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THE PG INDEX
August 17, 2014
By Anthony J. Fredella
NEW YORK, New York - A few months ago I came up with a little index to try and measure point guard efficiency. It was sparked by an overall debate about who the best PG in the league was, following a comment in an interview by John Wall that he was the league’s finest lead guard. I said back then that you can debate “who’s the best” forever. It’s a matter of opinion supported by your own values of what makes a player of that position, well, the best. With that being said, I set out to devise a formula, based upon a player’s statistics and his team’s winning percentage. Since that time, I’ve revised that formula a number of times to more accurately reflect “efficiency.” But before we talk about the components of the PG Index, let’s define efficiency.
With regard to the point guard position there are a number of characteristics, if you will, that go into the making of an efficient playmaker. We talked about this at length back in December when we posted the standings from the original PG Index. Just to review - and then we’ll expand - an efficient point guard in today’s NBA needs to run the offense, score, defend, distribute the basketball, hit free throws, rebound (somewhat), and not turn over the basketball. Oh, and most importantly, you have to help your team win games. You can score 24 ppg or dish out 15 apg, but if you win 25 games a season, or if you can’t get your team into the playoffs, then what you’re doing is not working.
So let’s break down the index's components in a little greater detail. Scoring. Way back when, point guards generally brought the ball up the floor, set up the offense and distributed the ball to the big guys. That was then. Now, the game has evolved into a state where the point guard does a little bit - and sometimes a lot a bit - of everything on the floor, and that includes being a top option on offense. Allen Iverson revolutionized the position when he came into the league in 1996, and that trend has continued. The best PG's in the league nowadays can - and do - put the ball in the hoop. They look to create not only for others, but also for themselves.
Defense. To win games, you have to stop the ball. You can't allow penetration to break down your defensive sets. This has never changed. Your defense begins with defending at the top, and that starts with your point guard. If your lead guard can't keep the other team's PG in front of him, if he's constantly being broken down, it's going to be a long night. Another key component for your point guard, other than keeping his man in front of him, is gaining possessions on the defensive end. This is done by creating turnovers, or stealing the ball. For every steal your team gets, that's an extra possession, an extra opportunity for your team to score. It's not rocket surgery, if your team has more opportunities to score than the other team, you increase your chances to win the game. Steals are a big factor.
Distribute the Basketball. This is no mystery, the point guard's major objective since the beginning of time has been to get the basketball to the right guy, at the right time - to create scoring opportunities. You don't want your 7'2" center catching the ball 27 ft. from the basket, just like you don't want your 6'3" guard with the ball on the block with his back to the basket. It's not smart basketball, it's not efficient basketball. The point guard engineers his team's offense in this capacity. He's the quarterback. He controls the flow and the pace, and makes sure everyone gets where they need to be - and then he gets them the ball in a position to score, which creates a statistic easily measured and attributable to him, the assist. Assists have been the benchmark of fine playmakers since the game was invented. A lot of assists use to mean a good point guard. Now, it's just another component in measuring a good PG's effectiveness and efficiency.
Free Throws. If you get an opportunity to shoot the ball 15 ft. from the basket at your own pace with no one defending you, then you have to knock those down. Good, efficient point guards hit their free throws. Bottom line.
Rebound. No more do all point guards measure in at 6'0", 160 lbs. and hang outside the three point arc while the big boys bang inside. The increase in athleticism in basketball over the years has been tremendous, and it has trickled down to the PG's. More and more we are seeing bigger, and more athletic lead guards blocking out inside on defense, and crashing the boards on offense. It's a must. Again, rebounds, whether defensive or offensive, mean another possession for your team.
Turnovers. I can't emphasize enough the importance of not turning the ball over. As vital as it is to get steals and create possessions, it's twice as important not to turn the ball over and lose possessions. Generally, your PG is the guy on the floor with his hands on the ball the most frequent throughout the game. That means he also has the largest amount of opportunities to turn the ball over. It can't happen. Efficient point guards do not turn the ball over and lose possessions for their teams.
So how do we roll all of this into an index that measures the efficiency of a point guard? First, we have to rank the importance of certain factors, like it's twice as important for a PG to score and create steals than it is for him to rebound. Not turning the ball over is more important than scoring. His assist to turnover ratio is the most vital individual stat when measuring efficiency. And your team has to win. Like we said above, you can have the greatest stat line since Wilt, but if it doesn't translate into wins for your team, that what you're doing is technically inefficient.
So here's the formula we are using: 2(ppg + spg) + 3(apg) + rpg - 3(tpg) + 5(assist/turnover ratio) + (winning %)/10 + (ft %)/10. We've inserted every PG in the league's stats into this formula and here's where the top rank:
(15) Ricky Rubio: 74.42
The Minnesota Timberwolves point guard just nips the Top 15, proving that efficiency is not all about scoring, as his 9.5 ppg is among the lowest in the league for starting PG's. But here's how he cracks the rankings, he dishes out 8.6 apg, grabs 4.2 rpg, knocks down 80% of his free throws and maintains a 3.2 a/to ratio, which is 4th among all PG's.
(14) Michael Carter-Williams: 75.21
Surprised to see him here? You shouldn't be. In his first season in the league, MCW put up an incredible stat line: 16.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg (tops among all PG's), 6.3 spg, and 1.86 spg. His downfall, he turned the ball over 3.5 times per game, which deflated his a/to ratio down to 1.8. Another depressing factor? His team only won 25.7% of the games he played in and he's only a 70% FT shooter.
(13) Jrue Holiday: 76.01
The New Orleans Pelicans guard only played in 34 games this season, but when he was on the floor, he was the 13th most efficient PG in the league. That’s because he’s averaged 14.3 ppg to go along with his 7.9 apg. He also hauled in 4.2 rpg and 1.65 spg. He was dragged down by his 44.1% winning percentage and his 3.1 tpg.
(12) Tony Parker 76.15
What? Tony Parker at #12? Thought he’d be a Top 5 guy, right? Well, look at his numbers: his 16.7 ppg is pretty good, but he only hands out 5.7 apg and gets 2.3 rpg. He only averages 1 steal every two games. So while his winning percentage is tops at 77.9%, his a/to ratio is a below average 2.6. Is he one of the best PG’s in the league? Absolutely. Is he one of the most efficient? Apparently not.
(11) Isaiah Thomas 78.59
Isaiah Thomas ahead of Tony Parker? You’ve got to be kidding, right? No, look at his numbers: 20.3 ppg, 6.3 apg and 1.29 spg. His winning percentage is an atrocious 36.1% and his a/to ratio is very low at 2.1, or he would be even higher with those numbers.
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