Situational Statistics: the 2014 Point Guard Crop

Situational Statistics: the 2014 Point Guard Crop
Jun 18, 2014, 08:10 am
Box-scores don't always tell us everything we need to know about what happened in an actual game, and season averages can be misleading at times in attempting to project what type of NBA player a NCAA or international prospect will become.

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-Just By the Numbers: the 2014 Point Guard Crop

That's why it makes sense to branch out and explore other alternatives that are available to us, including those offered by Synergy Sports Technology, whose detail-heavy archives include a staggering number of data-points representing the play of prospects all over the world.

With that in mind, we've taken the Top-100 prospects in this draft class, and sorted them into five groups by position. We've then looked at how each group of players stacks up in Synergy's various play-types, with the biggest emphasis being on the specific skills they'll need to succeed at their position at the NBA level.

Breaking Down the Top 17 Point Guards

Marcus Smart and Dante Exum who did not compete outside of the high school level this season, are widely considered the top-2 point guards available in the 2014 NBA Draft. In studying Smart's situational stats, he has a number of attributes that should help ease his transition to the next level offensively, but that his offensive game remains a work in progress.

Looking at the bigger picture, Smart's 18.7 possessions per-game and 14.5% turnover rate both rank average-to-above average among what is a very productive group of uniquely skilled lead guards. His field goal percentage ranked below average overall at just 42%, but his overall .941 points per-possession was almost exactly average thanks to how frequently he got to the line. Drawing free throws on an absurd 31.3% of his transition possessions and 21.2% of his half court possessions, Smart ranks second in this group in overall free throw rate, behind only New Mexico's Kendall Williams, who had a far lower usage rate.

Smart's role for Oklahoma State had him running the pick and roll much less frequently than his peers. Only 21.2% of his offensive possessions were used on the pick and roll and only 14.5% of the possessions derived from his own usage and his passes came from dishes out of the pick and roll, both of which rank well below average. The second least effective shooter in this group making 36% of his shots after dribbling off a ball screen, Smart's overall efficiency on the pick and roll actually ranks above average since he drew free throws on more than a quarter of his possessions in the two-man game, illustrating how big a part of his game his athleticism and physicality play in his success offensively at this stage in his career.

Since he isn't running the pick and roll as frequently as his peers, Smart's profile has some other quirks. He saw more than 5% of his possessions in the post, which is as much as some small forwards. On top of that, he used 1.7 possessions per-game receiving the ball after using off-ball screens, which ranks among the highest marks in this group and the highest among prospects from teams that don't play at very slow paces. Smart is not your traditional off-screen scorer, as he prefers to try to burn the defense by getting to the rim when his defender is trailing, but he did knock down a number of jump shots working off the ball as well.

Smart's somewhat unique offensive role is not surprising when you look at his shooting numbers. He made a below average 28.4% of his jump shots in the half court while finishing at a superb 57.3%-clip at the rim. Shooting 30.3% from the perimeter off the catch and 28.8% off the dribble, Smart has plenty of room to grow as a jump-shooter. Making 45.7% of his open spot-up jump shots, but attempting more and making just 20.4% of his contested spot-up jump shots, there's reason to believe he could improve his numbers with less ambitious shot selection and room for optimism that he'll continue to make strides in this area thanks to his tremendous work ethic.

Like Michael Carter-Williams before him, this study is not particularly kind to Tyler Ennis, though for somewhat different reasons. Like the 76ers rookie in his final year at Syracuse, Ennis's 14.2 possessions used per-game and .889 points per possession overall both rank among the lowest marks of any guard in this draft. However, Ennis's 11.5% turnover rate is among the lowest in this group and is just over half the 22.1% turnover rate Carter-Williams posted before turning pro. His profile on the whole highlights his impressive capacity to play low-mistake basketball and improvable offensive game.

