Who Are the NBA's Best Non-Scorers?

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2019

Who Are the NBA's Best Non-Scorers?

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    Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

    NBA fans dig scoring. There's no way around that. It's a big part of why the game's brightest stars are often high-volume scorers. But there's a lot that leads to a bucket, and plenty of the league's best players aren't focused on their scoring averages.

    Rebounding, defense, passing or a combination of each is what makes some players great, regardless of how many times they put the ball in the hole.

    To determine who some of the league's best non-scorers are, we'll look at every player with at least 3,000 minutes and fewer than 10 field-goal attempts per 75 possessions over the last three seasons.

    But instead of merely posting the list, let's do this by position. Essentially, we'll have the NBA's All-Non-Scorer team here, complete with a point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center and honorable mentions for each spot.

PG: Patrick Beverley

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Patrick Beverley is the ideal complementary point guard for teams with high-volume wings. For years, he ably filled that role alongside James Harden in Houston. Now, he'll have a chance to do the same with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard with the Los Angeles Clippers.

    What makes Beverley such a great non-scorer is the intensity with which he does everything else. As a defender and rebounder, he plays way above his 6'1" size. It's a trait born of adversity.

    Beverley told Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling in 2014:

    "I think that some people call it a chip. Mine was more like a mountain. I just had so much aggression and so much built up and so much anger, especially because many other teams passed up on me. I just wanted to go out there and every single night just make it hard for the opponent to dribble the ball up the court—be fearless out there and do whatever it takes to try to put my team in a position to win basketball games.

    "I continued to play that way, and I think that's one of the biggest traits I have. The mountain that I have on my shoulders helps me just to prove myself every single day I'm on the court. I'm happy that I have that trait because it helps me to play at the level that I am today."

    An evolving set of skills has helped Beverley as well. His assist percentage over the past four years (18.2) is a nearly couple of points higher than the one he posted over his first three years (16.5).

    His three-point percentage has experienced an even bigger bump, from 36.1 percent to 39.4 percent.

    Despite not getting an NBA shot until his age-24 season, Beverley has developed into the three-and-D prototype for point guards.


    Honorable Mentions

    Tomas Satoransky

    Last season, the Washington Wizards were plus-1.2 points per 100 possessions (62nd percentile) when Tomas Satoransky and Bradley Beal were on the floor, according to Cleaning the Glass.

    They were minus-4.6 points per 100 possessions (30th percentile) when Beal shared the floor with John Wall.

    This doesn't mean Satoransky, now with the Chicago Bulls, is a better player than Wall. But if you have a high-volume wing or guard, a sound, unselfish, knockdown shooter such as Satoransky is a pretty good player to pair with him.

    Over the past two seasons, Satoransky posted 11.7 points (on 8.7 attempts), 6.5 assists and 1.1 threes per 75 possessions, with a 60.1 true shooting percentage.


    Tyus Jones

    Tyus Jones took a big step back in efficiency in year four, but the things that make him a solid non-scoring guard remain solid.

    Over the past two seasons, Jones averaged 6.8 assists and 2.1 steals per 75 possessions. And he's had a positive net-rating swing (the difference in the team's net points per 100 possessions when a player is on or off the floor) in each of his last three campaigns.

SG: Andre Iguodala

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Andre Iguodala could have been a headliner for this squad throughout his six seasons with the Golden State Warriors.

    After averaging 15.3 points per game in eight years with the Philadelphia 76ers (topping out at 19.9 in 2007-08) and 13.0 with the Denver Nuggets in 2012-13, Iguodala willingly ceded his scoring role when he joined with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in 2013.

    Instead of putting up shots, Iguodala focused on defense, distribution and sound complementary play.

    During his Warriors tenure, he averaged 5.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals per 75 possessions with an above-average true shooting percentage (.573).

    His net-rating swing was positive in each of his seasons there and plus-5.3 overall. Helping the plus-minus of a team as good as the Warriors from the bench is impressive.

