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Rating the NBA's point guards

The NFL has quarterbacks, the NBA has point guards. On an offensive possession the ball usually starts in their hands and is passed out from there to the accompanying players. The saying goes that championships are won with big men (Magic had Kareem, Isaiah Thomas had Bill Laim~ er, maybe that theory isn't so good), but point guards are becoming increasingly visible in the NBA today.

To determine which of the current crop of NBA speedsters deserves the honors of 82games top floor general, we'll look at a variety of stats, primarily on court/off court comparisons (how a player's team did with him on the court versus on the bench).

1) Offensive Impact: Team Scoring
Points Scored per 48 Minutes
Player
Team
On Court
Off Court
Net
 Kidd
NJN
99.7  84.7  +15.0 
 Williams
MEM
102.1  89.9  +12.2 
 Fisher
LAL
103.1  92.0  +11.1 
 Marbury
PHO
97.9  87.8  +10.1 
 Bibby
SAC
107.0  97.1  +9.9 
 Francis
HOU
95.2  85.6  +9.6 
 Nash
DAL
105.9  97.6  +8.3 
 Stockton
UTA
98.6  91.1  +7.5 
 Hudson
MIN
101.0  93.9  +7.2 
 Arenas
GSW
104.9  98.5  +6.4 

These numbers are a little too dependent on style -- the PG's who love to push the ball and get out on the break will shine here. Nevertheless, these guys get the offense going. They play for some of the more entertaining squads in the league, and it's also hard to miss that nine of the top ten are western conference players!

Kidd stands on top by a healthy margin, but the Grizzlies Jason Williams shows a surprisingly large effect on the Memphis offense, in part perhaps because his fondness for launching the quick three will increase total possessions in a game.

2) Offensive Impact: Effective Field Goal Percentage
Team eFG%
Player
Team
On Court
Off Court
Net
 Kidd
NJN
47.7% 43.7% +4.0%
 Fisher
LAL
49.7% 45.7% +4.0%
 Williams
MEM
50.1% 46.3% +3.8%
 Bibby
SAC
51.5% 48.4% +3.1%
 Nash
DAL
50.7% 47.8% +2.8%
 Parker
SAS
50.5% 47.8% +2.7%
 Williams
TOR
46.6% 44.1% +2.5%
 Stockton
UTA
49.6% 47.2% +2.4%
 Marbury
PHO
47.6% 45.3% +2.3%
 Terry
ATL
47.9% 45.9% +2.1%
Perhaps a more important indicator of offensive impact, as a point guard leading a deliberate slow paced team can still be among the leaders, Kidd is still on top. Jason Terry and Alvin Williams crash the top ten party to give the East three representatives.

Kidd may be #1 in the net change, but it's Mike Bibby and the Kings who lead the way in actual percentage, hitting at a prodigious 51.5% effective FG when he's on the court. Indeed Kidd's raw number is rather average, but the Nets without Jason truly struggled to find the basket.

3) Defensive Impact: Effective FG% Allowed
NBA '02-03 Roland Ratings
Player
Team
On Court
Off Court
Net
 Parker
SAS
44.5% 47.5% -3.0%
 Crawford
CHI
46.2% 47.7% -1.5%
 Francis
HOU
46.0% 46.9% -0.9%
 Terry
ATL
46.7% 47.4% -0.8%
 Delk
BOS
46.6% 47.4% -0.7%
 Davis
NOH
46.1% 46.7% -0.5%
 Fisher
LAL
47.6% 47.9% -0.3%
 Armstrong
ORL
48.5% 48.8% -0.3%
 Harrington
DEN
47.6% 47.8% -0.2%
 Palacio
CLE
48.3% 48.5% -0.1%

Offense being only half the game, we better take a look at the defensive side of the ball. As the point guards who push the ball will likely improve total scoring for both sides, the eFG% number is a better measure. Here we find Tony Parker as the top PG by a huge margin, ironic in light of the Spurs going all out to get Kidd.

Mostly you find that the top point guards don't seem to shave off much eFG% for the other side. On offense the #10 player was +2.1%, here on defense it's a mere -0.1%!

