NBA

# Playmaker Rating: Using a New Basketball Metric to Rank NBA Point Guard Play

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2012

## Playmaker Rating: Using a New Basketball Metric to Rank NBA Point Guard Play

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How elite of a point guard is Russell Westbrook?

That's the question that a friend and I were debating when I said that I would put him up there with Derrick Rose and Chris Paul in the top tier of point guards in the NBA. Or if you want to put Rose and CP3 in the super-elite tier, I'd have him leading the next one.

But then his poor assist-to-turnover ratio was brought up and with it the question of how relevant that statistic actually is.

While assist-to-turnover can be useful, it doesn't fully describe a point guard's playmaking ability because scoring matters too. I've always been of the school of thought that pure point guards aren't necessarily the best kind. If you score, that's valuable too.

But there wasn't really a statistic or metric that quantified playmaking ability, so that's what I set out to find.

The result was Playmaker Rating, a metric that you'll see fully explained on the very next slide. Essentially, it measures a point guard's effectiveness when it comes to manufacturing points (through the scoring of baskets, dishing out of assists and limitation of turnovers), but does so with efficiency and involvement taken into account.

Once I came up with the formula, I had to test it out, so I've included a ranking from worst to best of all 30 starting point guards in the NBA. Keep in mind that these ratings only deal with what Playmaker Rating measures. Defense and rebounding ability, for example, are not taken into account at all.

Read on for both the explanation of the formula and the rankings. If you have any questions about the individual point guards or the formula, feel free to leave a comment or question.

## What Is Playmaker Rating?

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Playmaker Rating, which will henceforth be abbreviated as PlayRtg, is a fairly simple basketball metric that is quite easy to calculate.

The formula is as follows:

PlayRtg = USG*(PPG+2.26*APG-TPG)/(FGA+0.44*FTA+APG+TPG) where USG = Usage Rate, APG = Assists Per Game, PPG = Points Per Game, TPG = Turnovers Per Game, FGA = Field Goal Attempts Per Game, FTA = Free Throw Attempts Per Game

But how did I come up with it?

As you learned from the previous slide, it all started following a debate I had with a friend concerning the merits of assist-to-turnover ratio. He argued that it was a basic, simplistic way of analyzing point guard's playmaking abilities. Obviously, a good point guard would have a higher assist-to-turnover ratio because they'd generate more assists than turnovers.

Sure, I'm fine with that. But the stat can get better, and that's where our opinions diverged. He agreed that other things were more telling but didn't necessarily think it was necessary.

That's what I'm not fine with.

Playmaking, even for point guards, involves more than just finding open teammates. After all, if your point guard can score in the flow of the offense, isn't that just as valuable as accumulating another assist? To analyze a point guard's true playmaking ability, scoring needs to be taken into account.

Let's look at the numerator first. Point guards can do three things to end a possession when they have the ball: score, assist or turn it over. Obviously, points and assists are positive things while turnovers are negative.

Points per game needs no coefficient in front because the difference between two-pointers and three-pointers is contained within the stat.

I chose not to put a modifier in front of turnovers per game because a turnover leads to an extra possession for the opposing teams, and over the last few seasons the league average has typically been 1.0 points per possession if you round to the nearest tenth. Essentially, a turnover costs the offensive team a single point on average, and thus there is no need for a coefficient.

So, why the 2.26 in front of assists per game? Put quite simply, not every assist is worth exactly two points of offense. Quite a few assists lead to made three-pointers by teammates.

To find out exactly how often this was the case, I turned to HoopData.com, a site that breaks down where on-court field goals are made and which ones are assisted.

During the first half of the 2011-2012 season, 15 shots per game have been made at the rim, and 52.4 percent of them have been the direct results of assists, indicating that 7.86 assists per game are generated by shots made at the rim. From three to nine feet away, there are 4.2 made shots per game, and 39.6 percent of them are assisted, producing another 1.66 assists per game from this area.

