Situational Statistics: This Year’s Point Guard Crop

Situational Statistics: This Year’s Point Guard Crop
Jun 09, 2010, 01:17 am
John Wall is the top point guard in this class, and the depth behind him leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve compiled a huge amount of situational data to thoroughly investigate this year’s crop of point guards from top to bottom. We also revisit what we learned from our investigation last season.

Thanks to our friends over at Synergy Sports Technology, we have access to the most thorough situational statistics available today. Synergy keeps track of all the possessions that take place in nearly every college basketball game, accumulating an incredible wealth of extremely informative data.

Many of these statistics offer excellent insight into the players we evaluate, so we’ve taken the time to compile and sort through them in an effort to distinguish which players are, for instance, the most productive back to the basket threats, the most effective finishers around the basket, the most likely to draw fouls on a given possession, and the most efficient jump shooters.

With 21 of the top point guards tabulated on our spreadsheet, we’ve created a short list of the most interesting things we’ve learned about this year’s crop of prospects.

Before you look at our findings, it is important to realize that there are some limitations to our analysis. For example, prospects on lower level teams will have some possessions missing each year because not all of their games were logged.

The exact breakdown of specific possession types can be highly subjective and thus somewhat inconsistent at times as well, which means that this data always needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

We’ve tried to steer away from utilizing data that wouldn’t be considered statistically significant, but considering how short the college season is, that’s not always easy. Our data obviously does not account for neither the strength of a player’s teammates, or his level of competition.

Another quality of this data set to keep in mind is that it includes Jeremy Wise from the D-League and International players Nemanja Gordic and Stefan Markovic. We had a hard time finding international prospects with sufficient situational data last season, but only struggled to find footage of Alexey Shved amongst the players in our positional rankings. Almost all of the games Wise, Markovic, and Gordic played this season were logged.

What We Learned Last Season

2009 Point Guard Article

• Some of the players we pegged as strong or capable situational players were able to make an impact or see consistent minutes in their niches as rookies.

The prime example of a player who showed well on paper and proceeded to have a very strong rookie season, despite only being drafted 19th overall, was Ty Lawson. The star of our “by the numbers” statistical based analysis on point guards last season, Lawson outplayed his draft position, translating his pick and roll efficiency, ability to push the break, and catch and shoot ability seamlessly to the next level.

Unfortunately no player in this year’s class stands out in our situational statistics analysis the way Lawson did last year.

• Other players were able to use some of their offensive tools to be effective when circumstances put them in position to succeed.

Rodrigue Beaubois had a very solid rookie season for the Mavericks, finishing at the rim at a high rate, a category he ranked near the top of in our analysis last season. The same can be said for Stephen Curry, whose raw jump shooting prowess was on display all year for Golden State. Some players fit ideally with the teams that draft them stylistically, and are able to translate their strengths smoothly because of it.

• Some players buck trends entirely for one reason or another.

We lauded Tyreke Evans last season for his ability to get to the rim, but noted that he lacked great efficiency in isolation situations. He did the majority of his damage in one-on-one situations during his outstanding season in Sacramento and improved on his points per-possession considerably.

Brandon Jennings was a player that a study such as this one couldn’t get a great read on, as the strides he made during the summer helped him prove that his game was ready-made for the NBA despite his struggles in Europe.

Obviously, there are some systematic changes that afford some players success in situations that were not their forte on the college or international level, but we find that the numbers and rankings produced from this study often put a unique spin on some of the things we already know about the players we’re studying and uncover some things that that these prospects will be able to offer NBA teams next season.


• A situational analysis of his freshman season only tells half the story on John Wall; his physical tools and upside play a key role in his draft projection.

Looking at John Wall’s ranks amongst this group from a situational standpoint may not yield the results one would expect from a player slated to go first overall and make an immediate impact, but it does reaffirm what we know about his weaknesses. In some ways, Wall’s lack of great efficiency reminds us of Tyreke Evans’ (they have the same 0.88 overall points per-possession average).

Our data shows that Wall’s catch and shoot jump shot is as inconsistent it appears, as he shoots a meager 31% on such attempts. He does fare a bit better off the dribble, hitting pull-ups at a rate just below 40%. Wall’s lack of perimeter consistency limited his efficiency in spot up situations last season, and the overtures of analysts about the form on his jump shot allowing him to develop into a reliable shooter will make Wall’s shooting a key component of his maturation as a player to keep an eye on.