    "It doesn't always show up on the stat sheet, but Iguodala's presence permits the other Warriors to go do what they do best while he fills in the empty spaces around them," The Ringer's John Gonzalez wrote. "He's the putty for whatever they need to patch."


    Honorable Mentions

    Pat Connaughton

    Last season, there were only 21 players in the NBA who matched or exceeded Pat Connaughton's defensive rebounding percentage, assist percentage and block percentage. Connaughton (6'4") was the shortest of the bunch.

    Much of those non-scoring numbers are the product of top-tier athleticism. In 2015, Connaughton's max vertical of 44 inches topped all combine participants.


    Josh Hart

    Josh Hart had a sophomore slump in 2018-19, at least as a shooter. His net-rating swing was a solid plus-3.5, which trailed only LeBron James among Los Angeles Lakers with at least 1,000 minutes.

    Hart's solid defense was a key factor in helping him swing the Lakers in the right direction despite his 33.6 three-point shooting percentage.

    If he can get back to his rookie level as an outside shooter (39.6 percent), he could be an important piece for the quick-rebuild New Orleans Pelicans.

SF: Kyle Anderson

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Throughout his time in the NBA, Kyle Anderson has done a little bit of everything. For his career, he's posted a 13.9 assist percentage, an 11.2 rebounding percentage, a 2.5 steal percentage and a 2.3 block percentage.

    No one in league history has matched all four numbers. Take away the block percentage and you add Russell Westbrook and George McGinnis. That's it.

    Though defensive box plus/minus has its limitations—Basketball Reference suggests, "Look at the defensive values as a guide, but don't hesitate to discount them when a player is well-known as a good or bad defender"—Anderson ranks 18th all-time in that metric. He's first among non-centers.

    In practice, Anderson's size (6'9", 230 lbs), quick hands and basketball IQ can be deployed in a number of ways. Overall, Synergy had him as the primary defender against 394 possessions used last season. His 0.87 points allowed ranked in the 81st percentile. He was in the 86th percentile at defending isos and the 94th percentile at defending post-ups.

    He's shown an ability to seamlessly move from one assignment to another. Whether it's a big man or a wing, you can count on Anderson to play with sound principles.


    Honorable Mentions

    Maurice Harkless

    Maurice Harkless' three-point shooting fell off a cliff last season. He went from 41.5 percent from deep in 2017-18, all the way to 27.5 in 2018-19. If he can't bounce back, his placement here may seem a bit foolish.

    Still, even in a season in which he never found his range, his net-rating swing was plus-5.8. Of course, that may have been tied to the fact that he spent a lot of time with the rest of the Portland Trail Blazers starters, but he helped them as well.

    The 6'9" Harkless is a switchable defender with the size and athleticism to defend the 2, 3 and 4. And the mere threat of his outside shot still drew forwards away from the paint. 


    Thabo Sefolosha

    He only played 1,415 minutes with the Utah Jazz over the last two seasons, but Thabo Sefolosha is still one of the game's better three-and-D forwards.

    Among players who attempted at least as many threes over that span, no one matches Sefolosha's combination of defensive box plus/minus (2.4) and three-point percentage (40.7).

    If you relax the qualifiers to a defensive box plus/minus of 2.0 and a three-point percentage of at least 38.0, you add Al Horford to the list.

PF: Draymond Green

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Draymond Green is another player who could be a perennial contender for this squad. Like others here, Green fills up the box score in every category but points. 

    The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks opined about his all-around game earlier this month after Draymond signed a four-year, $100 million extension:

    "Few players can impact the game like a fully engaged version of Draymond. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, he's a former Defensive Player of the Year who can hold his own in the post against bigger players and switch screens and stay in front of smaller players on the perimeter. His defensive versatility is the key to Golden State's ability to play small and run bigger teams off the floor. He is just as important to its offense, even with his poor outside shooting (28.5 percent from 3 on 2.5 attempts per game last season). Green can play as a point forward and find cutters all over the floor, which allows the Splash Brothers to threaten the defense while moving off the ball."

