Situational Statistics: This Year's Point Guard Crop

Situational Statistics: This Year's Point Guard Crop
May 08, 2009, 09:38 pm
We took our time in crunching the numbers of this year’s point guard crop, since it should prove to be the deepest and most talented position throughout the draft process. It also provides the most unique story lines, with the likes of Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Stephen Curry, and Tyreke Evans vying for position, with each featuring a completely different playing style.

-Situational Statistics: This Year's Center Crop
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Power Forward Crop
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Small Forward Crop
-Situational Statistics: This Year's Shooting Guard Crop

As we’ve done in each of our four previous pieces, we’ll be utilizing Synergy Sports Technology’s Quantified Player Reports to see how this year’s point guards stack up against one another from a situational perspective.

Unlike the other positions we’ve evaluated, this group is headlined by two international players and has a dearth of underclassmen that would be ranked closer to the top of our rankings in many other seasons. Considering our current mock draft has 6 point guards going in the lottery and has 11 slated to go in the first round, it isn’t difficult to see why NBA teams searching for lead guards are looking forward to draft day and doing their homework on these prospects. With that said, we’ll do our best to paint a full picture of what each player can bring to the table moving forward.


• There is a bigger disparity in the roles point guard prospects play than exists at any other position.

Looking over the 24 prospects we have on our list, there is such a vast stylistic gap from one player to the next that it isn’t difficult to infer just how differently point guards are used in the array of systems these prospects honed their crafts in. From an NCAA perspective, the spectrum of roles range from big combo guards like freshman Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday who did as much scoring as they did passing, to guys like Stephen Curry, Eric Maynor, and Lester Hudson, who were relied on almost exclusively to carry their teams to victory, to hardnosed defenders to Tony Douglas, to facilitators from elite programs like Ty Lawson and Darren Collison. That range doesn’t even take into consideration the five international guards on our list, or the lower level prospects who weren’t necessary standouts.

There may be no better example of how many different roles point guards fill than the gap between our top two PGs. Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings both saw major action in the Euroleague, but have little in common outside of that. Rubio was a creative playmaker that stood out while running the show almost exclusively in a leading role for DKV Joventut, while Jennings was essentially a spark plug off the bench for Lottomatica, asked to do very little, but still managing to show off awesome athleticism and ability in the open floor. Clearly, this group features a lot of unique talents, and that requires teams to do their homework more than other positions do.

Ty Lawson looks as good as anyone from this perspective, regardless of position.

As we put this data together, we weren’t surprised that Ty Lawson excelled from a situational perspective, as he did play for the most potent offense in all of college basketball, but we didn’t expect him to look this good. He ranks first in a number of key categories, including overall FG% (52%), Points Per Possession [PPP](1.13), pull up jump shot FG% (47%), and %shots he was fouled on (16.1%). Though his teammates did a lot of scoring as well, Lawson functioned seamlessly as a complementary scorer. Looking past his efficiency as a shooter off the dribble, he was second in catch and shoot field goal percentage at 48%. From a purely statistical sense, no player on this list scored more efficiently than Lawson.

We thought that UNC’s transition offense might have given Lawson a decided advantage over some of his counterparts in terms of efficiency, but that wasn’t entirely true. He did get 10% more offense in transition than any of the other players we looked at (an outrageous 38.6%), but his transition PPP of 1.2 is the same as his PPP in spot up situations and not as far above the average as his PPP in pick and roll situations (1.19 PPP, +.29) or on isolations (1 PPP, +.16). Lawson was an incredibly prolific transition player (which is quite an advantage in itself today’s NBA), but he was comparatively better in other areas as well. When you consider that he only turned the ball over on 13.8% of his half court possessions (5th best) and can drive left and right equally well, it seems like Lawson could be an excellent offensive fit on virtually any team, regardless of tempo.

Ricky Rubio doesn’t have overwhelming stats, but he’s the youngest prospect on our list playing against by far the strongest competition, and thus isn’t as weak in some areas as people may imagine.

