Rajon Rondo and the 20 Most Dynamic Offensive Point Guards in the NBA Today
These aren't the "best" individual offensive players in the Association, but rather the ones who make the biggest overall impact on their team's offensive success.
There are many metrics which have come into use lately—player-efficiency rating, win shares, win score and offensive rating to name a few—but for various reasons, each has its own flaw or flaws.
The biggest missing piece among them is that while they all have a certain degree of ability to measure a player’s production, they don’t show his impact on his teammates and contain varying degrees of positional bias.
That’s why fellow FC Kelly Scaletta and I have been working together to design a new metric that does just that.
Let's see what "total offense created" says about the most potent offensive point guards in the NBA.
You can also check out Kelly's overall rankings of the top dynamic offensive forces here.
Note: Some of the content for this intro was provided by Kelly.
An Overview of Total Offense Created (Part 1 of 2)
The main theory behind total offense created is to include anything and everything that an individual player can affect on the offensive side of the ball. That results in four main components: scoring, teammate boost, assists and other factors.
Essentially, you can argue that there are two components to every shot: the creation of the shot and the execution of the shot itself. Sometimes a player controls both of these components, but in some situations, multiple players are involved.
For example, consider this scenario: Chris Paul penetrates and brings Blake Griffin’s defender over to stop him; Paul dishes the ball to Griffin, who throws down the dunk for two points.
In that situation, Paul created the shot, and Griffin made it. Most metrics will give two points to both of them, essentially double-counting the basket. Only two points were scored though, not four. Therefore, we're splitting the credit evenly between the distributor and the finisher.
The field goals that a player made were split up into two categories: unassisted and assisted. Players received full credit for unassisted field goals as they served as both shot-creater and shot-maker, but they received only half-credit for assisted ones. This applies to both two-pointers and shots from behind the three-point arc.
One of our major objectives was to account for the impact a player has on his teammates. Players who are asked to generate offense are often faulted for being “high-volume” scorers, but the impact such players have on the game can be immense.
We looked at how a team's effective field-goal percentage—a weighted metric that gives more value to three-pointers—changed when the player in question was on and off the court. If the four teammates joining the player shot more effectively while he was on the court than the average five teammates did while he was on the bench, then the player received a positive "teammate boost."
The amount of field goals that teammates shot while the player was on the court also influenced this part of the metric. An equal change in effective field-goal percentage is more valuable when more shots are taken than when less shots are lofted up at the basket.
Some of the content for this description was provided by Kelly.
An Overview of Total Offense Created (Part 2 of 2)
Now for the remaining two components of total offense created:
Just like in the scoring component, all credit for assists was split between the person who made the pass and the person who finished the play. After all, every assist results in an assisted field goal; it's impossible for an unassisted bucket to use an assist.
Players also received more credit when assists led to three-pointers, as those shots are worth an extra point on the scoreboard.
Players received positive boosts for free-throws made and offensive rebounds. However, not every offensive rebound is equal.
Those boards were weighted according to how successfully teams used possessions. An offensive rebound is more valuable on a team that averages 1.1 points per possession than it is on a team that averages 1.0 points per possession.
The same theory applies to missed shots from the field and turnovers, both of which counted against players in this formula.
However, all missed field goals aren’t lost possessions. Many times, teams score on missed field goals. In fact, the tip-in is one of the most efficient shots in the game, and literally none of those happen without a missed shot.
As a result, missed shots were more detrimental to the cause on teams that were less effective on the offensive glass.
The last factor was free-throws missed, which obviously count against a player.
Once the four components were all calculated, they were summed to create a measurement of total points created.
Essentially, we added together unassisted points scored, assisted points scored, points created by assists, the teammate boost, free throws made and offensive rebounds, then subtracted free throws missed and the weighted forms of missed field goals and turnovers.
Some of the content for this description was provided by Kelly.
A number of websites greatly helped the data compilation. Hoopdata gave us the number of assists that led to three-point shots. Basketball-Reference gave us shot details from the various parts of the court, as well as per-48-minute stats. NBA.com's Advanced Stats helped us determine what the team did while a player was on and off the court.
For the actual formula, click here, then move onto the next slide for the rankings.
20. Tyreke Evans: 11.62 Total Offense Created
While Tyreke Evans is still a point guard by title, the Sacramento Kings played him in his natural spot last year but also threw him out into the lineup at shooting guard and small forward quite often.
As a result, Evans didn't have the ball in his hands as often and ended up scoring more assisted points than most point guards typically do.
His made shots at the rim—where he made over 200 more shots than any other position on the court—and from three to nine feet were assisted 36.2 and 24.2 percent of the time, respectively. Of the top-20 point guards, only two relied on assists in these two locations more often.
