We all know the ball hog. He is the one who takes the shot while the entire defense is surrounding him, and every one of his teammates is pouncing around under the rim, begging for the ball.
He's the guy that only passes the ball approximately 50 hours after eating it.
So who are the worst of them? Is there some objective way of quantifying ball-hoggery?
I determined that there are a few "qualities" that go into being a ball-hog.
A player has to take a lot of shots, use a lot of possessions and have a tendency to not pass the ball. He must also be a player who is not primarily a low-post player. Their role is different. They aren't primary ball-handlers on their teams.
To measure this I took the difference between every players usage percentage (the number of possessions that end with a player turning the ball over or shooting) and his assist percentage (the percent of shots made by his teammates while he is on the court). This gives us a rough idea of who shoots a lot but passes very little.
The resulting stat I call "Hog Factor."
The following results are entirely objective. Some of these players may have their "hoggery" justified to a degree because of the team or units (if they are a sixth man) that they play with. Some actually make their teams better with their hogging.
Others are unmitigated disasters.
Hog Factor: 11.2
There was once a question of whether Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose should be taken first in the draft.
That's probably not much of a debate anymore.
Beasley first hogged his way out of Miami. Then Minnesota thought they could turn him around. Now Phoenix has taken a shot at him, and they're probably wishing they hadn't. Beasley has cranked up the hoggery even more with the Suns, and that just means more shots clanking off the rim.
In spite of taking almost two more shots per game this year, Beasley is scoring at the exact same pace: 11.5 points per game. He is experiencing career lows in field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage and Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
Beasley is a ball hog in the purest sense of the word.
Hog Factor: 11.8
You want the Truth? You can't handle the Truth.
I can see the hostility coming already, and to a point, I understand it. Paul Pierce isn't your prototypical "ball hog" and to be fair, he has the highest assist percentage of any player on the list.
He brings up the interesting question of where do you draw the line between being the team's best offensive player and being a ball hog? Or, for that matter, does the distinction even matter?
In the end I determined that the "why" and "how" of the hoggery wasn't relevant; all that matters is the "whether"—and Pierce had the ninth-highest hog factor so he's here.
At least he's efficient in hogging, which is perhaps where the distinction needs to be made. He has a relatively robust .555 true shooting percentage which indicates he's not wasting possessions, just utilizing them.
Being a ball hog doesn't necessarily need to be a bad thing. Some players, such as Kevin Garnett, have been accused of not hogging enough.
Hog Factor: 12.1
Vince Carter is redefining himself as a player over the last few years. Once one of the greatest dunkers in the world, he has become one of the top three-point shooters in the NBA. He makes 3.5 shots from deep per 36 minutes, which places him third in the NBA.
In fact, this year he has the highest true-shooting percentage of his career at .562.
That's all well and good, but he utilizes 25 percent of the possessions while he's on the court, whereas only 12.9 percent of his teammates field goals come off Carter's passing.
Carter doesn't really need to shoot less so much as pass more. As well as he's shooting, his passing has been subpar. His assist percentage of 12.9 is the second lowest of his career. His 1.7 assists per game is by far the lowest of his career.
Hog Factor: 12.3
Kevin Martin is a brilliant shooter. He's plugged into that aspect of James Harden's production seamlessly. Last year Harden averaged 19.3 points per 36 minutes. This year Martin is averaging 19.0 points per 36 minutes.
Last year Harden had a true shooting percentage of .660. This year Martin's is .653.
From a scoring standpoint they are virtually identical. From the standpoint of passing, though, they are very different. While Harden had an assist percentage of 19.3, Martin's is only assisting on 9.0 percent of his teammates' field goals.
Considering he is essentially filling the same role Harden did, it's reasonable to figure that he should be doing a little more passing than he is. There is a smidgen of ball-hogging going on here.
Hog Factor: 12.9
A cursory glance at his numbers might lead you to think that Thompson is building on last year's rookie success.
If you zoom in, though, you realize there is a bit of hogging going on.
He's scoring 16.0 points per game this year, compared to just 12.5 last year. However, those 3.5 extra points are coming on 4.3 more shots. His scoring per 36 minutes is actually down, from 18.5 to 16.0. His true shooting percentage is down 50 points, from .545 to .495. His PER is down from 14.9 to a poor 11.0.