Considering his frail frame, lack of awesome leaping ability, and level of competition, it would be fairly reasonable to expect Rubio to struggle around the basket. Even though European prospects (and veterans for that matter) tend to have a lower PPP than their NCAA and NBA counterparts, Rubio actually falls right around the average of this group as a finisher at 1.11 PPP. His ability to transition that part of his game to the NBA is going to be very important when you consider that he takes under 2.5 jump shots per game, has made only 5 of his 25 logged pull up jumpers, and is still gaining confidence in his improved catch and shoot ability (1.1 Pos/G, 41%, 9/22).

Always better known for his creativity and playmaking ability, it doesn’t come as a shock that Rubio looks good in transition. He is shooting 69% on his transition opportunities on just 13 attempts this season –which is a bit misleading since he doesn’t take many attempts more because he knows when to give the ball up than because he isn’t pushing the tempo. In contrast, his limited isolation possessions are indicative of some issues, as he’s not going to produce a ton in pure one-on-one situations. Fortunately, Rubio, like most European point guard’s we’ve evaluated, is effective on the pick and roll. With 27% of his touches coming from the two-man game, Rubio could have a mutually beneficial relationship with the post players he is teamed with in the NBA, since they’ll likely make his life just as easy as he’ll make theirs.

Obviously our sample size is a bit limited for two reasons: Rubio simply doesn’t use that many possessions as a scorer (9 Pos/G), and he missed a good portion of the season with a wrist injury. We were on hand for one of his first games back in December, and while he’s shaken off some of the rust as the season has continued, his wrist is still limiting his production, but not to the extent that it was initially. Evidence for that can be found in the observation that Rubio drives left nearly 74% of the time he looked to go to the rim, the most of any player on this list by over 5%. His injury is also partially accountable for the fact that he turned the ball over on 28.5% (1st) of his halfcourt possessions. The team that drafts will need to make sure that they get him back on the right track as a shooter and help open up the floor to get him back in the swing of things to make up for all the time he lost this season.

AAU basketball and high-level European basketball are worlds apart. Brandon Jennings got to experience the difference first hand and it shows in his numbers.

Jennings has the second lowest usage on this list at 7.6 Pos/G, and his .77 PPP is the worst. The rigors of international basketball aren’t kind to the average eighteen year old, and considering he threw himself to the wolves in signing with a team playing on the highest levels in Lottomatica Roma, he struggled as expected. His athleticism let him make some plays from time to time, but his inexperience was constantly apparent in his shot selection. He took 2.1 pull up jumpers per game, but only hit 21% of them. He shot under 25% from the field when running the pick and roll and when isolated as well. The fact that he was fouled on merely 6.2% of his halfcourt shots didn’t help his PPP in those areas either. Jennings was at his best in spot up situations, but his 1.07 PPP is still only a bit above average –though he did put up 1.39 PPP on open catch and shoot jumpers. News isn’t all bad for Jennings, as he turned the ball over less than average (15.2% of halfcourt Pos), but at the end of the day, he scored on merely 29.7% of his possessions. Jennings’ struggles may make any point guard considering the jump from high school to the top level of Europe think twice, as it’s likely just too big a jump in competition to overcome in a minimal role in a single season.

Tyreke Evans has the scoring tools to be productive, but needs to improve his perimeter arsenal to be efficient.

Evans was the top player on our list in possessions used per game as a finisher at 8.8, and his PPP of 1.14 lands him a bit above average. Unfortunately, his overall PPP was .88, which lands him slightly below average and exposes the biggest weakness in his offensive game: his jump shot. His PPP in open catch and shoot situations was a paltry .86. Couple that with only .69 PPP on jump shots off the dribble, and it becomes abundantly obvious that Evans is far from a complete package offensively. His PPP of .54 on isolations is a bit disconcerting as well, but it shows that he’s opportunistic enough to find his way to the rim in other situations, while also displaying his tendency to force the issue in one on one opportunities. Getting fouled at an average rate and not being too turnover prone, whichever team drafts Evans needs to take the time to develop his jumper to help the transition of his dribble-drive game to the NBA.