DeMarcus Cousins' offensive rebounding prowess helped partially negate the effect of Evans' missed shots, but even Boogie wasn't able to completely make up for the lackluster impact that the talented guard had on his teammates when on the court.
19. Jeff Teague: 12.03
Jeff Teague might not get much credit as a solid offensive point guard, as most people focus on his thievery first and foremost, but he made the Atlanta Hawks significantly better when he was on the court last year.
While the Wake Forest product's teammate boost was solid, Teague also gets a nice boost because he scores the majority of his points without the help of passes from the other four players on the court. You might be surprised to hear that Teague scored more unassisted points per game than Kyle Lowry last year, for example.
The Hawks floor general doesn't stand out in many areas, but he's solid across the board, and that gets it done for total offense created.
18. Kyle Lowry: 12.50
Speaking of Kyle Lowry, the former Houston Rockets point guard and current Toronto Raptor comes in at No. 18. Toronto will undoubtedly be hoping that he improves on that next year and regains his pre-injury form.
Lowry scores a lot of his points off catch-and-shoots from the perimeter. He made 79 three-pointers last year, and 55.7 percent of them were the direct results of on-target passes from his Houston teammates.
The point guard also turned the ball over quite often, coughing it over to the opposition 2.8 times per game during the 2011-12 campaign. That's even more costly because the Houston offense scored the 12th-most points per possession last season, so each turnover and missed shot counted against Lowry even more.
17. D.J. Augustin: 12.66
If D.J. Augustin had played on a better team than the Charlotte Bobcats last season, then he would have earned a lower spot in these rankings. We'll find out if he earns enough playing time on the Indiana Pacers during the 2012-13 season.
Augustin's Bobcats averaged 0.952 points per possession during the 2011-12 campaign, finishing well behind the Toronto Raptors for last place in the category. If—very hypothetically—the Bobcats had averaged the league-average 1.046 points per possession, then he would have fallen behind Lowry. Then again, his numbers would probably have changed as well.
This former Texas Longhorn helped his teammates shoot much better last year, and that's the primary reason for his spot in the top 20. Even though Augustin wasn't an elite scorer, the impact he had on his teammates was palpable.
16. Brandon Jennings: 12.77
One of Brandon Jennings' favorite plays is the pull-up jumper from behind the three-point arc. He used it quite effectively for the Milwaukee Bucks last year, hitting 129 shots from downtown, more than any other player featured in this article.
Jennings also benefited from the fact that only 55 percent of his triples were assisted. Only six of these 20 players had a lower percent, and they all made 79 or less shots from the same range. That's part of the reason that Jennings' 9.61 unassisted points per game were the seventh-most here.
As you might expect from a shoot-first point guard with a knack for taking ill-advised shots, Jennings didn't help out his teammates' shooting much. His teammate boost was positive, but only barely.
15. Jeremy Lin: 12.82
While Jeremy Lin might have benefited from the lack of scouting reports on him during his short time in the New York Knicks starting lineup, he still played at an elite level on the offensive end of the court.
Amazingly enough, Lin earned the No. 15 spot even with his 10 games on the bench and his 9.0 minutes per game factored into the equation. That's how sensational he was during Linsanity.
Lin's 3.6 turnovers per game knocked him down the rankings rather significantly—he would have finished in 10th place if he averaged less than 2.5—but he's a true dual-threat point guard. He dominated opponents with his passing and his scoring throughout the bulk of his explosion onto the NBA scene.
14. Raymond Felton: 12.88
Of all the point guards who made the top 20, Raymond Felton surprised me the most. After all, he was out of shape and played with so little effort that he was eventually benched by the Portland Trail Blazers.
If a chubby Felton can finish at No. 14, imagine what a healthy one could do for the New York Knicks next season.
This point guard might not have been at his best, but he still made his team a lot better when he was on the court. The Blazers had a 47.0 effective-field-goal percentage when Felton was on the bench, and his four cohorts upped that to 52.1 when he was playing.
Even though he contributed in most areas individually, that teammate boost was the biggest thing working in Felton's favor.
13. Jose Calderon: 13.36
Jose Calderon seems to have lost his starting job to Kyle Lowry, but he still put together an impressive 2011-12 campaign for the Toronto Raptors.
The pass-first point guard spread out his scoring, choosing to put the ball in the basket from almost every location on the court, but there was one constant. He relied on his teammates quite a bit when trying to create shots. Calderon's 5.24 unassisted points per game ranked last out of these 20 players.
Playing north of the border, Calderon didn't make his teammates too much better in terms of shooting efficiency, but he did feed them the ball quite often. He accumulated 8.8 assists per game and 1.7 of those led to three points.