Ranking among the least turnover prone players in this group in isolations, pick and rolls, and spot-ups, Ennis's unique poise for a freshman shows on paper. He operated in the two man game extensively, as 32.9% of his possessions came on the pick and roll and 29.9% of his possessions derived from his own usage and his passes came from dishes out of the pick and roll, both of which rank 4th among point guard prospects. Sporting a 3.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in the half court overall, Ennis's decision-making when the game slows down is one of his biggest strengths relative to his peers.

While Ennis has a maturity as a distributor beyond his years, he still has room to grow as a scorer. Ranking just average scoring 1.041 points per spot-up possession and below averaging scoring .794 points per isolation possession, Ennis is limited by a lack of burst attacking the rim. The Canadian floor general ranks as the 4th worst finisher among his peers scoring 1.011 points per-shot making exactly 50% of his attempts inside. Often unable to get all the way to the rim, 20.5% of his shot attempts in the half court last season were floaters, of which he made a below average 28.3%.

While Ennis may not be an efficient scorer in the paint, he is a capable pull-up jump shooter ranking 5th among this group scoring .87 points per dribble jumper. Only four players in this group took fewer catch and shoot jumpers than Ennis, as he rarely slid over to operate off the ball when he was on the floor.

Looking ahead, there's little questioning Ennis's ability to get others involved, and there's certainly reason to believe he'll be able to add value as a distributor early in his career. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see what he can add as a scorer, especially when his perimeter shot isn't falling. Averaging 20.9 points per-game at the U19 World Championships last summer, Ennis has shown flashes of scoring ability and has nice shooting mechanics, but it will be worth monitoring how he adjusts to the more athletic defenders he'll find waiting for him inside the arc at the next level.

Elfrid Payton's strengths and weaknesses are fairly cut and dry on paper. Payton played a high usage role ranking 3rd among point guard prospects using 20.9 possessions per-game. He finished 1st among his peers using 5.1 possessions per-game in transition and shooting 63.4% on the break as his size and athleticism made him a dynamic threat in space in the Sun Belt conference. Despite ranking 3rd shooting 45.2% from the field in the half court, he finished 3rd last scoring .828 points per-half court possession.

This disparity is the result of his limited jump shooting ability. Although he attempted just 3.2 jump shots in the half court per-game, the 4th least in this sample of players, he made a group low 25.7% of those attempts. His 18.2% conversion rate on catch and shoot jump shots obviously leaves a lot to be desired, and as we saw in our workout interview with the tall, athletic young guard, that is an aspect of his game that he's focusing on improving ahead of his rookie year. Although he did get to the free throw line at the third highest rate in this group, the fact that he converted just 59% of his attempts once there made that somewhat for naught.

Jordan Clarkson doesn't stand out on paper looking at his full body of work as he ranks just average scoring .933 points per possession overall, but much of that is the result of a late season shooting slump. The Missouri guard was solid on the pick and roll, ranking 3rd among players in this group using 6 possessions per-game and 5th scoring .92 points per possession. He got to the rim in the half court as often as any guard on this list other than Elfrid Payton and converted a well above average 56.3% of his 4.5 shots in finishing situations per-game.

The challenge for Clarkson will be regaining the touch he showed early in the year. Ranking 16th among 17 guards making 27.9% of his jump shots on the year, Clarkson was making a much more respectable 35.6% of his jumpers over the first 11 games of Missouri's season. He compensated to some degree with his floater, which he converted at a 3rd ranked 46.1% clip, but becomes a much more dangerous scorer when his shot is falling, especially considering how poorly his traditional passing metrics rank among his peers.

-Semaj Christon's profile is very similar to Payton's, as the pair shares the same strengths and weaknesses. Like Payton, Christon ranks in the top-4 shooting 47% from the field overall, drawing free throws on 21.2% of his possessions, and using 5 possessions per-game in transition. Not quite as efficient as Payton around the rim, Christon was a slightly better jump shooter, scoring a below average .87 compared to Payton's .619 points per-shot.

