Situational Statistics: This Year's Shooting Guard Crop

Situational Statistics: This Year's Shooting Guard Crop
Apr 27, 2009, 11:53 pm
One of the more interesting positions in this year’s draft, the shooting guard spot is headlined by many prospects showing very unique and obvious strengths and weaknesses, which should provide an intriguing story line as a number of players battle for position throughout the draft process.

-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 Point Guard Crop

As we’ve done in each of our three previous pieces, we’ve tabulated Synergy Sports Technology’s advanced scouting statistics in an effort to understand just what kind of roles this group of shooting guards played on the college level to better project where they fit moving forward. Unlike the small forwards we looked at, this sample of wings has a number of headliners, including James Harden, Gerald Henderson, Jeff Teague, and Terrence Williams. With a number of great scorers, combo guards, outstanding shooters and elite athletes amongst those in our database, the Synergy stats allow us to come away with a great feel for each of these prospects from a situational perspective.


•James Harden’s situational statistics should ease many of the concerns teams have about his game. It appears that he's one of those players who "finds a way to get by" despite his shortcomings.

Very efficient, while maintaining fairly high usage rates, Harden made 47% of his shots in logged possessions –an excellent percentage for a two. None of the 5 players who used as many possessions as Harden (Marcus Thornton, Jermaine Taylor, Jodie Meeks, Jerel McNeal, Dar Tucker) were as efficient as he was from the field. Out of those players, only Meeks' PPP was higher than Harden’s, thanks to how many 3's he made, while Thornton matched him at 1 PPP.

A lot of Harden’s efficiency comes from an area that most probably wouldn’t expect it to. In spite of his perceived athletic limitations, Harden was a terrific finisher around the basket this season. Not only did he get to the rim more than any other player on our list (8.7 Pos/G), he ranked in first comfortably at 1.25 PPP. Considering the questions surrounding his ability to translate his finishing ability to the NBA, these numbers can only help his cause. Ironically, they don’t seem to offer much support for one of his bigger perceived strengths.

Harden's biggest shortcoming ended up being in the perimeter shooting department. He was terrific on the very few catch and shoot opportunities he received with his feet set (2.4 Pos/G), but really struggled when being contested (.85 PPP) or shooting off the dribble (.73 PPP). In fact, the 27% he shot from the field off the dribble is the lowest of any of the nineteen players in our sample. Fortunately for Harden, this is clearly a part of his game he can work on, but he'll have to put in the appropriate time in the gym. In terms of things a team can count on him to do well in the short-run, his ability to score with space deserves consideration at the top of that list.

Harden's intelligence and excellent skill-level really shine through in his ability to score in transition--which was an important part of his game in college. He ranks behind only Wayne Ellington (who obviously had a big advantage playing under Roy Williams' up-tempo system with Ty Lawson) in this category at 1.22 PPP.

Something NBA types will be happy to learn is that Harden created quite a bit of offense by himself in isolation type situations—his 5.2 possessions per game ranks just behind Dar Tucker amongst the 19 we looked at. He still has quite a bit of room to improve here, though, only ranking 7th in PPP with .89. We should point out that three of the players (Paul Harris, Alex Ruoff and Eric Devendorf) ranked ahead of him here were very low usage types—the only two who really stand out as being superior in this aspect are Jeff Teague (5 possessions per game, 1.08 PPP) and Jack McClinton (4 possessions per game, 1.07 PPP). Harden turns the ball over at a fairly high rate, and isn't as effective driving right (39% FG) as he is going left (44% FG)—which makes sense since he’s left-handed. He also doesn't draw quite as many fouls as you might hope. However, it is more than safe to say that Harden could be a very effective offensive player if team’s put him position to succeed.

•Gerald Henderson is largely a mixed bag from what we can see, as it doesn't appear that he was all that comfortable shouldering a huge offensive load at Duke.

Henderson's usage rate is well below average, as he falls much closer to the lower tier prospects in terms of the amount of possessions he used (16.5 Pos/G) than he did to the top guys. Something that is a bit concerning is that he was not particularly efficient in the relatively small amount of possessions he did use. His .95 PPP is only slight above the average of .93, and while some of that can be accounted for by the fact that he doesn’t take many threes, his 44% shooting on logged possessions can’t. Just slightly above the average of 43%, Henderson doesn’t look all that good when compared to some of his peers from that perspective. Henderson obviously liked to shoot quite a bit of long 2-pointers—normally considered a bad shot at the collegiate level—so polishing up this part of his game should make him more efficient.

