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What Is A Point Guard, 2011

Back in July of 2009, I posted "How We Define A Point Guard, Part II," an exploration of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell (actually it was just a bunch of mundane stats, but I needed a "hook"...I'll keep searching). The crux of the post was that there were some very successful shoot-first point guards in the NBA, noting that guys like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Devin Harris and Tony Parker were all very good point guards that happened to fall below the league median when it came to their assist percentage.

Ah, about the assist percentage. To paraphrase the original post:  

The following is a compilation of this year’s NBA starting point guards. "Shots Per Game" represents shots and free throws taken (two FT’s = 1 shot), "Dispenses" represents the total of shots/assists/turnovers totaled per game.

Now, let’s take a quick moment to cover what these numbers don’t represent. They don’t tell the story of how many times a teammate defiles a potential assist by missing the shot, but let’s call that a relatively static number. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce miss shots, too. Certainly, point guards benefit from playing with better players. But they are also supposed to make the players that they are playing with better.

This study does not reflect at all on what type of an offense that a particular team is running, and how that might impact a PG’s numbers. For example, if you placed Beno Udrih in the Phoenix offense and Steve Nash in Sacramento’s offense, how would it impact their respective numbers? Or is it a chicken and the egg thing? That is, if Nash were in Sacramento, would the offensive philosophy change? Be that as it may, these numbers do not delve into that conversation.

There is also no reference here to shooting efficiency or defense, and this is in no way an attempt to rate point guards on their overall ability and value. This is solely an exercise to find out who are truly "pass first" point guards, and who are selfish, gunning SOB’s. Let’s take a look –

Rondo 10.3 13.4 4.0 27.7 48.4
Kidd 8.8 8.5 2.3 19.6 43.4
Calderon 9.4 8.1 1.9 19.4 41.8
Nash 14.0 10.8 3.4 28.2 38.3
Paul 13.8 9.8 2.5 26.1 37.5
Lowry 10.9 6.7 2.2 19.8 33.8
Miller 12.2 7.2 2.5 21.9 32.9
Ridnour 9.9 5.8 2.0 17.7 32.8
Davis 11.5 6.8 2.5 20.8 32.7
Nelson 12.1 6.7 2.5 21.3 31.5
Wall 16.0 8.9 3.6 28.5 31.2
Conley 13.0 7.0 2.5 22.5 31.1
Augustin 12.6 6.2 1.6 20.4 30.4
Felton 16.8 8.8 3.3 28.9 30.4
M.Williams 15.0 7.3 2.9 25.2 29.0
Bibby 8.5 4.0 1.4 13.9 28.8
Holiday 14.0 6.6 2.8 23.4 28.2
Harris 15.2 7.1 3.1 25.4 28.0
D.Williams 18.8 9.4 3.4 31.6 27.9
Parker 15.7 7.0 2.5 25.2 27.8
Fisher 6.9 2.8 1.0 10.7 26.2
Westbrook 21.4 8.3 3.7 33.4 24.9
Arroyo 6.0 2.2 0.9 9.1 24.2
Billups 13.6 5.2 2.8 21.6 24.1
Rose 22.2 8.0 3.6 33.8 23.7
Curry 16.2 5.9 2.9 25.0 23.6
Udrih 12.0 4.2 1.6 17.8 23.6
Collison 12.9 4.6 2.1 19.6 23.5
Stuckey 14.8 4.9 2.2 21.9 22.4
Jennings 18.2 5.5 2.4 26.1 21.1
Evans 18.8 5.3 3.1 27.2 19.5
AVERAGE 13.6 6.9 2.6 23.1 29.9

At first glance, we notice that Raymond Felton and up beats the league average for assist percentage. Mike Bibby would represent the median, as he is smack dab in the middle of the 31 players listed. (For you members of the Small Sample Size Institute, Pooh Jeter scored a 37.3.)

So, if you thirst for a pass-first point guard, scratch Holiday, Harris, D.Williams, Parker, Westbrook, Billups, Rose, Curry and Collison off your list. Personally, I'd grab up most of those guys. That said, if you do acquire one of these guys, it could mean a change to the thought of Tyreke Evans in your backcourt, or at the very least a change in how Tyreke approaches his craft.

In looking at the bottom half of the list, only about one-quarter play with truly offensively prolific backcourt partners: Parker/Ginobli, Fisher/Bryant, Arroyo/Wade, and Curry/Ellis. Afflalo/Smith make a nice but not prolific tandem with Billups. Of those listed here, only Parker/Ginobli and Curry/Ellis both ring the bell as an offensive tandem (in other words, guys like Arroyo and Fisher defer to Wade and Bryant).

Now, if you go to the top side of the list, you find more instances of offensively successful 2 guards, such as Ray Allen, Jason Terry, Jason Richardson and Vince Carter (in both of their locales this year), Kevin Martin, Brandon Roy (injury notwithstanding) and Eric Gordon.

On the other hand, a lot of the guys on the lower part of the list have prolific frontcourt partners. However, in the case of Parker/Ginobli and Curry/Ellis, their primary bigs (Duncan and Lee, respectively) are no better than 3rd scoring options these days. So, if you have two dominant and prolific backcourt scorers, is it at the expense of your frontcourt? Would an Evans pairing with a guy like Harris or D.Williams make the front court an after thought? And if we had Evans and D.Williams, would we give a flying fig about our frontcourt productivity? My guess is that we would once the playoffs started.

This is not to say that I am against the acquisition of one of these guys. As I have mentioned in the threads, I would take Devin Harris for "free," (2nd round pick or Donté Greene or Jeter or Jackson or Taylor), but I would also know that I might have to give up another asset (protected 1st, for example) to move Udrih or Garcia's contract so that we still have the ample cap space to acquire another upper level player. All of that being said, the acquisition of Harris would not be without substantial risk, that risk being whether he and Evans can thrive together, and do it in a way that does not cut off the blood supply to the front line guys, most notably DeMarcus Cousins. The argument could certainly be made that acquiring a guy more along the lines of Kyle Lowry would have a better chance of benefitting both Evans and Cousins. Of course, that does not take into consideration the fact that (a) Lowry has been getting torched on defense lately or (b) the fact that he is not known to be available.

In the end, talent is talent. And as Harris is one of only 8 point guards in the top 15 at their position in both points and assists (Rose, Westbrook, D.Williams, Felton, Parker, Paul and Nash are the others), I would still go grab him if he could be had on the cheap. But I would do it with the understanding that his acquisition would be no slam dunk. There could be easier ways to rebuild this railroad.