From 10 to 15 feet away from the hoop, there are 2.8 makes per game, and 41.9 percent of them are assisted: another 1.17 assists per game. From 16 to 23 feet, there are 7.5 makes, and 59.5 percent of them are assisted: 4.46 more assists per game.

Finally, from behind the three-point arc, there are 6.3 makes per game, and 84.6 percent of them are the result of passes from teammates. That means that 5.32 assists per game lead to three points instead of two.

Adding it all up, there are 20.47 assists per game by the average team in the NBA. 15.15 of them result in two-point shots, leading to 30.3 points per game. The remaining 5.32 come on three-pointers and thus lead to 15.96 points per game. Adding those two numbers up, we see that those 20.47 assists per game lead, on average, to 46.26 points per game.

Simple division therefore tells us that each assist is worth 2.26 points (technically 2.25989) if the sample size is large enough.

Now of course, I would have a terrible statistical mind if I was content to only use data from half of an NBA season. To verify, I went back and checked the results of the 2010-2011, 2009-2010 and 2008-2009 seasons.

Using the same methodology, I found that each assist was worth 2.26 points (technically 2.6002) in 2010-2011, 2.25 points (technically 2.2548) in 2009-2010 and 2.27 points (technically 2.27129) in 2008-2009.

At this point, I was content to accept 2.26 as a valid multiplier for assists per game in the PlayRtg formula.

The last part of the numerator is usage rate. For a full explanation of what the stat does, click here.

Incorporating usage rate into the formula is necessary because players who are more involved in the offense deserve to be rewarded more for their greater level of positive contributions.

Now, as for the denominator of the PlayRtg formula, it is simply a modified version of the formula for individual possessions. The following is taken from the same article that explained usage rate:

There are three ways that a player can be involved in the end result of a possession. They can attempt a field goal (regardless of whether it's a two-pointer or a three-pointer), they can end up on the foul line or they can turn the ball over. However, simply summing those three results does not provide the number of possessions because shooters can attempt either one, two or three free throws on any given possession.

Box scores don't explain how many shots a player was fouled on, so we have no idea of knowing which fouls resulted in and-ones (for example) without looking through historical play-by-play data.

Just trust on this one (I've read the studies and they're too complicated to explain in a short space) and accept the fact that the 0.44 multiplier is the best way of estimating the total number of possessions a player is involved in.

The only difference between the denominator of my formula and the equation for possessions is the incorporation of assists. Because we're analyzing the possessions in which a player passes as well as the ones in which they shoot, the addition is necessary.

PlayRtg isn't quite what we call a box score metric, or a stat that we can calculate simply by looking at a box score. The incorporation of usage rates means that you would have to go to an outside site like HoopData.com or Basketball-Reference.com to calculate PlayRtg for yourself. But fortunately, the calculation is not too terribly involved.

It is also important to note that the formula is really only meant to apply to point guards. A high-scoring center like Dwight Howard would have a very high PlayRtg because of his boosted scoring average in limited touches, but we're really only concerned with the floor generals of the NBA.

Use it accordingly.

## 30. Jason Kidd: 14.43 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 5.1

Assists Per Game: 5.5

Turnovers Per Game: 2.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 5.3

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 0.4

Usage Rate: 12.4 percent

With no disrespect meant to the future Hall of Fame candidate, Jason Kidd shouldn't be a starting point guard in the NBA at this stage in his career.

As the Dallas Mavericks discovered when Kidd was injured and Rodrigue Beaubois started in his place, they have a very valuable backup who should be handed the reins. For those of you that are curious, Beaubois has a PlayRtg of 23.49 so far this season, a number that would place him 18th in these rankings.

## 29. Derek Fisher: 14.95 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 5.5

Assists Per Game: 3.4

Turnovers Per Game: 1.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 5.7

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 1.0

Usage Rate: 13.4 percent

Much like Jason Kidd, Derek Fisher's time as a starting point guard in the Association needs to be drawing to a close. Fisher really isn't much more than an extra body on the court at this stage of his career.

Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Lakers, they don't really have much to offer in the backup point guard department at this stage. Steve Blake (16.58 PlayRtg) clearly isn't the answer, and Darius Morris (13.72 PlayRtg) isn't ready at this point in his very young career.

## 28. Darren Collison: 20.58 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 11.5

Assists Per Game: 5.2

Turnovers Per Game: 1.8

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 9.4

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.0

Usage Rate: 17.0 percent

The major factor working against Darren Collison, a young point guard with plenty of room to improve, is the system he plays in.

Because the Indiana Pacers are such a well-balanced team and the offense is distributed among a variety of players no matter who is on the court, Collison lacks the involvement in the offense necessary to truly rise up the rankings. The new-look Pacers have dropped his usage rate from last season's 21.9 percent to a meager 17 percent, the fourth-lowest mark among the 30 starters in the league.

Collison really isn't playing too poorly; it's just that he isn't involved enough. If we pretended that he had identical numbers except for his usage rate and inserted his 2010-2011 mark of 21.9 percent into the formula, Collison's PlayRtg would jump to 26.51 and he'd be 13th in these rankings.

## 27. Jameer Nelson: 20.86 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 9.3

Assists Per Game: 5.3

Turnovers Per Game: 2.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 8.9

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 1.6

Usage Rate: 18.7 percent

The same argument that I just made for Darren Collison doesn't exactly apply to Jameer Nelson, as the former All-Star simply isn't the same player that he used to be.

Running the show for the Orlando Magic, Nelson hasn't even managed to break basketball's version of the Mendoza Line and shoot above 40 percent from the field. No wonder Dwight Howard isn't exactly satisfied with the team he has to play with on a nightly basis.

The Magic desperately need to find a new point guard, but the answer isn't on their roster. Chris Duhon (12.68 PlayRtg) and Larry Hughes (5.67 PlayRtg) have both been even worse than the 30-year-old starter.

## 26. Mario Chalmers: 20.89 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 11.1

Assists Per Game: 3.6

Turnovers Per Game: 2.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 7.7

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 1.4

Usage Rate: 17.3 percent

Mario Chalmers is another example of a player whose success a playmaker is diminished because of his role within the offense. We've all watched Miami Heat games and know that sometimes he doesn't even play point guard but rather starts the possession off on the wing as Dwyane Wade or LeBron James runs the show.

The young floor general from Kansas is a tremendous shooter, but his role doesn't allow him to rack up the assists even though he plays with Chris Bosh and the aforementioned other two members of the Heat's nucleus.

He's clearly not going to get the opportunity to play the point more than he already does, so Chalmers will have to focus on limiting the turnovers in order to move up higher in the rankings.

## 25. Raymond Felton: 21.01 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 10.2

Assists Per Game: 6.2

Turnovers Per Game: 2.8

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 10.3

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.0

Usage Rate: 19.8 percent

I'm giving the nod to Raymond Felton as the Portland Trail Blazers' starting point guard despite the recent switch to Jamal Crawford (29.04 PlayRtg) in the lineup. Something tells me that Felton will become a little bit more motivated now and quickly earn his role back.

Felton's shot has absolutely disappeared this season, and that's the first thing he needs to focus on improving. Even though he's only a career 41 percent shooter from the field, 37.6 percent is an absolutely unacceptable mark for half of a season.

## 24. Devin Harris: 21.25 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 9.1

Assists Per Game: 4.5

Turnovers Per Game: 2.0

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 6.9

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.8

Usage Rate: 18.0 percent

It's hard to believe that Devin Harris was an All-Star just three years ago.

Now he's playing with what seems like a distinct lack of confidence and is content to play a much smaller role in the offense. Harris's usage rate of 18 percent is drastically lower than his career mark of 23.2 percent, despite the fact that he's actually shooting the ball better now than he has in a long time.

