Best Point Guards in the NBA by the Numbers
- By: The Professor
- On: 2/2/2011 8:03:00 AM
- View Comments : 12
This year has become a "year of the point guard", where there are about 5 or 10 elite PGs making news on a nightly basis. Ask someone in Chicago and they'll tell you Derrick Rose should be the MVP. Ask someone in Boston and they'll tell you Rajon Rondo is the best point guard in the league. A New Orleans fan will tell you that Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA, while a Utah fan will fight you to the death that Deron Williams is better.
So I wondered: how do the top point guards measure out vs their peers, according to the nerd stats? If we take allegiance and bias out of the equation and look at the stats that supposedly tell us more about the game than just a quick perusal at the points/rebounds/assists box scores, what do the numbers tell us?
I'm looking here at 10 news-worthy point guards, though it wasn't an exhaustive list and might leave some deserving players out (Chauncey Billups I'm looking at you). I came up with my 10 by brainstorming on who I thought the best PGs in the league were and I came up with seven names, then I added Raymond Felton because of his All Star game buzz and John Wall because of his rookie flash buzz. I rounded it out with Stephen Curry to get a nice 10 players, and he was almost last year's rookie of the year so that earned him a spot at the table. I'm going to look at 5 different stats: John Hollinger's PER, Basketball-reference's win shares, Dave Berri's Wins Produced, 82games.com's Roland Rating, and BasketballValue's 1-year adjusted +/-. I'll give a brief blurb about each stat based on my experience with them, and then at the end we'll look and see how those stats would rank the best of the position..
PER: Hollinger's stat, probably the most popular of the "advanced stats", favorable (compared to other advanced stats) to volume scorers and players that generate a lot of free throws; generally ranks those considered "great" by the general public well, though also will tend to have role players with good scoring-per-minute very highly. Here is how each of our PGs ranks in PER:
Win Shares: From Basketball-reference.com, big emphasis on shooting/scoring efficiency; loves points per shot (thus values FTs drawn). To account for different minutes played, we're going to look at Win Shares per 48 minutes played.
Wins Produced: Dave Berri's controversial stat (most likely to be trashed on an APBRmetric board) is also the one seemingly growing fastest in popular usage; wins produced values what he defines as possessions, so loves rebounds, steals, and blocks and doesn't like TOs; doesn't value shot creation, but does value assists. We'll look at Wins Produced per 48 minutes.
Roland Rating: 82games.com's Roland Rating is based upon a combination of PER and +/- stats. It looks at the individual PER of each player, the PER of their primary defensive assignment, and subtracts the 2 for a 1-on-1 value then they combine that 1-on-1 value with a team-impact based on-court/off-court +/- stat to get the rating. Tends to produce fewest "what???" rankings, because players that rank out highly in both the 1-on-1 and team stats are almost universally who we consider to be among the best in the game...though the order at the top isn't always what you'd expect.
1-year Adjusted +/-: This is Basketballvalue.com's APM calculation. I don't love it because APM is so incredibly noisy that a single year (or less) doesn't give conclusive answers. Even 2 years may be too short for an APM calculation. I like longer APM calculations, 4 years or more, to really clean up the noise and give a robust effect. Nevertheless, we're talking about this year so this is both the 1-year APM as well as the (huge) standard errors for each guy:
|APM (basketballvalue)||APM SE|
Overall Rank orders: Giving each of our 10 guys a '1' through '10' ranking based on where they ranked in each stat, here is a quick and dirty summary of how each guy did. I'll add an average across the 5 stats (with standard error) to give us a better idea how our seat-of-the-pants-advanced-stat-cross-section-view ranks 10 of the best point guards in the NBA with respect to each other:
|PER||WS48||WP48||Roland Rating||APM||Average||Std. Error|
Just about every advanced stat, no matter how calculated, agreed that Chris Paul and Steve Nash have been the 2 best point guards in the NBA this year. Likewise, just about every stat concurs that John Wall and Ray Felton have been clearly the worst of this top-10.
With standard error considered Rose, Deron Williams and Rondo all overlap with each other for the 3 - 5 slots. Likewise Westbrook, Parker and Curry all overlap each other for the 6 - 8 slots. But the clusters are so close that Rondo's ranking would overlap with everyone from Rose (nominally 3rd) to Parker (nominally 7th).