stat sprocket: Evaluating the Point Guard Position

Discussion in 'Pistons and Basketball Articles' started by dba, Feb 18, 2006.

  1. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    Point guards have been a topic of keen interest for Piston’s fans all season, from Chauncey Billups early season MVP quest to the recent trade of Carlos Arroyo. Chauncey shows up on everyone’s short list of mid-season MVP candidates, at the top of many. And more than anyone else on the roster other than Darko, Arroyo has been a flashpoint for dissent. He was either a competent point who could start for a number of teams (Orlando for example), an o.k. backup for short stints, a ballhog too much in love with bouncing the ball on the floor and making blind passes to the opposition, or the devil incarnate. Maybe it was the eyebrows. Maybe it was playing behind an MVP candidate. Maybe with 40+ wins already in the books we didn’t have enough to complain about. Regardless, there should be something in the numbers that can help us evaluate these things…

    - Billups proper place in the world of point guards – arguably the sport’s hardest position,

    - Where Arroyo’s performance fell on the continuum from competent to spawn of the devil,

    - And with Arroyo gone, how Lindsey Hunter will compare.

    I’ll lay out the arguments below, but for those with short attention spans here are the high hard ones.

    1. Billups is not the MVP of the league and in fact, is not the best point guard in the league. Nash is better and so is Jason Kidd. And if you discount scoring (call it the Larry Brown point guard ranking), add Chris Paul, Brevin Knight, and Andre Miller to the list of players who rank above Billups.

    2. Billups is not playing too many minutes. Ten of the top twenty five points in the league play more minutes than CB. Only six play more than three minutes per game less than CB.

    3. Arroyo wasn’t half bad. In fact, from a numbers point of view he is a damn fine point guard. If we put man to man defense to the side and measure defense purely by blocks, steals, and boards, and even up the minutes, Arroyo is at very worst an even match for Lindsey Hunter using Arroyo’s numbers from this year and Hunter’s from 2004/2005. Add in the age difference and the injury, and Hunter is a clear step down.

    4. Assuming a second half of the season like the first, Chris Paul is hands down rookie of the year. His numbers place him in very elite company.

    Measuring Performance

    The details of the scoring I’ve used to measure performance are included at the end of this article. The total points values you’ll see below is a weighted composite of…
    • Two and three point shots made and missed
    • Free throws made and missed
    • Offensive and defensive rebounds
    • Assists and turnovers
    • Steals and blocks
    • Fouls and technical fouls
    Weighting and aggregating these values produces a measure of overall statistical worth measured in points. Worth points can be divided by minutes to normalize across players who play widely varying numbers of minutes per game. Points can be divided by total team points to determine the relative importance of players to their teams.
    [break=Ranking by Points]
    Ranking League Point Guards by Points

    Ranked by total output, Steve Nash is still the best point guard in the league. (And probably still the MVP). He is not only at the top of the ranking, he is there by a good margin, out pointing Iverson by 163 and the next true point guard, Kidd, by 195. Following Nash is a bit of a logjam with Iverson, Kidd, Billups, and Chris Paul in a pack.

    [​IMG]

    It is interesting to note that three teams, Chicago (ranks 15 and 21), New Orleans (ranks 5 and 20), and Charlotte (ranks 10 and 24) each have two guards in the top twenty five.

    Note that at 36.5 minutes per game Billups is not at the top of the minutes scale for the better point guards. Iverson, Arenas, Marbury, Bibby, Francis, Davis, Kidd, Ford, Nash, and Miller all log more minutes per night than Billups. In fact, of the twenty five top guards in terms of total points, only six play more than three minutes fewer per night than Chauncey.
    [break=Ranking by Contribution]
    Ranking League Point Guards by Team Contribution

    While ranking by total points is a good way of comparing players, it may not be the best measure of how valuable a player is to his team. Different teams play different styles, some scoring more, some less, some more reliant on key scorers, some push the tempo providing more possessions for both themselves and the opposition, etc. We can aggregate the points across all the players on a team and then examine the relationship between the point guards and their total team’s production.

    [​IMG]

    New Jersey with it’s deliberate pace has a team total of only 5,604, over 1,700 points lower than Phoenix, and nearly 1,200 points lower than Detroit. However, of that total Kidd accounts for over 25% of the total team’s statistical productivity. I think you can argue that is an unhealthy reliance on one player, especially a 33 year old point guard with a fair number of miles. The backup, Jacque Vaughn, averages under fifteen minutes a night and is ranked 61st among all point guards in statistical productivity. If Kidd goes down, so does New Jersey. Likewise Philadelphia with it’s strong reliance on Iverson both to score and to make plays for others. Billups is very respectable ranked at number seven, accounting for nearly 20% of total Pistons productivity.
    [break=Larry Brown Ranking]
    Ranking League Point Guards by Larry Brown Criteria

    But, who says that point guards are supposed to score anyway? Let’s take the Larry Brown approach to evaluating point guards. In this scoring system, you get no pats on the butt from the coach for making a basket, so points scored don’t count for anything. But, you get chewed out in practice if you miss shots, so the penalties are still in place for missing. And of course, missing a three is worse than missing a two. Missed shots, assists, blocks, steals, boards, fouls, and turnovers make up the bulk of this method of scoring.