Plus, the point guard should be generating a few more assists since he gets to pass to such a stellar frontcourt in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

Maybe Raja Bell is starting to rub off on him.

## 23. Brandon Knight: 21.25 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 12.8

Assists Per Game: 3.5

Turnovers Per Game: 2.6

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 11.6

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.0

Usage Rate: 21.8 percent

It's unbelievable how many people think that Brandon Knight is having a good rookie season when he really just isn't. And yes, I'm only basing that statement off the ridiculous number of pro-Knight comments I received on a recent article.

Although he's starting to show signs that he might turn it around, Knight has only shot 41.3 percent from the field and is turning the ball over nearly as many times per game as he finds open teammates for easy buckets. Knight's offensive rating of 97 is below average, and his defensive rating of 110 shows his lack of comfort on that end of the floor.

Watching him play, it's easy to tell that he still has what it takes to be the future of the franchise at the point guard position, but he just isn't there yet.

## 22. Ricky Rubio: 21.77 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 11.3

Assists Per Game: 8.4

Turnovers Per Game: 3.4

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 9.7

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.9

Usage Rate: 18.8 percent

Seeing Ricky Rubio this low might surprise a lot of people, but remember that his most impressive contribution as a rookie has been making the Minnesota Timberwolves relevant again. A team that is often the laughingstock of the league is now firmly in the playoff hunt, and Rubio has been crucial in motivating his teammates and providing the highlights that get the team on SportsCenter.

That said, his field-goal percentage of 37.5 percent is absolutely terrible, and he turns the ball over way too many times per game for someone with a usage rate of just 18.8 percent. Rubio's assist numbers are staggering, but they do come at the cost of those turnovers.

Right now, Rubio is having a good, but not necessarily great, first year. A lot of the credit goes to his defensive play, where he's exceeded many expectations. Although he's leading the league in total steals and second in steals per game, that just doesn't matter in these rankings.

## 21. Jeff Teague: 22.56 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 12.2

Assists Per Game: 4.4

Turnovers Per Game: 1.9

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 10.1

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.5

Usage Rate: 19.5 percent

Much like Ricky Rubio, Jeff Teague would be moving on up the rankings if we looked at everything a player does on the court and not just his playmaking abilities.

After a blazing start to the season, Teague has cooled off significantly. Looking over his numbers, though, I'm finding it quite difficult to find one thing to focus on.

Teague shoots the ball efficiently, but not extremely efficiently. He could stand to improve his free-throw percentage, but it's still respectable. He finds teammates well and doesn't turn the ball over very often, but he doesn't do either of those things at an elite level.

If I had to pick one point guard who is solid across the board but doesn't really statistically excel in any one category, it would have to be this guy.

## 20. Mike Conley: 22.70 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 13.2

Assists Per Game: 6.7

Turnovers Per Game: 2.4

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 11.5

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.8

Usage Rate: 19.1

And we get a third-straight player who would love it if we could include steals in the formula, seeing as he's first in the league in steals per game.

Mike Conley has been instrumental in the Memphis Grizzlies' efforts to stay in playoff contention in a tough Western Conference despite the prolonged absence of Zach Randolph.

He scores fairly efficiently and produces assists at a high level, but he turns the ball over a little too often for a player with a sub-20 usage rate. Until he can cut down on the turnovers, which are at a career high right now, the former Ohio State Buckeye won't be able to crack the top half of the point guard rankings.

## 19. Jose Calderon: 22.85 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 11.0

Assists Per Game: 8.9

Turnovers Per Game: 1.9

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 9.3

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 1.4

Usage Rate: 16.2

Jose Calderon is one of the premier examples of a player who provides top-notch assist numbers but doesn't score very well at all. That's why you find him way down at No. 19 in the rankings.

It's also the reason that he was mentioned as a viable candidate for the amnesty clause before the season started and still isn't deemed the Toronto Raptors' point guard of the future.