Fortunately, Henderson is an athlete of the highest caliber, and that really shines through in some areas –namely his ability to finish around the basket. He ranked fourth in that category behind Jermaine Taylor (very limited sample size), Wayne Ellington and James Harden, and first in finishing off cuts, at a tremendous 77%. Surprisingly enough, though, Henderson ranks third to last amongst 19 shooting guards in terms of the amount of possessions he received in transition, which tells us quite a bit about Duke's half-court oriented approach.

As a shot-creator, Henderson looks excellent, both in terms of the volume of shots he was able to create in isolation situations (ranking 5th), and in his ability to convert these opportunities, at 42%. He also appears capable of making some plays on the pick and roll, which is a nice bonus. Like a lot of college players we looked at, Henderson is much better operating with his strong hand (his right)—converting 51% of his drives with that hand, compared with just 37% with his left. This part of his game is going to be key for him moving forward, as he ranks quite poorly as a jump shooter compared to his peers in his ability to catch and shoot (.7 PPP guarded, 1.15 PPP unguarded) or pull-up off the dribble (.79 PPP). Henderson made big strides with his perimeter jump-shot this past season, but he obviously still has a long ways to go.

In terms of his ability to contribute immediately, there are a lot of reasons to like Henderson. He does not turn the ball over much at all (5th) and draws fouls at a nice rate (5th). His athleticism hives him some considerable upside, and his defensive ability and playmaking skills are important to his stock as well. At this point, Henderson’s limitations are abundantly obvious, but they also appear to be highly correctable, and he does other things well enough to make an impact while he rounds out the rest of his game.

• Terrence Williams looks like a pretty safe bet to be drafted in the top-20, but that won’t be because of his situational stats.

We knew that Williams wouldn’t look great—as his main virtues lie in other areas besides his scoring output. Much of his value resides in his ability to lock down defensively, rebound at a phenomenal rate, and distribute the ball effectively. Still, it is a bit eye opening to see how poorly he ranks amongst his peers in most categories we’re measuring.

The first thing that jumps out when evaluating Williams scoring ability is how few possessions he uses each game. His 14.1 Pos/G ranks last amongst the top ten shooting guard prospects, and as the fourth lowest overall. Even more concerning is his lack of efficiency on those possessions, as his PPP of .87 is the fifth worst on our list. There were some aspects of his situational statistics that did surprise us.

For a player with great strength and athleticism, Terrence Williams was not a very good finisher at the rim. His 1.11 PPP was exactly average, as was his 57% shooting in limited transition touches. That really hurts his cause since he has major shortcomings as a shooter. He scored only 1.12 PPP on his open catch and shoot looks, which isn’t awful, but his .58 PPP on pull up jumpers ranks last amongst shooting guards and second to last amongst all guards (Brandon Jennings is last). It doesn’t help that he gets fouled on a meager 9% of his attempts from the field, which limits his efficiency even more.

In one-on-one situations, Williams wasn’t very effective either, putting up just .61 PPP, ranking him well below the average of .78 PPP. Some of this has to do with his complete inability to score when he puts the ball on the floor going left (15.4% FG on isolations). There is some good news for Williams though, as he is capable of running the pick and roll with some efficiency (.81 PPP). That stems largely from his playmaking ability, which seems even more important to his stock now that we see just how hard a time Williams has scoring in most situations.

What’s clear is that whoever drafts Williams shouldn’t be expecting much out of him offensively.

•Jeff Teague's virtues as a volume shot-creator are incredibly obvious from his situational statistics.

Amongst the group we examined, Teague had a very high usage rate, but was only slight above average in terms of efficiency at .95 PPP. From a broad perspective, that’s a pretty good characterization of his mentality as a scorer, but is doesn’t do justice to how unique he is on the offensive end.

Teague is exceptionally good at getting to the rim, posting an average of 7.8 finishing attempts per game (3rd best), which is quite impressive. Considering his size, it isn’t a big surprise that he sits only slight above average at 1.12 PPP on those attempts. Moving forward, Teague may be able to seamlessly account for his lack of efficiency at the rim with his tremendous pull up jumper. He took 5.3 jumpers off the dribble per game last season, and posted .94 PPP, well above the average of .81 PPP.

Unfortunately, his merit off the dribble doesn’t translate to catch and shoot situations, as he ranks below average at 1.12 PPP on unguarded spot up jumpers, which wasn’t a huge issue for him at Wake Forest since he only took 1.2 catch and shoot jumpers per game overall. He ranks last in Pos/G in that category, and he will have to improve his ability to use those situations on the next level considering his size. Teague is very unique in this aspect, as you don’t see many players who shoot such a large percentage of their jumpers off the dribble.