    Green has been the perfect complement to Curry during this Warriors dynasty. Because of his passing and ball-handling ability, Green can set the screen in a pick-and-roll with Curry much higher than most bigs. When the defenders involved double Curry coming off the screen, Draymond can catch the ball outside the three-point line and essentially run a four-on-three drill.

    The synergy between those two is a big part of why they're so far ahead of everyone in total plus/minus over the last five seasons.

    In the regular and postseason combined, Curry is plus-4,855, first in the league. Draymond's plus-4,356 is second. Third-place Klay Thompson is another 647 points behind.

    Next season, Green's versatility on both ends will be as important as ever. With Kevin Durant gone and Thompson out for much of the season, the Curry-Green connection will take center stage again.


    Honorable Mentions

    Larry Nance Jr.

    As a member of the 19-63 Cleveland Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. toiled in relative obscurity last season. But he toiled at a high level.

    No one in the NBA matched Nance's rebounding, assist and steal percentages. And that remains true if you open up the search to include all of NBA history.

    He may not score a ton of points, but his unprecedented combination of other box score numbers makes the 26-year-old one of the league's more intriguing young(ish) big men.


    PJ Tucker

    Another defensive specialist, PJ Tucker has provided a large portion of the title-contending Houston Rockets' toughness over the last two seasons.

    His shooting has been a reliable outlet for Harden's drives as well. In his six NBA campaigns before he joined the Rockets, Tucker shot 35.1 percent from deep. In Houston, that number has jumped to 37.4 percent.

    "There's no doubting Tucker's importance to the squad," SB Nation's Darren Yuvan wrote. "His defensive versatility, high motor and wicked corner three have made him a perfect fit for the James Harden-era Rockets."

C: Rudy Gobert

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    This may feel like we're stretching the headline a bit. After all, Rudy Gobert did average 15.9 points per game (17.9 per 75 possessions) last season. But he did qualify under our criteria. It just so happens that Gobert has about 1.8 times as many points (3,177) as field-goal attempts (1,781) over the last three seasons.

    And despite his hyper-efficiency, you're still not likely to catch many fans or analysts describing him as a scorer.

    That doesn't mean he isn't a huge part of Utah's offense, though.

    "His ability to put pressure on the rim is a form of penetration," Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder told ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "You've got to account for him, and that draws defenders just the same way dribble penetration does. He's actually creating offense. We've talked about spacing assists when he rolls to the rim."

    Gobert is a constant threat to throw it down. That forces defenders to crowd the paint and buys a little extra time for Jazz players on the perimeter.

    Gobert may not be a scorer, but Utah executive vice president Dennis Lindsey told MacMahon that, "Rudy is our most important offensive player."

    And oh, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year isn't bad on the other end either.


    Honorable Mentions

    Jakob Poeltl

    DeMar DeRozan may have been the headliner for the San Antonio Spurs' end of the Kawhi Leonard trade, but Jakob Poeltl had a much more positive impact, at least by one metric.

    When Poeltl was on the floor, San Antonio was plus-2.8 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning the Glass. It was plus-1.7 when Poeltl was off.

    That 1.1-point swing ranked in the 58th percentile leaguewide. DeRozan's minus-5.3-point swing ranked in the 23rd percentile.

    Poeltl isn't likely to be on many highlight posts while taking contested mid-range jumpers, but his steady defense, rebounding and finishing around the rim made him a critical reason the Spurs got to the playoffs.


    Mason Plumlee

    Mason Plumlee may be one of the league's most underrated passers. When fans and analysts talk about passing bigs, it's often regarding Nikola Jokic or Marc Gasol—and rightfully so.

    But Plumlee's 4.7 assists per 75 possessions over the last three seasons trail only Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins and Gasol among players his height (6'11") or taller.

    Because of Plumlee's ability to find and hit the open man, the Denver Nuggets can enjoy some offensive consistency when Jokic goes to the bench.