With the growing importance of the position in the NBA, point guards are being examined closer than ever. When determining the best point guard, neither fans nor analysts can come to an agreement on what dimensions of point guard play are most important.
During a sports bar debate like any other, I decided to use cold, unbiased stats to cut through the FirstTake-like sophistry. I decided that I needed to capture the essence of point guard play, so I tried to use John Hollinger’s Pure Point Rating.
The Pure Point Rating was created by Hollinger to adjust the assist to turnover ratio to more accurately reflect the importance of a point guard’s ability to avoid turnovers and create shots. Although a huge improvement over the basic assist-to-turnover ratio, his rating is still incomplete since it leaves out the other important aspects of a point guard’s play.
For comparison purposes, I found the PPR inadequate. That is why I began developing the Total Point Guard Rating, or TPGR. After a year of tweaking, it is ready to quantify what has been called the most important position in basketball.
TPGR is a performance measurement for point guards, like the Passer Rating in football, designed to account for the most important aspects of point guard play.
TPGR combines multiple point guard stats into one number. Each statistic is weighted by importance to the point guard position.
In order of importance, the statistics are: turnovers, assists, points, win shares per 48 minutes, defensive rating, steals and rebounds.
Since the average points per possession in the NBA is around one, each loss of possession can be assumed to be a two-point swing (losing a possession, plus giving the opponent an additional one). So, following Hollinger’s lead, the TPGR considers turnovers the most important statistic for a player that is expected to run the offense.
An assist is one of the more obvious indicators of a point guard running the offense and helping his teammates score. In most schemes, this is the main role of a point guard (second only to maintaining possession of the ball). A point guard is only responsible for the passing half of an assist as the teammate has to knock down the shot on his own, but a good point guard can rack up assists by feeding players the ball in areas and at times that yield higher percentage shots.
The importance of points is obvious as the team with more points, wins. However, points are weighted less than assists because more pressure is put on a defense when more players are involved in the offense.
Win shares are explained in detail here. In short, it determines the amount of wins the player can be considered responsible for on his team. This should translate to the importance of the individual player to the team winning.
Estimated points per 100 possessions given up by the player. Defense for a point guard often relies on playing within a defensive scheme since NBA rules don’t allow for much contact on the perimeter. This rating gives a more accurate picture of the player’s defense than more traditional statistics, like steals.
Although steals do not give an accurate picture of the player’s defense, they still represent what can be considered a two-point swing (see turnovers).
Although rebounds are not typically what a point guard is asked to do, they cannot be ignored. The benefits of a rebounding point guard are the occasional extra possession on an offensive board and an excellent opportunity to run the break off a defensive one.
Because these stats are weighted and then combined, the TPGR is cumulative. This is where the measurement differs from football’s passer rating in that there is no set range and, therefore, no “perfect score.”
In addition to using TPGR in our regular work here at Shot Clock Chronicles, we will be doing a Total Point Guard Power Ranking every two weeks to track the top point guards throughout the season.
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