As impressive as Calderon's assists are, especially when coupled with the lack of turnovers on a nightly basis, his hesitation to call his own number really hurts him here. Excluding Derek Fisher and Jason Kidd, who shouldn't really count as starters anymore, Calderon has the lowest usage rate of any starting point guard.

## 18. Jrue Holiday: 23.06 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 13.6

Assists Per Game: 4.5

Turnovers Per Game: 2.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 13.0

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.0

Usage Rate: 22.0 percent

Jrue Holiday was supposed to be a breakout player this year, but he's failed to receive a lot of attention because of the ridiculous balance employed by the offense of the Philadelphia 76ers.

While Holiday is having a tougher time shooting the ball than normal, he's still scoring well and has fairly good assist and turnover numbers.

It's also interesting to me that his assists have dropped from 6.5 per game last season to the current 4.5 despite a minimal decrease in playing time. His assist percentage has dropped accordingly from 29.0 percent in 2010-2011 to 21.1 percent in 2011-2012.

If Holiday is going to move up in these rankings, he's going to have to transition from scorer mode to facilitator mode a little more often.

## 17. Tyreke Evans: 24.99 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 17.3

Assists Per Game: 5.3

Turnovers Per Game: 2.9

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 15.1

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.1

Usage Rate: 24.2 percent

It's a true testament to the depth of the point guard position in the current NBA landscape that Tyreke Evans finds himself at only No. 17 in these rankings.

Make no mistake about it—Evans is a score-first point guard who only looks to pass if he has to. That's why he has a 24.2 percent usage rate and is only averaging 5.3 assists per game despite playing with a number of talented scorers.

Evans is probably never going to produce at the same level that he did as a rookie, but he's still a solid option on any NBA roster.

## 16. D.J. Augustin: 25.22 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 13.1

Assists Per Game: 6.3

Turnovers Per Game: 2.6

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 11.5

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.9

Usage Rate: 22.1 percent

D.J. Augustin is one player who's having a surprisingly good season. I really didn't see this one coming at all.

When he's been healthy and able to play, the former Texas Longhorn has actually managed to rack up 6.3 assists per game while playing with the collection of disappointing players commonly referred to as the Charlotte Bobcats.

To all the Bobcats fans out there, I actually like a few players on your team, but I'm trying to get the wisecracks in before Anthony Davis comes in and singlehandedly changes the fortunes of the franchise.

The quick point guard could definitely stand to improve his shooting, though, as 39.7 percent from the field and a true shooting percentage of just 51.3 percent really isn't going to cut it.

Finally, because I know a lot of you out there are curious, Kemba Walker has earned a 25.57 PlayRtg so far this season, a number that would place him just barely ahead of Augustin.

## 15. Ty Lawson: 25.75 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 15.4

Assists Per Game: 6.1

Turnovers Per Game: 2.3

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 12.4

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.5

Usage Rate: 21.4 percent

Arguably the fastest point guard in the NBA, Ty Lawson is absolutely one of my favorite players to watch because of both that speed and his efficiency from the field. He's shooting 47.3 percent, and it's actually a significantly down year for him in that respect.

Lawson also keeps getting better and better at the "pure point guard" skills, as his assist percentage has increased and his turnover percentage has decreased for the third consecutive year.

There's really just not that much to pick on here, which is both a compliment and an insult at the same time. Lawson is clearly an excellent playmaker, seeing as he's leading off the top half of the rankings, but he also doesn't have a tremendous amount of room for improvement.

## 14. Kyle Lowry: 26.14 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 15.6

Assists Per Game: 7.6

Turnovers Per Game: 3.1

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 12.2

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 4.2

Usage Rate: 21.8 percent

Kyle Lowry has cooled off from his mind-boggling start to the 2011-2012 campaign, but he's still putting together one hell of a season.

The point guard for the Houston Rockets is scoring and assisting at a high level, with 15.6 and 7.6 per game in the respective categories.

