding to double figures for Len and over 12 for Stokes make both better prospects, as do the increase in the defensive numbers. Offensively both still come up a little short, but as young players both have time for improvement to happen. Considering both players came in last year as young players compared to typical freshmen, their numbers would likely have improved in 2013 anyways. Adding the fact that both will now get a full slate of November and December games to pad their stats, both could see a dramatic improvement in their stats.

Both are young and have plenty of time for their careers to go in either direction. Right now Len looks to me like his high end is that of a productive, but limited center rotation player. Think Ervin Johnson, Joel Przybilla or Elden Campbell. That’s a valuable NBA player. Len is properly placed in the lower lottery in most of the mocks I’ve seen going into the season. The biggest thing for Len is to improve his rebounding.

Stokes is a much more intriguing prospect at this point. He comes into his sophomore season a similar age to most incoming freshmen. He started a couple weeks later into the season than Len, so his unskewed numbers might even be a tad low. As they are, his unskewed numbers compare favorably to the likes of Antonio McDyess, Chris Bosh, Loy Vaught and Wayman Tisdale at a similar point in their careers. I should point out that Wayne Simien and Byron Houston were also similar players as college freshmen, reminding us that no player is a sure thing. Stokes is slowly creeping up the draft radar. Unlike Len, there aren’t a lot of weaknesses in his game. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if he was in the lottery discussion by January.

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