4) Roland Ratings: Team Net Points
NBA '02-03 Roland Ratings
Player
Team
On Court
Off Court
Net
 Kidd
NJN
+7.8  -2.3  +10.0 
 Francis
HOU
+3.0  -5.7  +8.7 
 Parker
SAS
+7.7  -0.4  +8.1 
 Crawford
CHI
-1.2  -9.1  +8.0 
 Fisher
LAL
+4.6  -3.3  +7.9 
 Stockton
UTA
+5.5  -1.5  +7.0 
 Davis
NOH
+4.7  -0.2  +4.9 
 Terry
ATL
-2.6  -7.1  +4.5 
 Bibby
SAC
+8.8  +4.6  +4.2 
 Nash
DAL
+9.0  +5.0  +4.0 

As the best single number to take from the on court/off court stats, the Roland Ratings show which players meant the most to their teams. Kidd again claims top billing, but note how much better the Chicago Bulls were with Crawford at the helm over their Jay Williams.

On the other hand, both the Kings and Mavs were so good and so deep, that even with their main leaders on the sidelines, they still outscored opponents to the tune of aboue 5 points per game!

5) Passing Statistics
NBA '02-03 Close Shot Feeds
Player
Team
Close Assists
Dunk Assists
Close 48min
 Kidd
NJN
247   175   6.8  
 Stockton
UTA
227   46   5.8  
 Tinsley
IND
169   72   5.2  
 Williams
MEM
156   92   5.0  
 Miller
LAC
162   76   4.0  
 Williams
CHI
92   59   3.8  
 Arenas
GSW
139   77   3.7  
 Nash
DAL
134   70   3.6  
 Snow
PHI
187   43   3.6  
 Crawford
CHI
93   53   3.6  

There's all kinds of passing stats we can throw out, but for true hoops fanatics the real deal in a point guard is the player who can find the open man inside, leading to high percentage layups and dunks. Perimeter assists can't match up with defense-shredding inside bullet passes.

Kidd stands apart in feeding dunks to his teammates (Francis was second with 125). He will take risks, but easy scores abound for the Nets. John Stockton also shows his class in this category.

6) Counterpart Matchup
The final piece of the puzzle for today's analysis, is how our fearless point guards have played in the head-to-head matchup with the opposing PG. Of all the positions, Center and Point Guard surely rates as the ones that have the most interesting tete-a-tete action between players. We've tracked the stats of the player in question and his counterpart while he is on the floor to come up with the following "nets" (and please note for players who played at other positions, only their point guard minutes are included here). The 'score' is simply the sum of the other columns.

Player vs Counterpart net stats per 48 Minutes
Player
Team
eFG%
FTA
Reb
Ast
Pts
Score
 Jackson
SAC
+9%  +1.2  +1.3  -2.5  +9.0  18.0 
 Marbury
PHO
+3%  +2.9  -0.5  +2.1  +10.0  17.7 
 Kidd
NJN
+1%  +2.5  +3.3  +4.5  +4.9  16.3 
 Billups
DET
+4%  +4.0  +0.9  -0.8  +8.3  16.2 
 Nash
DAL
+4%  +2.8  -1.2  +2.2  +8.3  16.1 
 Cassell
MIL
-2%  +5.3  +1.3  -0.2  +7.8  12.7 
 Francis
HOU
+1%  +4.4  +2.4  -0.4  +5.3  12.2 
 Arenas
GSW
-0%  +3.3  +1.4  -0.3  +6.2  10.4 
 Parker
SAS
+5%  +1.6  -1.1  -0.3  +4.3  9.5 
 Bibby
SAC
+7%  +0.7  -1.2  -1.4  +4.1  9.3 

Sixth man of the year Bobby Jackson of the Kings grabs this section's "overall leader", but there are two quibbles with his lofty perch: he only played a little over a third of the team's total PG minutes, and his "score" comes entirely from "scoring" where he outshot his opponent by a whopping 9% EFG, and outscored the hapless adversary by 9 points per 48 minutes. The #2 man Marbury likewise does most of his damage from the points in the hoop department. Only Kidd wins the battle in every stat listed: effective shooting percentage, free throw attempts, rebounds, assists, and points.

All things considered, it's hard to go with anyone else but Jason Kidd and the revolution!


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