Unfortunately, though, Lowry has never been an efficient shooter. His 41.7 percent from the field this year is only barely below his career mark. Until he starts hitting his targets more often, this is about as high as he can climb.

## 13. John Wall: 26.18 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 16.8

Assists Per Game: 7.6

Turnovers Per Game: 4.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 13.7

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 6.4

Usage Rate: 24.9 percent

Many of you may know that I've been a major critic of John Wall this season because he really hasn't improved much at all after his slightly overrated rookie campaign that saw him finish as the unanimous runner-up to Blake Griffin in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Despite his ridiculous athletic abilities, Wall is content to pull up and shoot a jumper in isolation and pick-and-roll situations way too often, resulting in poor 42.6 percent shooting from the field. If he would put his head down and drive into the lane, he'd be a much better scorer.

Wall's assists per game are very impressive, seeing as he plays on the dysfunctional Washington Wizards, but he does need to cut down on the turnovers by a significant margin.

You may remember that a few slides back I wrote, "There's really just not that much too pick on here, which is both a compliment and an insult at the same time. Lawson is clearly an excellent playmaker, seeing as he's leading off the top half of the rankings, but he also doesn't have a tremendous amount of room for improvement."

The exact opposite is true for Wall. I can find a million things to complain about and he's still this high in the rankings. Wall possesses the ability not only to soar through the air towards the rim, but also to soar much higher in these rankings of point guards.

## 12. Jarrett Jack: 26.86 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 15.1

Assists Per Game: 6.3

Turnovers Per Game: 2.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 13.1

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.5

Usage Rate: 22.9 percent

When I plugged in all the numbers for each point guard and finally used the sort feature on my ridiculously filled-in Excel spreadsheet, Jarret Jack's name was easily the one that surprised me the most. After all, I don't really think of him as an elite playmaker.

But hey, numbers don't lie, and our eyes sometimes do.

Jack has always been a decent point guard, but he's taken his game to another level this season, despite the fact that he's already 28 years old. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket has improved across the board while posting a career-high PER of 17.4 during the first half of the season.

While Jack isn't shooting extremely well from the field, he is definitely making the most of his 3.5 free-throw attempts per game by hitting them at a clip of 83.7 percent. Plus, his 6.3 assists and 2.2 turnovers per game give him one of the more impressive assist-to-turnover ratios that you'll find among the point guards of the NBA.

Jack may not be glamorous, and he may play for one of the worst teams in the NBA, but he's solid across the board, and his season is well deserving of its placement in the rankings.

## 11. Rajon Rondo: 27.80 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 14.8

Assists Per Game: 9.5

Turnovers Per Game: 3.7

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 11.9

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.0

Usage Rate: 23.3 percent

I think we all know what keeps Rajon Rondo from making it into the top 10 of the rankings: his scoring ability.

Rondo is averaging a career-high 14.8 points per game, and he's doing so while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, but his free-throw shooting makes him take a big hit, even in PlayRtg. Rondo's 61.5 percent mark from the charity stripe is putrid, and it actually makes a significant negative impact because he shoots five shots per game from the line.

The last-second All-Star is one of the best passers in the league, and his 9.5 assists per game definitely help reflect that. But the 3.7 turnovers per contest aren't exactly helping his case.

Only three point guards are averaging more negative plays per game than Rondo, but interestingly enough, two of them are much higher in the rankings.

## 10. Brandon Jennings: 28.33 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 18.4

Assists Per Game: 5.2

Turnovers Per Game: 2.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 16.8

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 3.3

Usage Rate: 26.0 percent

I wish that Brandon Jennings would get a little bit more recognition for the phenomenal, dare I say All-Star-worthy, season that he's putting together.

Notorious for his trigger-happy ways, the 22-year-old point guard with no college affiliation is shooting over 40 percent for the first time in his young career. To be fair and not give too much credit, Jennings is still only shooting 40.5 percent from the field.

His involvement in the offense and good assist numbers are what give him the edge over Rondo and make him the first member of our top 10 point guard playmakers of the first half of the 2011-2012 season.

