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The Best Point Guard

February 11, 2003 Columns No Comments

Who’s the Best Point Guard? Part I – The Method

by Jed Tai

Part I | Part II

Every year the same question always seems to be asked:

Who is the best point guard in the country?

This year is no different as there are many point guards across the country that could be considered for the title of “Best Point Guard”. Is it Arizona senior Jason Gardner? What about Texas sensational sophomore T.J. Ford? Maybe it’s Chris Thomas of Notre Dame – and what about a relative unknown like David Bailey at Loyola (IL)? All are worthy candidates.

Every year, I make an attempt to try and answer this question. How do I go about doing this? Well, my method is by going with the most objective way I know how — utilizing statistics. This week we will explore my method. This study has always sparked good debate. Again this year we will use up-to-date statistics from this current season to do the comparison. With most schools now keeping their current statistics online, we are able to grab the current stats for each player, with the cut of data taken for all games through the first week of February.

We now have all the statistics we need – so what’s the method you ask? It’s fairly simple really. Basically I compare all the players in seven different categories that I feel are important in determining an all-around point guard.

The categories:

P40 – Points per 40 Minutes
Scoring from your point guard isn’t an absolute necessity, but it is something that certainly helps the team. Especially in recent years with the likes of Jay (Jason) Williams, Jason Terry, and Mike Bibby, if you have a scoring point guard (or at least one that can score reasonably), your team can be that much better. We will normalize scoring per 40 minutes to compensate for those that do not play as much as others.

FG% – Field Goal Percentage
Again, not an absolute requirement, but a high field goal percentage can only help. No normalization needed with this category.

3P% – 3-pt Field Goal Percentage
Another category in which a high percentage is non-essential, but if you can do it well, it only helps. If your point guard can’t shoot from the outside, the chance of facing sagging defenses increases and the team has a tougher time with their inside game. No normalization needed with this category.

FT% – Free Throw Percentage
Your primary ballhandler is going to have the ball most of the time, especially late in the game. In close games, he’ll likely be the one that gets fouled when the other team tries to catch up. Thus, a good free throw percentage is quite important for a point guard. Many point guards also get fouled off of penetration during regular play anyway, so it’s good if you can convert those opportunities from the line. No normalization needed with this category.

A40 – Assists per 40 Minutes
Assists usually are the defining stat for point guards. Enough said. We’ll normalize this stat per 40 minutes.

ATO – Assist/Turnover Ratio
Assists are great, but even better when there aren’t many turnovers associated with them. The truly great passers don’t put too much mustard on their passes and make good decisions — something a good assist/turnover ratio will usually show. This category is simply total assists divided by total turnovers.

S40 – Steals per 40 Minutes
Defense is always tough to gauge numerically, but steals are a common measure for defense for perimeter players. While a huge number of steals may be a result of gambling defense more than solid defense, at least each steal represents a turnover caused and a new possession for the defensive team. We will normalize this statistic per 40 minutes.

For each category, we will rank all of the players and assign points based on their rank in that statistic. The leader in a category will receive 100 points (representing 100%). Those following him will receive a point total based on how their performance in that category relates proportionally to the leader. For example, the leader in the A40 category would receive 100 points for finishing first — let’s say his average was 10 assists per 40 minutes. Player B averaged 6 assists per 40 minutes — since his score is 60% of the leader’s score, he would receive 60% of the leader’s points — 60 points. This would allow for those with a dominance in a category over others to receive more credit for being that much better.

After all 7 categories have been ranked, we will take a player’s score in each category and multiply it by a multiplier for that category. After all, is free throw percentage really just as important as assists for a point guard? Probably not.

The weightings are as follows:
P40   FG%  3P%  FT%   A40   ATO   S40   SUM
0.7 + 0.2 + 0.2 + 0.3 + 1.0 + 0.5 + 0.5 = 3.5

After all the multiplication is performed, we will then sum up the points for each player which will be his final total. We take the total and divide it by the sum of all the weightings to get our final rating. The highest rating – the best point guard in America.

We have the method and we have the statistics, now we need our players to do the comparison. In selecting my Top 65 candidates (65 in honor of the number of teams in this year’s NCAA tournament), I did the following. First, I took the starting point guards (or guys that play the majority of the minutes at the point) from each of the Top 25 teams in the country (both the AP and ESPN/USA Today Polls). Usually you’re not going to be a good team if you don’t have at least a solid point guard (and in Florida’s case, they’ve got three). For the rest, I tried to select who I felt was the cream of the remaining crop, based on common wisdom and various pre-season lists. I decided to try and stick with more players from the major conferences, as those schools typically play the best schedules so players don’t particularly pad their stats against lesser opponents. However, I did go ahead and include some smaller school players just to see how they would rank. I also omitted guys who, despite their size or projected pro position, are clearly playing at shooting guard for their current teams (i.e. Jerome Coleman of Rutgers or Ben Gordon of Connecticut).

Here’s the list of players I included, listed in alphabetical order:

David Bailey, Loyola (IL)
Martell Bailey, Illinois-Chicago
Marcus Banks, UNLV
Julius Barnes, Stanford
Andre Barrett, Seton Hall
Troy Bell, Boston College
Steve Blake, Maryland
Torris Bright, LSU
Dee Brown, Illinois
Demon Brown, Charlotte
Taliek Brown, Connecticut
Antonio Burks, Memphis
Rickey Clemons, Missouri
Tom Coverdale, Indiana
Brent Darby, Ohio State
Willie Deane, Purdue (*)
Travis Diener, Marquette
Antwan Dobie, Long Island
Taron Downey, Wake Forest
Chris Duhon, Duke
Raymond Felton, North Carolina
Dedrick Finn, Xavier
Gerald Fitch, Kentucky
T.J. Ford, Texas
Reece Gaines, Louisville
Jason Gardner, Arizona
Justin Gray, Wake Forest
Marques Green, St. Bonaventure
Justin Hamilton, Florida
Marcus Hatten, St. John’s
Cliff Hawkins, Kentucky
Chris Hill, Michigan State
Kirk Hinrich, Kansas
Bryan Hopkins, SMU
Daniel Horton, Michigan
Elijah Ingram, St. John’s
Jarrett Jack, Georgia Tech
Bernard King, Texas A&M
Reggie Kohn, South Florida
Brandin Knight, Pittsburgh
Richard Little, VMI
John Lucas, Baylor
Tyler McKinney, Creighton
Brandon McKnight, Purdue
Gerry McNamara, Syracuse
Richard Midgley, Cal
Aaron Miles, Kansas
Marcus Moore, Washington State
Brett Nelson, Florida
Jameer Nelson, St. Joseph’s
Elliott Prasse-Freeman, Harvard
Hollis Price, Oklahoma
Luke Ridnour, Oregon
Anthony Roberson, Florida
Corey Santee, Texas Christian
Edward Scott, Clemson
Ryan Sidney, Boston College
Patrick Sparks, Western Kentucky
Blake Stepp, Gonzaga
Chris Thomas, Notre Dame
Quannas White, Oklahoma
Deron Williams, Illinois
Mo Williams, Alabama
Victor Williams, Oklahoma State
Rashad Wright, Georgia
Derrick Zimmerman, Mississippi State

(*) – probably more of a shooting guard playing the point

Note: while this list is fairly complete, I reserve the right to change the roster by adding worthwhile submissions or subtracting ones who are not deserving of being named for the actual study. So if you feel I’ve unfairly left someone out, be sure to e-mail me!

We have the method, and we have the players. What are the results you ask? Check back next week for Part II of our study as we try and determine who is the best point guard in college basketball this season!

Part I | Part II


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