Wall’s numbers don’t look bad in half court situations, but they aren’t great either. He turned the ball over on 21.8% of his half court possessions last season, the second highest rate amongst our sample. Additionally, his points per-possession in spot up, isolation, and pick and roll situations all ranked a bit below average. Looking back at his season at Kentucky, all the little things that Wall did to help his team win don’t show up here. On the NBA level, he’ll benefit greatly from the hand-check rules.

Looking at Wall’s situational strengths, it is clear that John Calipari’s up-tempo offense was built for an athlete of Wall’s caliber. 32.3% of his 18.3 offensive possessions per-game came on the fast break, the highest percentage amongst all point guards. Wall finished those transition opportunities at an above average 58.2% clip and was fouled on 14.2% of those shots. His 3.02 finishing opportunities per-game and 50.9% shooting at the rim are also fairly solid. Though Calipari allowed Wall to showcase his gifts in the open floor, his system afforded him only 1.7 pick and roll possessions each game, substantially less touches in the two-man game than we’ll likely see from Wall next season.

On the whole, Wall’s 0.88 overall points per-possession are not too impressive, but when you consider his playmaking, elite size and quickness, intangibles, and potential on both ends of the floor, it is fair to expect him to improve on that statistic as he makes the transition to the NBA game.

The passing ability Jerome Randle showcased at the Portsmouth Invitational compliments his offensive productivity from last season quite well.

Despite his diminutive stature, Randle was one of the more impressive players in our analysis because of his jump shooting ability. His 54.3% adjusted FG% indicates that his prowess from the perimeter boosts his respectable 44.6% shooting from the field towards the top of the pack when pitted against his peers. Though he turned the ball over on 19.1% of his overall possessions, ranking him sixth amongst the players in our sample, his .974 points per-possession is good for fifth place and is a full tenth of a point higher than our third ranked point guard, Eric Bledsoe.

The driving force behind Randle’s success last season was his impeccable jump shooting ability. He took over 7 jumpers a game last season, and while he only connected on 38.4% of them, the majority of those shots were three pointers, making his 1.039 points per-jumper good for fourth best on this list. Though he doesn’t display a great pull up jumper, Randle is extremely competent shooting off the catch.

His ability to knock down shots in spot up situations is extremely impressive. Nearly two-thirds of his 3.3 catch and shoot jumpers per-game were defended, but he posted an adjusted field goal percentage of 64% and created 1.29 points-per shot in such situations. Clearly, Randle has learned to deal with the fact that he’s often shooting over much taller defenders, something that will help him considerably with his transition to the NBA game.

In addition to his surprising ability to make shots with the defense bearing down on him, Randle proves to be an average finisher, which, considering his size, is a pretty impressive accomplishment. He shot 51.3% on shots around the rim, which places him right in the middle of the pack and made him more efficient than bigger guards, such as Armon Johnson and Mikhail Torrance.

The fact that Eric Bledsoe didn’t play much point guard last season doesn’t flatter him in this analysis, and his lack of touches as a lead guard show in many of his situational efficiency measures.

Playing off the ball next to John Wall, Bledsoe posted solid numbers in some areas, but struggled mightily in others. His adjusted field goal percentage of 54% is third best in this group and is second to only Scottie Reynolds amongst college players. However, 22.1% of all of his possessions resulted in turnovers, the highest rate of any prospect at his position.

The most apparent example of Bledsoe’s role for Kentucky last season lies in his spot up percentages. Some 35.3% of his possessions were spot ups, the highest percentage in this group by more than 10%. In the same vein, his 4.9% pick and roll rate is by far the lowest. Whatever team drafts Bledsoe will surely need to play him alongside an additional ball-handler, as he clearly isn’t ready to handle full-time playmaking responsibilities himself, at least initially.

Despite not projecting as a shooting guard on the next level, Bledsoe would have some nice tools to play the two. He ranks as the third most efficient shooter in this group in terms of points per-shot from jumpers at 1.08 per-attempt. Despite hitting just 35.3% of his jump shots off the dribble, Bledsoe shot a ridiculous 66.7% adjust field goal percentage in unguarded catch and shoot situations. Should he land with a team with a shooting guard capable of distributing the ball, Bledsoe could add some nice things off the bench given the athleticism he offers along with his shooting and get a chance to refine his lead guard skills and cut down on mistakes over time.