Stephen Curry had little opportunity to be efficient, since he was doing enough shooting for three people at Davidson.

Curry’s 31.9 possessions per game is highest usage of any player in the draft this season. Its 50% higher than any other point guard not named Lester Hudson. With that in mind, it is important to take his average .94 PPP with a grain of salt, since it is representative of the load he carried and not the role he will play in the NBA. Curry took 5.4 catch and shoot jumpers per game, and his 1.15 PPP with a hand in his face and 1.33 PPP when left open both land him well above average. In terms of his shooting off the dribble, Curry took 11.6 pulls up jumpers per game, more shots than some players took in total.

Projecting him to the next level, Curry is an interesting case. He’s likely to do a lot of his damage in spot up situations in the NBA, but got only 8.9% of his possessions off of spot ups last seasons. He’s not likely to use a lot of one-on-one possessions, but he used 8.6 per game last season (1st). Averaging 8.3 isolations per game (68.3% Left), Curry probably won’t sniff half that number next season. In terms of guard play, his 41% shooting in transition ranks second to last, showing how hard he was pressing to score, but his 1.3 PPP on the pick and roll is excellent—which leaves a lot of room for optimism. He did use 2.6 possessions per game as a jump shooter running off of screens, so he does have a nice base of experience there, but it is notable how far apart Curry’s role in the NCAA was from the role he is likely to play in the NBA.

Jrue Holiday didn’t stand out in any one area, but he’s similar to Tyreke Evans in how he needs to develop a jumper to complement his finishing ability.

Not super efficient overall (.86 PPP), Holiday has the lowest usage of any NCAA player on our list at 9.7 possessions per game. He played a small role on a very slow-paced team, which he’ll like to tell you all about if his recent interviews are any indication. He got about a third of those possessions as a finisher at the rim, where he posted a PPP of 1.2 that places him well above average. He scored 1.34 PPP in transition on limited touches in UCLA’s system, but showed that he can get to the rim and make plays in the open floor.

Unfortunately, the good news ends there for the most part. Holiday shot only 28% from the field on his catch and shoot jumpers, landing him second to last, and his .75 PPP on pull up jumpers leaves a lot to be desired as well. His inordinately large percentage of possessions coming from spot up shots (27.8%) indicates that he spent heavy minutes off the ball –usually when Darren Collison was on the floor. Couple that with his questionable jump shot and you have a clear-cut recipe for disaster, which is exactly how he’d likely describe his first (and likely last) season in the NCAA.

Jonny Flynn was fast enough to compensate for his size on the NCAA level.

Flynn was a standout in two areas: his ability to get to the rim, and his one-on-one skills. Thankfully for him, those are two skills that the NBA values dearly. Clearly, his productivity is grounded in his first step. Flynn got to the rim 8.8 times per game, which accounted for a lot of his scoring, but his 1.24 PPP in unguarded catch and shoot situations and .94 PPP on pull up jumpers are both very respectable. His 4.3 possessions per game on isolations are amongst the best amongst big-conference players, and his 41% shooting on those plays isn’t awful. Couple those tools with his capacity to drive in both directions and his ability to draw fouls (16.1% SF), and it becomes hard not to think that Flynn could be, at the very least, a high quality backup if he improves his efficiency, especially once he masters the pick and roll (.84 PPP).

Darren Collison looks like an awesome backup point guard.

Collison ranked third in overall FG% at 50% and his PPP of 1.02 lands him well above average. The second best finisher in our group at 1.26 PPP and very capable shooting off the dribble (.99 PPP), Collison can score in one-on-one situations (1.02 PPP) and utilize the pick and roll (1.14 PPP) to get his shot off. Able to score at a high rate when he puts the ball on the floor, Collison could still stand to improve his catch and shoot ability, but could be a great backup point guard in the NBA since he doesn’t seem to force anything and his offensive tools are conducive to success in most situations. The question now is whether he can translate that to a higher level of competition.