Teague more than compensates for his limitations with his excellent shot creating ability. He gets out in transition more than any player in the draft at 6.1 Pos/G, and while his 1.01 PPP is a strong indication of his shaky decision-making skills, his speed makes him a great threat to get to the line. The same holds true when you consider how well he scores when he puts the ball on the floor. Few players in this draft are as quick and instinctive off the dribble. Teague’s FG percentage of 51.3% when he drives right is extremely impressive, and his 39.4% going left is above average too. Not only do those drives result in made baskets, but Teague gets fouled on 16.6% of his possessions, easily the most amongst twos.

Teague is an excellent scorer with the ball in his hands, but doesn’t look great on the pick and roll or shooting off of screens, two things he may have to work on when taller and quicker defenders take away some of his driving lanes. He’s not a terribly efficient or fundamentally sound player overall, but with the direction the NBA is heading in, Teague is going to be extremely difficult to defend without fouling on the perimeter (think Aaron Brooks or Louis Williams), which makes him a coveted option in this draft, particularly for teams who lack that type of scoring punch off the bench.

•Wayne Ellington had a unique opportunity to play on a college team that is as similar to an NBA team in terms of role dispersal and talent as you'll find in the NCAA.

Amongst the top-10 college shooting guards we looked at, only Terrence Williams had fewer possessions to work with. The difference was as much as 50% compared to some prospects, who obviously had to shoulder much bigger offensive loads on far less talented teams. With that in mind, Ellington indeed ended up being one of the most efficient shooting guards in this draft, ranking first in field goal percentage (48%) and third in points per possession (1.04).

Because of how well Ellington was able to pick and choose his spots, he ends up looking excellent in a host of different categories. He for example ranks 3rd in his ability to finish around the basket, behind James Harden and Jermaine Taylor, 3rd in catch and shoot jumpers, behind K.C. Rivers and Jack McClinton, third in pull-up jumpers, behind Jack McClinton and Jodie Meeks and first in points per possession in transition opportunities.

Ellington's short-comings lie in his inability to create offense for himself, as he ranks third worst in isolation possessions generated behind two very poor ball-handlers in Paul Harris and K.C. Rivers, and his very related inability to draw fouls--which he did on just 9% of his used possessions. Ellington is obviously a finesse player who needs plays run for him in the half-court in order to be most effective, which means he'll definitely need to find the right situation in the NBA. Teams should not discount the skill-level he brings to the table as a pure scorer, though, as its clear that he wasn't such a highly regarded player coming out of high school for nothing.

•Marcus Thornton is a capable scorer who should benefit from playing a smaller role at the next level.

Thornton ranks fourth in possessions used per game 20.6, and his overall PPP of 1 is indicative of how well he played despite his high usage. More so than some of the players ahead of him, Thornton does a little bit of everything. He gets almost 7.2 Pos/G as a finisher, and though his PPP isn’t off the charts at 1.12, it is still above average. Thornton ranks third in catch and shoot possessions per game, but displayed questionable shot selection in shooting 3.6 guarded jumpers in comparison to just 2.2 unguarded shots. Fortunately for Thornton, his guarded PPP of 1.09 ranks third overall. That ability to make shots with a hand in his face should translate itself nicely to the NBA, where open looks are harder to come by.

Only a decent scorer on isolations, off of pull ups, and on the pick and roll, Thornton got more shots off of cuts than any other shooting guard and took the second most shots off of screens. His coach obviously loved running plays for him in the half-court, and his ability to play without the ball should make him a big asset from day one in the NBA. Something of a jack of all trades, Thornton even got a whole possession per game in the post, and is the type of player that can contribute for almost any type of team. He can do so many different things that he’s a good fit in most systems, so long as he doesn’t have to put the ball on the floor a great deal in half court settings to create offense.

Jodie Meeks’ situational statistics are pretty impressive to say the least, as he not only was a very high usage player at Kentucky, but also was extremely efficient at that.

Meeks ranks third in possessions used per game at 21.1, and second in overall efficiency with 1.06 PPP. Meeks’ catch and shoot ability looks a lot like Thornton’s, only he takes more open shots and forces less. He can hit tough shots, but is not as deadly as you might think when left open, at just 1.21 PPP. Unlike Thornton, Meeks is quite a shooter off the dribble, scoring .99 PPP on 4.7 pull up jumpers per game. His 1.11 PPP in spot up situations is above average, an indication that his ability to hit the three somewhat compensates for his inefficient in other areas.