Furthermore his assist percentage is down from 14.2 to 10.4. He averages just 2.2 assists per 36 minutes. Compare that with the 6.0 assists per game that Ellis averaged last year before being trade.
Hog Factor: 14.3
Rudy Gay is another player who is right on that border between being a crucial offensive player who is heavily used and just a player taking too many shots.
Recent trends suggest that he's leaning towards the latter.
Gay's scoring is down from last year, from 19.0 points per game to 18.6—this is in spite of the fact that he's taking more shots, 16.8 compared to 16.4.
His field goal percentage is down from .455 to .422 and his true-shooting percentage is down from .522 to .499.
Gay might be pressing a little too much for an offense that is at its best when balanced.
Hog Factor: 14.4
Marcus Thornton is definitely a shooting guard. Well, at least he's a shooting something. He does a lot of it. The guard part might be a bit of a stretch.
Thornton averages almost 13 shots per game and only 1.5 assists. That's more than eight times as many shots attempted as dimes.
Thornton is attempting more shots this year than at any time in his career, and were it not for the limited minutes he played in New Orleans in the 2010-11 season, he would be averaging the fewest assists of his career. On top of that he's averaging a career low in field goal percentage.
Shoot more, miss more, pass less. That's not a recipe for success, and it may be a part of the reason the Kings aren't succeeding.
Hog Factor: 14.7
DeMar DeRozan is the quintessential ball hog. He shoots a lot, shoots badly and passes seldom. He takes over 15 shots a game and averages fewer than two assists. His true shooting percentage of .516 is not particularly impressive either.
When the Raptors inked him to a four-year, $40 million contract, Raptors fans were happy about it, but one wonders how long they will be celebrating his inefficient, ball-hogging tendencies.
Of course there does remain the possibility that he'll outgrow it. His field goal percentage is up slightly, from .422 to .449 this year. That could be at least an attempt to be more prudent in his shot selection. DeRozan also has a respectable ability to get to the line, averaging 5.1 free-throw attempts per game.
Things could break either way for DeRozan, but he's going to need to learn to pass the ball more if he wants to be a superstar int he NBA.
Hog Factor: 15.4
Jamal Crawford is the exact type of player who is a ball hog in the right way, and he's also one in the wrong way. When he's hot, he can torch the other team. When he's cold and forcing up bad shots, he can freeze out his own.
He is as hot and cold as they come. He has an inverted bell curve.
In his 18 games he has shot better than .500 seven times, .389 or lower eight times, and in between .390 and .499 three times. His outliers are in the middle.
The one thing he's consistent about is not passing the ball. He's gone over three assists only four times this season.
But this is what the Clippers essentially want from him. They prefer him to be hot, but they prefer him to shoot regardless of whether he is or not. When he scores 20 or more they 7-2.
There probably are a few times a game when he could pass instead of shoot, but this is ball-hogging by design, so you can't be too rough on him.
Hog Factor: 23.3
Why is Carmelo Anthony hugging the basketball? Because he loves the ball. He is deeply, profoundly, romantically in love with the basketball. I wouldn't be surprised if Alani Vazquez is jealous of the ball.
If he could find a ring big enough, he would put a ring on it. But he can't.
So instead, he just hugs it.
How much of a ball hog is Carmelo Anthony? Well, his hog factor is really off the charts here. It's nearly double that of the 10th-place player, Michael Beasley. The difference between his and Crawford's, who is second, is also nearly double the difference between Crawford's and Beasley's.
In fact, there is not a single player in the history (via basketball-reference.com) of the NBA who has a higher-usage percentage and a lower-assist percentage than what Anthony has this year.
You could literally make the argument that this is the worst case of ball-hoggery in NBA history.
But before you get angry and accuse me of being a "hater," let me point out the positive part of this.
The bottom line is that the New York Knicks are a vastly superior offensive team (via nba.com) with Anthony on the court. When he's on the court they average 115.4 points per 100 possessions compared to a meager 97.7 when he sits. That's a difference of 17.7 points per 100 possessions.
And just for the record, they're a slightly better defensive team with him on the court as well. Anthony is very much an early candidate for MVP.
The bottom line is the old cliche "It' ain't ball-hogging if it works." And right now, for the Knicks, it's working. Anthony might be bringing ball-hogging to new heights, but he's bringing the Knicks to new heights, too.