Stockton's PPR makes Nash's year seem routine

BDodgers at BDodgers at
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_ 
(  would make a  better point guard than _Steve 
Nash_ ( , 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_ (  or 
_Baron Davis_ (  or 
_Brevin Knight_ ( , 
either. It's  (drumroll, please) … _Antonio Daniels_ 
( . 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 
equation is:  
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_ 
(   _Phoenix Suns_ 
(   12.18   _Brevin Knight_ 
(   _Charlotte Bobcats_ 
(    12.05   _Rick Brunson_ 
(   _Los Angeles Clippers_ 
(    8.03   _Marko Jaric_ 
(   _Los Angeles 
Clippers_ (    7.39   _Jason 
Kidd_ (   _New Jersey 
Nets_ (    7.23   _Jason Hart_ 
(   _Charlotte 
Bobcats_ (    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 
comparison stick.  
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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