He was also helped out by the Raptors' overall lack of offensive success. Calderon's turnovers and missed shots didn't hurt him as much because the team only averaged 1.008 points per possession.
12. Andre Miller: 13.56
Andre Miller probably isn't the Denver Nuggets point guard you were expecting to see at this point in the rankings. However, he's who you get with Ty Lawson floundering away at No. 26, well shy of the cutoff.
The biggest difference between the starter and the backup is the teammate-boost factor. Lawson's negative-3.37 in the category falls well short of Miller's 2.52. In fact, that difference more than accounts for the entire gap between their total-offense-created scores.
In addition to Miller's tendency to increase his teammates' shooting percentages, the veteran floor general also averaged a sensational 6.7 assists per game off the bench. He's one of the most efficient dime-generators in all of basketball.
Although his scoring from outside the paint has continued to decline, Miller's advanced post-up game still gives him the points necessary to earn a high spot in these rankings.
11. Rajon Rondo: 13.59
Raise your hand if you expected Rajon Rondo to fall short of the top 10. Yeah, I didn't think so. My hands are still down, but then again, I'm typing, so they kind of have to be.
And for the record, Rondo is pointing in this picture, not raising his hand.
As brilliant as he may be as a passer, Rondo actually makes his teammates slightly worse at scoring when he's on the court. He might be able to find hidden passing lanes and hit teammates with ease, but the defensive pressure is increased on each of the other four players on the court with him because defenders don't have to worry about stopping the point guard from scoring.
When Rondo was sitting on the bench for the Celtics last year, Boston posted an effective-field-goal percentage of 52.4. When he was on the court, the other four players came in at 51.3.
That leaves Rondo as one of only two players among the top-20 point guards with a negative teammate boost, and his is almost a full point worse than the others.
It's a true testament to Rondo's passing and offensive rebounding ability that he's able to overcome that negative teammate boost to even earn the No. 11 spot.
10. Jameer Nelson: 14.66
In stark contrast to Rajon Rondo, Jameer Nelson had the second-highest teammate boost of any point guard in the NBA last season. The amount that Nelson helped raise his teammates efficiencies when he was on the floor was worth nearly five points per game.
Nelson did most of his scoring on the extreme ends of the half-court set last season. He made 87 shots from downtown and added 104 at the rim. From three to 23 feet, Nelson only totaled 68 buckets.
Interestingly enough, Nelson was among the point-guard lows in percent assisted from the non-extremes and relied heavily on passes at the rim and behind the three-point arc. Essentially, he wasn't an exceptional shot-creater.
In addition to his teammate boost, Nelson also benefited from the percentage of his assists that resulted in three-pointers. Of his 5.7 assists per game, 2.5 went for extra points, easily the highest ratio of the 20 point guards broken down here.
9. John Wall: 15.34
Just imagine how dominant John Wall would be if he developed a shot from the perimeter. Last season, the former No. 1 draft pick made only three shots from long range, and all of them were the result of assists.
Wall scored the bulk of his points at the rim, using his incredible quickness and ball skills to get past his defenders at will. The vast majority (73 percent, in fact) of those baskets at the rim were created by Wall himself.
His total offense created also benefited from the fact that the Washington Wizards struggled to score points on a consistent basis, especially when Wall wasn't involved in the play. The 1.01 points per possession lowered the negative impact that Wall's lofty turnover and missed-shot numbers had on his score.
8. Tony Parker: 15.40
Tony Parker's teammate boost wasn't as bad as Rajon Rondo's, but it was one of only two scores in the negatives out of all 20 point guards in these rankings.
The San Antonio Spurs shot slightly worse when Parker was on the court—a 53.76 effective-field-goal percentage compared to 53.9—and Parker spends 32.1 minutes per game in action.
Even though his teammate grade is negative and the Spurs' explosive offense made each turnover and missed shot more impactful, Parker still managed to earn an elite overall score. He's a premier dual-threat point guard, and a lot of his dimes resulted in three-pointers.
With 11 unassisted and 1.73 assisted points per game, Parker had the fifth-best unassisted-to-assisted ratio.
7. Mike Conley: 15.77
Mike Conley earned the fourth-highest teammate boost among the top 20 point guards and tied both Jose Calderon and Jeff Teague for the least turnovers per game. That was enough for the Memphis Grizzlies floor general to sneak his way into the seventh position.
Another element working in favor of the 24-year-old is the offensive rebounding ability of his team. The Grizz pulled down 29.8 percent of available offensive rebounds last season, the third-highest rate in the league. As a result, less of Conley's missed field goals resulted in lost possessions.
