In assessing point guards one can examine a variety of performance statistics; certainly assists to turnover ratio is a frequently cited one.
Let me suggest the frequency a point guard gets to the rim as a more meaningful one. The premise is that those guys who get to the rim more often put more pressure on the defense, forcing opponents to collapse in an attempt to prevent penetration. That collapse opens up passing lanes and creates space for the point guard's teammate shooters.
A revelation about this "getting to the rim" measure is that the punishment absorbed in driving to the basket serves as a deterrent to a point guard aggressively attacking the rim year after year. The "wear and tear" of an NBA career as well as the variety of complex player contract situations has made this "getting to the rim" a frequently volatile measure.
Take the case of then Sacramento point guard Beno Udrih who produced an impressive 2007/8 season in which he got to the rim 3.7 times per game, 34 percent of his 10.9 shots per game. He capitalized on that performance to sign a five year, $30 million contact. His subsequent numbers have dropped markedly and now in 2012 with Milwaukee he gets to the rim only one time per game.
Raymond Felton is another point guard who had a sterling period 2007-10 in which he averaged 4.2 rim shots per game, 35 percent of his shot selection. Since then his average rim shots/game has declined to 2.9, just 27 percent of his shots. Perhaps the fall-off was attributable to Felton being in the last year of a contract and being very conscious of maintaining his health.
Mo Williams, Jose Calderon, Baron Davis, Stephen Curry, even a star like Chris Paul and legends such as Steve Nash and Jason Kidd have reduced their forays to the basket in recent times.
Consistency "getting to the rim" over an extended four years or more period is what makes Russell Westbrook , Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Tony Parker so distinctive.
Point Guard Rim shots/game 2012 % Total Shots
FIRST TIER POINT GUARDS
Westbrook 6.5 34% of 19.1
Rose 6.1 34% of 17.7
Rondo 6.0 49% of 12.2
John Wall 5.9 42% of 14.1
Kyrie Irving 5.7 40% of 14.3
Tony Parker 4.6 29% of 15.9
Devin Harris 2011 4.5 38% of 11.8
Brandon Jenkins 4.2 25% of 16.9
Deron Williams 3.9 22% of 17.7
Mike Conley 3.8 33% of 11.6
Kyle Lowrie 3.5 29% of 12.1
Brandon Knight 3.3 28% of 11.7
Darren Collison 3.1 33% of 9.5
Jrue Holliday 3.1 24% of 13.0
Andre Miller 3.0 32% of 9.3
Chris Paul 3.0 21% of 14.9
Jameer Nelson 2.7 30% of 9.1
Ramon Sessions 2.7 31% of 8.6
Ricky Rubio 2.5 26% of 9.5
Not only have Westbrook, Rose, Rondo, and Parker been consistent in getting to the basket for years, they have also been efficient on their drives, scoring on average over 60 percent of the " at the rim" times. Westbrook in particular has improved from 47percent, to 53 percent, to 60 percent, to this year's 64 percent over the past several seasons.
Rondo is No. 1 in my rankings because such a high percentage of his shots, nearly 50 percent, are at the rim. He is not taking many perimeter shots, instead leaving that to teammates who are better shooters. Moreover Rondo has an NBA championship on his resume. Rondo's history of not taking many outside shots makes him an attractive play-maker to prospective free agents who General Manager Danny Ainge will court to rebuild the Celtics; consequently, Rondo would not be traded for any other point guard in the NBA.
Two final points to ponder:
1. Will promising stars John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight continue to attack the basket like they have early in their careers?
2. Will playoff contenders like the Timberwolves missing Ricky Rubio, and the Lakers dissatisfied with a tandem of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake turn to the following appealing and likely trade available possibilities: Conley, Augustin, Miller and Sessions
Will the non-penetrator point guards such as Kirk Hinrich, Jarrett Jack, and Earl Watson go without suitors?
This " at the rim" analysis approach suggested to me two years ago that Kyle Lowrie would blossom as a point guard, and I see the same potential for Conley, Augustin and Sessions to develop far beyond their current standings.