## 9. Steve Nash: 28.70 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 13.9

Assists Per Game: 10.9

Turnovers Per Game: 3.7

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 10.0

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.3

Usage Rate: 21.1 percent

What Steve Nash is doing—leading the league in assists, making the All-Star squad and shooting the ball with a 63.2 true shooting percentage—is simply awe-inspiring and a great example of what is possible for near-AARP members in the league to accomplish.

The last impressive feat is perhaps the most relevant to what we're dealing with here. Nash's 54.2 percent shooting from the field and 86.1 percent shooting from the foul line definitely help his case, although it would help a bit more if he would call his own number more often.

Although Nash's 3.7 turnovers per game are tied with Rajon Rondo for the fourth-most among the starting point guards, I'm going to venture out on a limb and say that his 10.9 assists more than make up for the mishaps.

## 8. Stephen Curry: 28.72 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 16.5

Assists Per Game: 6.2

Turnovers Per Game: 2.8

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 12.8

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 2.2

Usage Rate: 23.6 percent

On the rare occasions that Stephen Curry is healthy, he can't be stopped by opposing players.

Curry is a tremendous scorer who both scores at a high volume and shoots the ball well from the field, the three-point line and the free-throw line. But that's not enough for this former Davidson Wildcat.

He also manages to find open teammates for baskets 6.2 times per game, which he's done thus far this season while posting a sensational 33.1 assist percentage, the best rating of his career by far.

If Curry can manage to replace the glass in his ankles and feet with skin, muscles and bones, he has a chance to go down as an all-time great if he can maintain this level of play for a long time.

All three (technically two-and-a-half) seasons of Curry's career have been stellar in terms of PlayRtg. As a rookie, he put up a mark of 24.78 and then improved to 27.32 last year. Now he's up to 28.72 and well within the top 10.

## 7. Kyrie Irving: 30.08 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 18.1

Assists Per Game: 5.1

Turnovers Per Game: 3.1

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 14.2

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 4.0

Usage Rate: 27.4 percent

However good you think Kyrie Irving's rookie season has been, it's probably been better. There should no longer be any doubt in anyone's mind that this kid is going to be a superstar sooner rather than later.

Irving is undoubtedly a better scorer than facilitator at this point in his very young career, but he's shown that he has the tools to succeed in both areas once he gets more experience.

The Cleveland Cavaliers floor general has made his share of mistakes, as evidenced by the 3.1 turnovers per game, but his other contributions have more than made up for the lapses.

## 6. Chris Paul: 31.27 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 19.2

Assists Per Game: 8.6

Turnovers Per Game: 2.3

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 14.4

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 4.3

Usage Rate: 23.4 percent

If we include defensive ability and drive to win, then Chris Paul absolutely jumps up into the top tier with Derrick Rose, but his playmaking ability falls just slightly short of the next five players.

CP3 is an efficient player. He shoots well across the board, rarely turns the ball over, scores a good number of points and generates an elite level of assists per game.

The only thing holding this guy back is his usage rate of 23.4 percent. All five point guards above Paul have usage rates of at least 28.4 percent. If we modify CP3's usage rate to that threshold, his PlayRtg jumps up to 37.95 and he's No. 1 in the league.

## 5. Jeremy Lin: 32.71 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 14.4

Assists Per Game: 5.8

Turnovers Per Game: 3.6

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 10.5

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.1

Usage Rate: 30.3 percent

The sample size is still small, but Jeremy Lin is having a ridiculous season, and the hype is quite justified. Keep in mind that this is with his numbers for the season as a whole and not just while he's been a starter.

I unfortunately can't calculate his exact PlayRtg since he's become a starter because I can't calculate his usage rate for a single stretch of games without doing way more work than I have time to do, but I can estimate and use an identical 30.3 percent usage rate with the changed numbers. Something tells me that his usage rate has actually been higher than that, though, so his actual PlayRtg may be elevated as well.

