Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who's the REAL Best Point Guard (Under-24 Division)?

#1 draft pick John Wall has had a solid rookie season with
8.7 apg, but is he the best young point guard in the league?
A couple days ago, I did a post in response to an poll about the best point guard in the NBA, and the statistical analysis revealed that Chris Paul – not Derrick Rose – is the best floor general in the Association this year.  In doing that post, I read a lot of opinion pieces about point guards this year, and many “experts” and bloggers said the same thing: we are now in a golden age for the point guard position in the NBA.  In fact, as much attention as Blake Griffin has gotten this season, the most hyped rookie in 2010-2011 is 19-year-old Wizards’ PG John Wall (above left).  This got me thinking about the depth of the point guard position, as well as its ample supply of young rising stars.  Immediately after posting last time, I went to work on assembling another point guards ranking – this one limited to the best PG’s who were age 24 or younger at the start of this season.  Would it be the  rookie phenom Wall, or was he overhyped?  Hit the jump to find out.

For this set of rankings, I used the same six categories – Points, Assists, Field Goal Percentage, Turnovers, Steals, and Team Winning Percentage – as before.  Instead of making a subjective decision about who the “best” young guns were before even running the numbers, I decided to include all current starting point guards who began the season in the under-24 bracket.  An important note: in this analysis, I compared the 9 young point guards to each other, not to the elite cohort from last time or to the entire point guard population.  Here are the results:

1T. Russell Westbrook (OKC)
1T. Mike Conley (MEM)
3.     Stephen Curry (GS)
4.     Derrick Rose (CHI)
5.     Jrue Holiday (PHI)
6.     John Wall (WAS)
7.     D. J. Augustin (CHA)
8.     Darren Collison (IND)
9.     Brandon Jennings (MIL)

Who is this guy, and could he really be the best young point guard in the NBA?
There are a bunch of interesting twists to these results, so let’s start at the top and work our way down.  That Russell Westbrook should be tied in first is not surprising, since he was among the five superstars mentioned by ESPN in their poll.  However, the most surprising result of this study, in my opinion, is that Mike Conley (see right) ties with Westbrook atop the rankings.  Conley is far from a household name, and he is arguably the least flashy player on this list with only 13.9 points per game this season.  However, all of his other numbers stack up incredibly well compared to the other young point guards.  Conley is second in Field Goal Percentage (45%), third in Turnovers and Team Winning Percentage, and tied for first in Steals.  Taken together, these stats paint a picture of a true, traditional point guard: strong on defense (Steals), a steady hand (Turnovers and FG%), and a consummate winner.  In short: Mike Conley.

Another surprising result of the analysis is the place of Derrick Rose.  The original ESPN poll found that 67% of the country thought Rose to be the league’s top Point Guard of any age.  My analysis found people to be a bit overexcited, but Rose still came in as the third best overall floor general.  This would indicate that, when placed in a broadly weaker pool of candidates, Rose’s statistics should perform equally well if not better.  However, the exact opposite took place here, and Derrick Rose falls to fourth among the young guns.  How did this happen?  Well, the statistics in which the Bulls’ leader struggled against the top point guards also caused problems for him against the younger generation.  Rose was sixth in Field Goal Percentage (44%) and fifth in Steals (1.1 per game) when compared to CP3 and company.  When up against Conley, Augustin, and others in those same categories, Rose came out at sixth and tied for seventh, respectively.  Then, while Rose’s turnover numbers were tied for second against the top PG’s, he fell to seventh among the under-24 crowd, likely due to how often the Bulls’ offense runs through him.  Therefore, in an interesting statistical quirk, Derrick Rose compares less favorably against young point guards than he does against the elites at the position.

Brandon Jennings really needs to get his game under control if he is ever going to become an elite point guard
Finally, I was surprised to find Brandon Jennings at the absolute bottom of the rankings.  I expected D. J. Augustin or John Wall, both of whom have had trouble running a team at the NBA level, to come in ninth place in this analysis.  Instead, Brandon Jennings (see left), a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie First Team last season and a dynamic offensive player, seems to be bringing up the rear.  How could this be the case?  Jennings numbers have stayed at roughly the same levels as last year, with only a small dip in his Assists.  Why, then, did he suffer in the rankings?  This could be because Jennings was overrated last season; he was playing big minutes on a healthy and resurgent Bucks team, and the 2009-2010 rookie class was artificially weak due to #1 pick Blake Griffin’s year-long absence.  This year, Jennings plays for an injury-riddled Milwaukee squad in a resurgent Eastern Conference, and his numbers, while not worse than last year’s, are also not any better.  The result: Jennings comes in dead last in Assists (only 4.6 per game) and FG% (38.1%), as well as eighth in Team Winning Percentage.  In this way, last year’s rising star, Brandon Jennings, has toppled to the bottom of the young PG totem pole.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I knew that Conley was having a good season, but didn't know he had gained such heights. Great piece.