Connecticut's magical run to the NCAA Championship becomes a bit less surprising when you look at what their lead guard, Shabazz Napier, was able to accomplish on paper. Operating in the half court as often as all but 3 players on this list, Napier ranked 3rd among his peers scoring .99 points per half court possession.

That in it of itself is fairly impressive, but the manner in which Napier scored those points is what really stands out. 54.2% of Napier's possessions came either in isolation or pick and roll situations. Ranking among the top-5 players in points per-possession in both situations, Napier thrived under the pressure of having to make things happen on his own last season, while also ranking as an above average distributor. Some 73% of Napier's shots in the half court were jump shots, of which he made 41.2%. Both of those numbers rank as the highest percentages of any point guard in this draft. Napier was especially prolific with his pull-up jump shot, as he made memorable jumper after memorable jumper off the bounce from all over the floor in March finishing the year scoring a top-ranked .986 points per pull-up jump shot.

To put into perspective just how dynamic Napier was in the tournament, the percentage of his possessions coming from isolations and pick and rolls rose to 57.2% while he made 46.3% of his pull-up jump shots, many of which came in one-on-one situations where Napier simply measured his defender, waited for daylight, and fired.

Napier shot just 46.6% as a finisher in the half court, the second lowest percentage of any point guard in our rankings, making his ability to translate the big-time shot making ability he showed this season a major point of interest next season.

Vasilije Micic is a fascinating case. He leads this sample turning the ball over on 23.6% of his possessions overall, but operated on the pick and roll more frequently than any point guard in this draft, flashing the ability to make plays for others at a very high level. Despite lacking great athleticism, Micic ranks third scoring 1.276 points per-possession as a finisher, taking a lower proportion of floaters than any of his peers, and scored a slightly above average .935 points per jump shot.

While most international point guards simply look out of place here, Micic, for his limitations in some areas, stands out significantly in others. His experience running the pick and roll is a plus, as is his opportunistic scoring ability. Questions remain about his ability to handle pressure from more athletic guards and make jump shots at a better than average rate, but he has some unique tools that will certainly be enough to get a team to take a chance on his development in those areas.

-Deonte Burton ranks 1st in pick and roll scoring efficiency averaging 1.066 points per possession and 6th in isolation scoring efficiency averaging .967 points per-possession thanks in large part to the fact that he turns the ball over far less than any of his peers in both situations. Burton also ranks as the top finisher in this group shooting 67.4% inside in the half court, but made a slightly below average 35% of his jump shots overall.

-Kendall Williams may have one of the 5 lowest usage rates among point guard prospects, but he deserves mention here as he leads this group scoring 1.046 points per possession overall. Williams leads this group in transition scoring efficiency at 1.355 points per possession and 2nd drawing fouls on 21.5% of his possessions in the half court. The third most efficient jump shooter in this group, Williams' lowest marks came as a finisher around the rim, where he shot just 48.3%.

-Providence's Bryce Cotton led this group in usage averaging 21.4 possessions per-game and still managed to be one of just 4 point guard prospects scoring over 1.000 points per-possession. Cotton's high efficiency is thanks to his high level shooting from the perimeter. He was especially effective in catch and shoot situations as he scored a terrific 1.24 points per possession on a sample high 3.7 shots per-game.

-Xavier Thames was the least turnover prone player in this group, primarily because he is not as aggressive attacking the rim as the other guards in this group. Only 20.6% of his shots came at the rim, the second fewest among point guard prospects. He's more adept at pulling up from the midrange, where he attempted a sample leading 4.9 dribble jump shots per-game and scored them at a 1st ranked 40% clip.

-DeAndre Kane's profile is a microcosm of Iowa State's offense on the whole. He attempted as few dribble jumpers as we've seen a point guard attempt per-game in some time at 0.9 per-game, while he ranked as an above average spot-up shooter, finished and drew contact around the rim effectively, and scored capably against smaller guards on the block. No player in this group used close to the 1.6 possessions per-game Kane did on the block.

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