    [​IMG]

    First thing you see is big drops in the rankings for score first guards like Iverson, Arenas, and Francis who drop out of the top twenty five entirely. Second you see some new faces, Knight, Calderon, Snow, Alston, Blake, and our old buddy Carlos Arroyo who edges out Tony Parker for 20th spot in the list. In fact, on a minute for minute basis, Arroyo at 0.285 LB points per minute is the fifth best point guard in the league. Larry would be so proud.
    [break=Ranking by PTS per minute]
    Ranking League Point Guards by Points Per Minute

    So, trying to equalize for minutes can be a tricky thing. It’s almost always wrong to assume that if a player’s minutes double then his productivity will double. But, if you just say you’re measuring how productive a player is while he is on the court and that more minutes bring more responsibility to produce then it’s not a completely bad method of evaluating players. Below are the top twenty five point guards in the league ranking by production per minute played. Note that these are total points, including scoring (and not the Larry Brown Memorial Scoring Methodology).

    Again, some new faces, and another strong showing by Carlos Arroyo at number 15. Billups moves up to number 4, but Nash and Kidd are still the men. And what about Chris Paul?

    [​IMG]
    [break=Arroyo vs. Hunter]
    Comparing Arroyo and Hunter

    Arroyo’s presence on many of these rankings forces us to ask where would Lindsey Hunter be if he had played this season with the same numbers as he had last year.

    [​IMG]

    By any measure available here, Arroyo is the guy you want on your team. He’s just more productive. The missing element though is defensive intensity and maybe that makes up for the gap. But given the difference in age, it’s hard to put Hunter over Arroyo.
    [break=Methodology and Acknowledgements]
    Measures and Scoring

    Following is the scoring method I ended up with. It draws heavily on research work reported on the 82games website and comments made by forum members about the other statistical analyses I’ve done. The latest version is…

    Two point field goals ~ [+2.0]

    Missed two point field goals ~ [-0.920]
    The expected value of a two point shot for the league based on average shooting percentages

    Three point field goals ~ [+3.0]

    Missed three point field goals ~ [-1.082]
    The expected value of a three point shot for the league based on average shooting percentages

    Made free throws ~ [+1.0]

    Missed free throws ~ [-1.0]
    After all, they call them “free”.

    Offensive rebounds ~ [+1.350]
    FG percentage after an offensive board is 50.48% (higher than league average since more of the shots are close in). The average potential value of a shot is 2.265 (weighting the difference between two and three point attempts), so…

    .5048 * 2.265 = 1.14. I add 0.2 for general morale benefit and round up to 1.350.

    Defensive rebounds ~ [+1.350]
    You stop the opponent from getting an offensive rebound, same logic as above.

    Assists ~ [+2.0]
    An assist creates a hoop that would not have occurred otherwise.

    Blocks ~ [+2.0]
    Since more blocked shots are close in than not, they have a higher potential likelihood of going in. According to 82games the field goal percent is 62%. 57% of the time a blocked shot stops the other team’s possession (many are blocked out of bounds or the loose ball is secured by the offense, so…

    0.62 * 2 = 1.24 points stopped (no bonus for blocking threes) + .57 * .96 (average value of the shot you get by picking up the blocked ball and heading down court = 1.79. I add in .2 for intimidation the next time down and round up to 2.0

    Steals ~ [+2.0]
    Same logic as blocked shot

    Turnover ~ [-2.0]
    Same logic as blocked shot

    Fouls ~ [-1.0]
    Sometimes stops an easy hoop, but provides easy opportunities for the opponent to score.

    Technicals ~ [-1.0]
    Gives the opponents best shooter a free look.

    Sources and Acknowledgements

    I got lots of information publicly available from www.82games.com, particularly their articles on the value of rebounds and of blocked shots. I got some raw stats from www.dougstats.com and from www.nba.com.
  2. TheeTFD

    TheeTFD All-Star

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    Strong report dba.
    Strange you didn't mention the most important PG stat: Wins!
    CB leads in that cat.
    I liked the stat were CarArr was .285 in pt. per min.? Which would have put him in the top ten or so!
    P.S. you mention Kidd and Nash as better than Bup-Bup. HaHa. They may never dance in a Finals period as long as Bup-Bup runs the tightest team in the NBA.
    I do believe Nash works harder than Cnote, he has too, not as much talent around him.
  3. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    I think that's often true. A couple more boards and CB rules.
  4. MotownPride

    MotownPride Starter 2x Fantasy Champion

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    Great Read.

    I appreciate the amount of effort spent preparing this report for PF.com.