Mikhail Torrance has remarkable size for a point guard, and he was more efficient last season that many more heralded prospects.

A 6’5 point guard, we’ve written a great deal about Torrance since his performance at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He stacks up fairly well here –his overall points per-possessions of .981 is good for fourth in this group, and is third amongst college players. He doesn’t turn the ball over at a high rate either, coughing the ball up less than average on 16.2% of his possessions. However, his 15.3 possessions per-game render him as one of the lowest usage players on our list.

Torrance stands out the most in transition, where his size clearly helps him as a finisher. He scored 1.354 points per-possession in transition, ranking as the best fast break scorer in the group. Though only average in half court situations, Torrance is the third most effective isolation player in the group shooting 47.5% and has a lot of experience on the pick and roll, with 30.8% of his possessions coming such situations (3rd most).

Despite his size, Torrance isn’t a great finisher (46.6% FG), nor is he going to make teams pay with his catch and shoot ability when left open (38.9%), but his form could allow him to improve as a shooter and if he develops his finishing ability with his right hand, he could become a very unique player at the next level given his size.

Armon Johnson is one of the more dynamic and aggressive situational players in our ranks, but doesn’t stand out in terms of efficiency.

With an overall PPP of .837, Johnson ranks below average, though his 63% shooting in transition is good for third in this group. Unfortunately for Johnson, Nevada didn’t push the ball too frequently last season, as nearly 83% of his possessions came in half court situations.

When the game slowed down, Johnson took advantage of spot up situations, shooting a second ranked 48.7%, but did most of his damage one-on-one. Johnson’s 6.11 isolations possessions per-game is second to only Devan Downey, though his 0.716 PPP represents his sometimes over-assertive nature. The same is clear in his shot selection. Though he got to the rim 4.26 times each game, he shot 4.5 pull-ups as well (2nd). Considering he only made his 38.8 percent of his shots off the dribble, it is clear that Johnson is on the ball-dominant side, and will need to be a more efficient player in a smaller role on the next level.

Although he has virtually been written off as an NBA draft prospect at this stage, Scottie Reynolds deserves a lot of credit for what he did this season as a senior. The top player in our rankings in overall PPP (1.05), Reynolds ranks above average in every situational PPP measure. He’s even one of the top six one-on-one players in the group, despite not possessing great athleticism. The third best jump shooter in this group, Reynolds’ lack of size, explosiveness, and questions about his point guard skills hurt his NBA draft stock, but his offensive resume is impressive to say the least.

Greivis Vasquez is one of the more unique players in this sample because of his skill set and role at Maryland last season. The Venezuela native got a lot of his possessions working off the ball, with 14.2% of his touches coming from off screen action. His aggressive scoring mentality is clear in the fact that more than half of his catch and shoot jumpers came with a hand in his face; a shot that Vasquez makes as efficiently as any player on this list. At 21.4 possessions per-game, he is also the third highest usage player in these rankings.

Jeremy Wise looks impressive compared to the college players on our list, despite facing a higher level of competition in the NBADL. Scoring on 49.4% of his shots from the field in spot up situations, making 54.3% of his isolation attempts, and running the pick and roll as efficiently as any player on the list (1.12), Wise combines the top mark in terms of finishing ability (1.364 PPP) with well above average catch and shoot ability. Across the board, Wise looks like a solid prospect on paper, but he put up those numbers on the third worst team in the NBADL. A bit undersized for a scoring guard and not quite a point guard, Wise has some NBA tools, and should he go undrafted, he’ll be player to keep an eye on in the Summer Leagues considering his experience.

• Devan Downey is the highest usage player in our rankings, with 10.6 of his 23.5 possessions per-game coming off of jumpers, showing how his size impacted his shot selection in a big role.

• Courtney Fortson’s 5.39 finishing attempts per-game rank first in this group, but his 0.87 PPP ranks last.

• Tommy Mason-Griffin is the most effective spot-up player in terms of PPP (1.254) and the fourth most effective in isolation situations (1.02) mostly because he ranks as the second best jump shooter. His size limits him at the rim though, where he shoots the worst percentage in our rankings (40.9%)

• Sherron Collins is the second worst pull up shooter in our group (.62 PPP), but is the second best spot up shooter when left open (1.38 PPP). That could help him considerably in a smaller role on the next level.

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