With averages of 22.4 points, 8.8 assists, 6.1 turnovers, 16.5 field-goal attempts and 7.4 free-throw attempts per game and the given usage rate of 30.3 percent, Lin's PlayRtg would be 32.21 and he'd only fall down behind Chris Paul.

It just goes to show that when you're heavily used and make contributions in all areas, having a lot of turnovers per game isn't necessarily that bad of a thing.

## 4. Russell Westbrook: 33.62 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 23.5

Assists Per Game: 5.5

Turnovers Per Game: 4.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 18.9

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 6.0

Usage Rate: 33.1 percent

And now we get to the player who started this entire analysis: Russell Westbrook.

As you can see by his ranking, assist-to-turnover ratio clearly isn't the only thing that matters when looking at a point guard's playmaking ability. In fact, Westbrook actually has a worse assist-to-turnover ratio than any other starting point guard in the NBA, just barely nudging out Brandon Knight for the ignominious title.

But Westbrook's efficiency from the field and heavy usage in the offense of the Oklahoma City Thunder easily make up for his shortcomings in that not-so-important area.

Just for kicks, though, let's use Westbrook's assist and turnover numbers from last season: 8.2 and 3.9 per game, respectively. That would give the floor general a PlayRtg of 37.52 and make him the best playmaking point guard in the league with room to spare.

## 3. Deron Williams: 34.04 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 22.2

Assists Per Game: 8.2

Turnovers Per Game: 4.2

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 18.0

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.8

Usage Rate: 30.7 percent

Deron Williams is the unstoppable force that is keeping the New Jersey Nets afloat, and he's being rewarded for it here.

Williams isn't used quite as much as Russell Westbrook is, and he has the same number of turnovers as the Oklahoma City Thunder's point guard, but he averages 8.2 assists, which leaves good ol' Russ in the dust. That's good for D-Will, because he definitely couldn't leave Westbrook in the dust in a footrace.

He's still working to overcome an early-season shooting slump, and his shooting percentage is up to 41.3 percent from the field. Once that elevates, so too will his ranking as a playmaker.

## 2. Tony Parker: 34.19 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 19.4

Assists Per Game: 8.1

Turnovers Per Game: 2.6

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 16.0

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.6

Usage Rate: 28.4

If I was able to cast a vote for NBA MVP, Tony Parker would be second on my ballot through the first half of the season. LeBron James is the clear front-runner thanks to both the Miami Heat's gaudy record and the unbelievable statistics he's putting up, but Parker has been playing out of his mind this season.

The French point guard has kept his team in the mix in a tough Western Conference despite the absence of Manu Ginobili for most of the season and a Tim Duncan that is decidedly less effective than he has been in years past. That, combined with the sensational numbers he's produced, would earn him my runner-up vote.

Parker isn't used as heavily as the last two players I looked at, but his 8.1 assists and 2.6 turnovers per game clearly stand out. He actually has the third-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the league, trailing only Jose Calderon and Chris Paul.

## 1. Derrick Rose: 34.92 PlayRtg

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Points Per Game: 21.8

Assists Per Game: 7.7

Turnovers Per Game: 2.9

Field-Goal Attempts Per Game: 17.0

Free-Throw Attempts Per Game: 5.8

Usage Rate: 29.0 percent

I was a bit relieved to see my spreadsheet spit Derrick Rose's name out at the top of the list because if anyone else had appeared here, I would have been forced to seriously question the validity of the metric I came up with.

After all, Derrick Rose passes the eye test as the league's best playmaker at the point guard position, and the numbers sure seem to back it up.

Rose is a fantastic scorer who shoots efficiently from inside the three-point arc and at the free-throw line. But that's not enough for the reigning MVP, who dishes out 7.7 assists per game as well and also manages to minimize his turnovers despite a high usage rate.

The Chicago Bulls point guard literally has every tool that you could ask for in a playmaker—and that's why he's at the top of the rankings.

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