Eric Maynor falls somewhere in between Stephen Curry and Darren Collison in terms of his numbers, as he was a very high usage point guard, but still was able to remain fairly efficient—which is a very good sign. His 21.2 possessions per game place him 3rd in that category, but his overall PPP of .99 ranks a very respectable 6th. Maynor’s best quality appears to be his short range game, he got to the rim 8 times per game and posted a PPP of 1.12 as a finisher. That’s slightly above average, but few players on this list utilize the same mix of floaters and scoops that Maynor does, and those types of shots have a much greater degree of difficulty than the average layup. Maynor didn’t fall below the average in nearly any category, usually hovering around the middle of the pack, and his isolation PPP of 1.01 stood out amongst this group. The team that drafts Maynor will be getting a player that obviously knows his limitations and can play a number of roles well, but might not stand out in any one area immediately.

Nick Calathes was the second best finisher on our list, posting 1.26 PPP around the basket. For player who is often knocked for his lack of strength and athleticism, Calathes more than compensated for any shortcomings in this area last season. He did turn the ball over on 19% of his used possessions, but he was also one of the better spot up players on our list (1.17 PPP). That should help him in the NBA since he won’t be asked to do as much playmaking in the lane, but will be able to initiate the offense and still contribute.

Toney Douglas, was one of the most efficient players on our list, using over 20 possessions per game (20.7). His overall PPP of 1.04 was the second best of all players, while his PPP as a finisher of 1.22 was sixth best. As a jump shooter, he scored 1.41 PPP on unguarded catch and shoot attempts, and 1 PPP on pull ups. A gifted off the ball player who scores 1.23 PPP (5th) shooting off of screens and 1.14 PPP in spot up situations, Douglas is only an average shot creator (.85 Isolation PPP), but he doesn’t turn the ball over in the half court almost at all (9.7%, 2nd), has experience running the pick and roll (5.3 Pos/G, 2nd), is an excellent defender, and seems like an ideal complement to a taller ball-handling guard. His stock has risen in recent months, and will be interesting to how his limitations as a distributor (he ranks dead last in amongst all passing metrics amongst draft-eligible PGs) factor in to where he’s selected on draft day.

• Patrick Mills had the lowest logged shooting percentage at 36%, and the fact that he took 3.3 contested looks from the outside per game (1st) may have played a role in that. All the three pointers Mills attempted certainly didn’t help his efficiency on the college level. For as fast as Mills is, he got to the rim at an average rate and really struggled to convert once there. He also ranked last for the percentage of possessions he was fouled on—just 5%.

• Real Madrid point guard Sergio Llull’s 1.81 PPP on unguarded catch and shoot attempts rank first in our database and are representative of what he can bring to the table once he gives the ball up. He wasn’t great on the pick and roll (.88 PPP) and doesn’t get to the rim much (2.7 Pos/G, last), but when he can set up in the corner, he’s a dynamite spot up player (1.31 PPP).

• Lester Hudson was Tennessee Martin’s go-to-guy and then some, using 28 possessions per game. While there isn’t a lot of video on him right now, he’s a known commodity after declaring for the draft last season. His play over the next few months will be exponentially more important to his stock that what he accomplished this season.

• Rodrigue Beaubois came on extremely strong for Cholet in the last couple months, but more than any player on this list, the sample size of what we’re looking at doesn’t offer much. His logged games were easily his best, so it doesn’t paint the most accurate picture of his body of work, but his ability to get to the rim (22/32, 69%) is an accurate representation of his overall quickness. His teammate, Nando De Colo, is the loser in this case, since his good games didn’t always coincide with Beaubois’.

• Duquesne’s Aaron Jackson tied Ty Lawson for the best logged shooting percentage on our list at 52%, thanks in large part to his 64% shooting in 8.7 possessions per game as a finisher. His jumper leaves a lot to be desired at this point (1.6 catch and shoot jumpers per game), but he’s a guy with a couple tools and clearly defined weaknesses that he could work out over time.

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