As for the rest of the components of total offensive created, Conley was solid. He didn't truly stand out in any, but none came back to bite him either.
6. Russell Westbrook: 17.25
It shouldn't be too surprising that Russell Westbrook scored more unassisted points per game than any player in the league regardless of position. After all, the dynamic point guard loves to have the ball in his hands.
Westbrook made 249 shots at the rim—24.5 percent of them were assisted—and 145 baskets from 16 to 23 feet. With his sometimes-overused pull-up jumper, Westbrook only used assists on 12.4 percent of those shots. Only three players had a lower percentage.
Westbrook also helped cancel out his high turnover numbers with 1.5 offensive rebounds per game and a positive teammate boost.
The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar might make some bad decisions on occasion, but he still has an undeniably positive effect on his team's offensive production.
5. Kyrie Irving: 17.39
Kyrie Irving was just sensational during his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He scored at a high level, found his teammates relatively well and did everything with remarkable efficiency.
Only nine players in the entire NBA scored more unassisted points per game than the one-and-done Duke Blue Devil, and only four of those players lined up at the same position as Irving.
The young point guard's teammate boost was 3.37, the result of improving his teammate's effective-field-goal percentage by 5.4 percent when he was on the court. He also crashed the offensive glass well and excelled with his own shooting percentages.
Irving is well on his way toward the ranks of the elite point guards, and this just helps to prove that.
4. Deron Williams: 18.76
Even though Deron Williams racked up 4.0 turnovers per game while trying to carry the Brooklyn Nets offensively, he still managed to finish fourth among all point guards in total offense created.
D-Will is one of the NBA's premier 20-point, 10-assist threats with his incredible skill set. He might not be able to shoot the ball efficiently when he's tasked with taking over the game from start to finish, but Williams still racks up the points—of both the unassisted and assisted varieties—while dishing out the dimes.
The point guard also benefited from the Nets' three-point tendencies last season; 2.7 assists per game resulted in makes from downtown, more than any player not named Ricky Rubio.
It'll be interesting to see how his numbers change once Joe Johnson and a healthy Brook Lopez join him for a season with the Nets.
3. Steve Nash: 22.00
Even at 38 years old, Steve Nash still managed to play well enough that he earned the highest teammate boost in the NBA. Al Jefferson, Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki were the only other players who managed to top 5.0 in that component, and Nash's 5.8 left them all in the dust.
When the Canadian floor general was on the court, his four teammates posted a 52.4 effective-field-goal percentage. However, the Phoenix Suns only managed a 45.6 effective-field-goal percentage when Nash was catching a breather.
Nash may not be the semi-elite scorer that he once was, but he still manages to create most of his shots for himself. His field-goal attempts resulted in 8.57 unassisted points and 0.92 assisted points per game.
Between his ball dominance, effect on his teammates and double-digit assists, Nash comes in at No. 3 by a rather significant margin.
2. Derrick Rose: 22.43
Despite his injuries, Derrick Rose still proved to be an extraordinary offensive force in the follow-up to his MVP-winning season. He might get called a score-first point guard, but he's still one of the best in the league at making his teammates better.
Rose's 3.92 teammate boost is impressive, as are his 7.9 assists per game. His teammates' effective-field-goal percentage increased by six percent when No. 1 was on the court.
Another underrated element of Rose's game is his ability to recognize the right situations to shoot. When discussing Rose's play with Kelly, I was alerted to just how often he pulled up for a jumper when his teammates were positioned perfectly for an offensive rebound.
Instead of just passing the ball to Joakim Noah for two points on a fast break, Rose would shoot a triple and give his team a shot at an extra point. The worst-case scenario was that he'd brick the shot, Noah would clean it up, and the Chicago Bulls would still score two points.
This is reflected in Rose's missed field goals, which—just as with every other player—are weighted by the team's offensive-rebounding prowess. No team came even close to matching the Bulls' collective offensive-rebounding percentage of 32.6, so Rose's missed shots didn't effect him quite as much.
1. Chris Paul: 24.91
Chris Paul is the perfect offensive point guard. He does everything well and struggles with nothing.
The Los Angeles Clippers 1-guard has the fourth-highest teammate boost among the top 20 point guards and is a constant threat to put up 20 points and 10 assists on any given night.
He shoots the ball efficiently, rarely lofting up an ill-advised attempt. He passes the ball well and limits his turnovers. He makes his free throws and gets to the line with ease.
CP3 also creates a remarkable amount of his own shots with his herky-jerky yet subtle movement with the ball and his body. His 12.32 unassisted points per game are nothing short of impressive.
After yet another fantastic season, Paul comes in at No. 1, and it's not even close.