    A couple of observations:
    • Tales of Jason Kidd's demise have been grossly exaggerated
    • Chris Paul is indeed the truth and delivering the most outstanding performance by a rookie PG since JKidd tied Hill for rookie of the year
    • Billups does not carry his team statistically as much as other point guards (to be expected with our starting 5), but this analysis does not take into account C-Note's greatest contribution, clutch play. A fourth quarter or last 5 minute analysis would probably unveil some interesting stats
    • It's hard to imagine that Chris Paul contributes more to his team statistically than Iverson. Testament of how outstanding Paul has been. This does not even take into account the fact that New Orleans was predicted to rival the Bobcats for worse record in the league.
    • Andre Miller has returned as one of the top point guards in the league despite the presence of Watson and Boykins.
  5. roscoe36

    roscoe36 All-Star Administrator

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    The greatest part of this article for me was the LB ranking system. It validates itself by having several past and present LB PGs make the list.

    * Billups
    * Marbury
    * Claxton
    * Snow
    * Arroyo

    The notable exception being Allen Iverson.

    In fact, of all the lists, you can clearly see the cream rise once points are removed.

    One more thing. Have we all been sleeping on Delonte West? I really like his game.
  6. Warthog

    Warthog Bench Warmer

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    i haven't ... at least not for my fantasy team :eyebrows:

    nice article dba, that's a ton of work you put in.
  7. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    Brevin Knight was a surprise to me. That's some pretty big names he's hanging with.

    Also surprised by Tony Parker. He's in the second pack in terms of scoring (below the top group of Iverson and Arenas) in the 18-20 per game range, but just cracks the top ten in terms of total production, and falls nearly off the charts to #21 by the Larry Brown Memorial Scoring method. Arroyo comes up ahead on total LB points with only a third as many minutes per game. Maybe it's just that he's on TV all the time...
  8. professor

    professor Bench Warmer Forum Donor

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    impressive dba -- slow week at work?? :)

    as for these 4th quarter/clutch stats -- i believe there's something covering this somewhere on the 82games.com site (in case it's another slow week)...in fact, i remember being struck by the conspicuous absence of chauncey in their clutch leaders stats.

    lastly, the numbers don't lie (as sheed might say), and i certainly appreciate arroyo's contributions and will miss them...but i like lindsay's game a lot too and would hate to see these numbers fuel the linday haters.
  9. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    A couple of intense defensive minutes from Mr H and a steal or two leading to easy baskets and no one will doubt. (Especially if he's playing the two spot and not the point. :) )
  10. professor

    professor Bench Warmer Forum Donor

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    no doubt. i'm also suspecting that some of his offensive weaknesses at point might be masked by the new offensive system. not saying there will be no drop off, just not as much as has been the case the last couple of years. in any event, i expect we'll get to see because i'll be really surprised if any new personnel get brought in at this point.
  11. aurora

    aurora Bench Warmer

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    Found this very old thread while reviewing everything sprocket-y and trying to grasp some of the Remaking Sprocket Points that dba has written for us. Made a pot of coffee, going for an allnighter.:laugh:

    I put forth that the reason it SEEMS like Tony Parker is a more productive point guard than he turns out to be is because of that lightening fast move he has going to the hoop. He looks like a playmaker because of it, but mostly he is just individually gifted in that one very valuable ability. He definitely has helped to make the Spurs a more interesting team to watch. And yeah, he's on tv way too much.:doh:

    Chauncey ends up pretty high on all these charts, higher than I thought he would be. It's a good gut check to see the figures. Here I was day dreaming about trading him for Iverson next year, but he's looking pretty good in dba's evaluation here. There's no stat for willingness to pass into the post though, is there? :)

    Also, dba, point guard is my FAVORITE position so I enjoyed every bit of this lengthy analysis. Each year I pick a handful of teams to follow (besides my beloved Pistons) and several individual players. Your study here has got me curious about Brevin Knight and he's now on THE LIST 2007.

    Thanks for all this hard work dba. I know you did it way back in Feb but I really enjoyed it and will use it as a reference for my point guard tracking. I can see I need to watch some Jason Kidd as well.
  12. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    Assuming the folks at 82games remember they said they would do it, they are supposed to run some data for me to redo this, based on a full season of data, and split by time in game and score so I can also get some notion of how the scoring can change in crunch time.

    Better stock up on the Advil.
  13. TheeTFD

    TheeTFD All-Star

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    OMG.
    This time DBA give us a box to work from. So there is a staring point a desired effect and maybe a conclusion. Don't just throw an equation out there like a calculus teacher, and leave us hanging in math cyberspace. I need to see the ground or I aint jumpin'.
  14. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    Don't like "the proof is left to the reader"?

    Here's a path down...

    - I made up sprocket points to be able to evaluate players and at least I liked the results - seem logical and intuitive.

    - I needed to update some of the calculation with new league averages based on the 05/06 season.

    - Thought I'd toss it open and see if anyone wanted to see how it worked and what I was changing.

    - Came out a little long.

    In the middle there somewhere are the stats that go into sprocket points and the weights I've given them - old and new. That's the heart of it.
  15. TheeTFD

    TheeTFD All-Star

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    I was thinking it was a continuation of older stats. Which I understood - then.
  16. dba

    dba All-Star Moderator 1x Fantasy Champion Forum Donor

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    Sorry, my bad. I mistook this for the Remaking Sprocket Points thread.

    You're right, this is an old article that was revived - no new info, no new changes.

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