Meeks didn’t get many touches on isolations or pick and rolls, but was relatively efficient in both situations. He ranked second in transition possessions per game at 5.5, and was slightly above average at 1.2 PPP looking good in the open floor. His ability to finish around the rim came out a bit better than we might have anticipated, as he both got there often (4th most), and was ranked 2nd in completing plays once there, at 1.2 PPP. He also showed the very valuable ability to do some damage coming off of screens in half court sets, scoring 1.04 PPP on a third ranked 2.9 shots off of screens per game. Turning the ball over on a little more than a tenth of his used possessions, Meeks didn’t score quite as frequently as some of the other players on our list, but his three point shooting prowess helped him look very solid in this analysis.

•Based on this analysis, Jack McClinton looks like a bona fide NBA player.

Despite playing on a bad team with few other scoring options, McClinton was the most efficient shooting guard in our database at 1.08 PPP. He also ranked second in logged FG% at 47%, on a very respectable 18.6 possessions per game. Showing clear-cut limitations as a finisher around the basket (2nd worst amongst all SGs in fact), McClinton’s best asset is his jump shot. He was above average in PPP in his 1.9 guarded catch and shoot shots per game at 1.09, but was off the charts at 1.8 PPP on 2.5 unguarded catch and shoot shots per game. He was also the best pull up shooter in our database at 1.08 PPP on 5.5 shots per game.

Though he didn’t stand out on the pick and roll or in transition, McClinton’s 1.07 PPP on 4 isolation possessions per game lead us to believe that he has most of the raw tools required to be an excellent threat to score off the bench. He shot over 50% in one-on-one situations driving in either direction, making him the most balanced player on our list. Even though he took a lot of threes, McClinton still scored on a higher percentage of his logged possessions than any other two at 47%. Though he’ll need to expand his range a bit and show that he can produce at the same level he did this season, it isn’t inconceivable that he develops into an Eddie House type player down the road.

•-Jermaine Taylor leads our database in possessions per game at 23.2, but we don’t have a great deal of games to look at. With only four games compared to the 30+ most other players have, it’s probably wise not to draw too many conclusions from this analysis.

-Jerel McNeal used a lot of possessions, but didn't really stand out apart from his 1.46 PPP in unguarded catch and shoot situations, his experience on the pick and roll (83 FGA, 1st), and his 1.39 PPP shooting off of screens. He was not terribly efficient as an all-around scorer, struggling in particular to convert opportunities around the basket. He took a lot of pull-up jumpers and was only moderately effective at doing so, but did show a raw ability to create his own shot that can certainly develop more polish in the future.

-Dar Tucker used the second most possessions of any player on our list at 22 per game, but ranked last in PP at .81. Obviously, his shot selection leaves a ton to be desired. The fact that he was under the average efficient in virtually every category we measured raises some huge red flags. His most notable weaknesses revolve around the fact that he cannot dribble with his left hand, is an extremely poor perimeter shooter, relies way too heavily on his shaky pull-up jump-shot, and only scored on 1/3rd of the possessions he used. Obviously the terrible team he played for at DePaul had a lot to do with his struggles, but Tucker didn’t do himself many favors with the way he conducted himself.

•-Antonio Anderson ranked last in possessions used per game amongst the NCAA prospects on our list at 11.8 per game. Despite that, he ranked second to last in overall scoring efficiency with a PPP of .82, which really highlight just how limited an offensive threat he currently is at the moment. His .87 PPP as a pull up shooter isn't awful, but he turned the ball over on 19% of his possessions and scored at least one point on a very poor 36.6% of his logged opportunities.

•-Paul Harris looks a lot like a power forward based on our analysis considering he took only 2.5 jumpers per game and got 6.5 attempts per game finishing at the rim. His 1.16 PPP as a finisher isn't awful. Neither is his 44% shooting on isolations, but he gets a ton of his offense by working without the ball and only got to go one-on-one 1.2 times per game. Obviously, guys playing out of position don't get flattered in an analysis like this.

•-Milenko Tepic, from the same Partizan Belgrade team that produced Nikola Pekovic last year, got about a quarter of his touches on isolations, but didn't wow anyone with his efficiency. He got fouled on only 9.7% of his shots and turned the ball over more than any guard other than Alex Ruoff -giving it away on 19.4% of his opportunities. Tepic is the only International player on our list, and while he coupled good size with a nice feel for the game, the amount of offensive responsibilities combined with the level of competition he played at in the Euroleague don't make his stats stand out when comparing him with college players.

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