Stockton's PPR makes Nash's year seem routine
BDodgers at aol.com
BDodgers at aol.com
Sat Mar 26 09:56:43 CST 2005
Stockton's PPR makes Nash's year seem routine
By John Hollinger, ESPN Insider
_John Hollinger Archive_
Ever done something out of habit even though you know it doesn't make any
You're not alone. NBA execs do it, too. For a good example, consider how
they evaluate point guards.
Coaches and personnel people almost instinctively look to a player's
assist/turnover ratio to check how he's doing. But ask them why they look at
assist/turnover ratio, and you'll get lots of blank stares and convoluted answers.
Probe further, asking if they think _Reggie Miller_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=231) would make a better point guard than _Steve
Nash_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3103) , and
you'll quickly get a series of guffaws. But guess who had the better
assist/turnover ratio last year?
Yet, in spite of the logical disconnect of a name like Miller's showing up
near the top of the list, some still insist on using assist/turnover ratio to
gauge point guards. They're getting some confusing information. For instance,
this year's leader, for a second straight season, isn't Nash. It isn't
_Jason Kidd_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=2625) or
_Baron Davis_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3326) or
_Brevin Knight_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3186) ,
either. It's (drumroll, please) … _Antonio Daniels_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3175) . Does that mean Daniels is really better
than those guys at running a team? Of course not.
What it really means is almost nothing, because assist/turnover ratio is a
flawed stat. The problem isn't with "assist" or "turnover," it's with the
Using a ratio is faulty for two reasons. First, it assumes assists and
turnovers are equal, when in fact a turnover is more costly than an assist is
Second, it equates very different amounts of productivity. If Player A just
sits in the corner all season and finishes with three assists and one
turnover, while Player B directs the offense all year and has 300 assists and 101
turnovers, then according to assist/turnover ratio, we should assume that
Player A is "better" at running the offense.
Fortunately, there's an easy way to fix assist/turnover ratio. It's a stat I
call Pure Point Rating, and it mends the two flaws I mentioned.
First, it adjusts for the fact that assists do less good than turnovers do
harm by multiplying assists by two-thirds. There's a factual basis in this. As
I noted in a recent column, of the three acts of creating the basket
(getting open, making the pass and making the shot), the passer does one. So we give
him one-third of the credit of a 2-point basket, or about two-thirds of a
point. Since turnovers cost almost exactly one point (teams average about 1.02
points per possession), we needn't make any adjustments to that part of the
The second adjustment is measuring productivity, to avoid the Player A vs.
Player B situation above. The way to do this is to sum a player's
accomplishments on a per-minute basis, then adjust them for his team's pace. Finally,
multiply the end result by 100 to make the numbers more user-friendly. The final
Pure Point Rating = 100 x (League Pace / Team Pace) x ([(Assists x 2/3) -
Turnovers] / Minutes)
Using Pure Point Rating instead of assist/turnover ratio yields vastly more
believable results. The Reggie Millers and Antonio Danielses disappear,
replaced by some names we're used to seeing in discussions of the game's best
"pure" point guards.
Pure Point Rating (2004-05 Leaders) Player Team PPR _Steve Nash_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3103) _Phoenix Suns_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=pho) 12.18 _Brevin Knight_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3186) _Charlotte Bobcats_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=cha) 12.05 _Rick Brunson_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3240) _Los Angeles Clippers_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=lac) 8.03 _Marko Jaric_
(http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3429) _Los Angeles
Clippers_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=lac) 7.39 _Jason
Kidd_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=2625) _New Jersey
Nets_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=njn) 7.23 _Jason Hart_
Bobcats_ (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/clubhouse?team=cha) 7.12
As we can see, Nash and Knight are miles ahead of the pack in Pure Point
Rating, with Nash leading the way.
Considering the lead Nash and Knight have on the rest of the pack, it's
reasonable to ask where their seasons rank in historical terms. This is where
things get really interesting, because both are in exalted territory in terms of
Pure Point Rating. Let's look at some other notable seasons from the past
decade, adjusting the pace of each of the previous years to 2004-05 levels.
Top Pure Point Rating 1996-2005 (Min. 1,000 minutes) Player Year PPR John
Stockton 1995-96 12.63 Mark Jackson 1997-98 12.49 Steve Nash 2004-05
12.18 John Stockton 1999-2000 12.08 Brevin Knight 2004-05 12.05
Mark Jackson 1998-99 11.98
In terms of Pure Point Rating, only John Stockton and Mark Jackson match
what Nash and Knight are doing. However, including Jackson and Knight in the
comparison is a bit unfair to Nash. Though infinitely better than
assist/turnover ratio, Pure Point Rating does have one fly in the ointment: Because it
measures only assists and turnovers, it gives an advantage to non-scorers such as
Jackson and Knight. Guards can make turnovers going for their own shots just
as easily as they can passing it to somebody else, so those who aren't
looking to score will benefit from this measure.
If we limit the discussion to guards who have taken on some kind of an
offensive burden – those who average at least 15 points per 40 minutes – then we
see how rare Nash's performance has been. It's the best Pure Point Rating by
an offensive-minded point guard since Stockton in 1995-96.
Based on that, you might wonder whether it's fair to compare Nash to
Stockton. After all, both are West Coast Conference products who grew up in the
Pacific Northwest, albeit with slightly different grooming habits. But once we
include Stockton's prime years, Nash doesn't measure up. I expanded the chart
to go back another decade, showing how much work Nash has to do to make the
Pure Point Rating Offensive-Minded Players 1986-2005
(Min. 1,000 minutes) Player Year PPR John Stockton 1989-90 15.56 John
Stockton 1987-88 15.52 John Stockton 1990-91 14.59 John Stockton
1990-91 14.54 John Stockton 1994-95 13.86 John Stockton 1993-94 13.76
John Stockton 1992-93 12.83 John Stockton 1988-89 12.69 John Stockton
1995-96 12.63 Steve Nash 2004-05 12.18
When people say Stockton is the best pure point guard ever to play the game,
this is what they're talking about. As you can see in the chart, Nash's
season, as great as it has been, barely cracks Stockton's top 10. The Man from
Spokane remains in a class by himself.
However, we shouldn't let the Stockton comparison blind us to the genius of
Nash's play this year. While it's true he can't touch Stockton's best years,
it's equally true that no other scoring point guard can touch what Nash is
But the really incredible part is that all of that information is invisible
if we rely on assist/turnover ratio, because it spits out misleading data
that makes us think Daniels is better than Nash at running an offense. Thus, out
of all the amazing numbers put up by Nash this year – or by Stockton in the
two preceding decades – the most telling stat is this: Stockton never led the
league in assist/turnover ratio.
John Hollinger, author of "Pro Basketball Forecast 2004-05," is a regular
contributor to ESPN Insider.
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