Directly comparing players in basketball can present problems. The Australian hoops journalists like to focus on Ben Simmons and Patty Mills as our two NBA guard superstars. Joe Ingles is more of a small forward than a two guard, but he often gets thrown into the discussions about the Boomer’s potential potent back court rotation as well. Dante Exum and Matthew Dellavedova, for various reasons, don’t seem to get the same amount of press as the others.
Players bring different things to the court
As I said, comparisons are a bit risky. These players bring very different things to the basketball court. Ben Simmons gets his fair share of “highlight reel” assists but it is his athleticism for a young big man (and the fact that he is almost unstoppable at getting to the basket) that make him unique. Patty Mills may only be a little guy by NBA standards but there are few players who can come off the bench and energize a team by dropping multiple three-pointers on an opposition before the opponent has time to blink in the way that Patty does.
While direct comparisons should be used with care, in “old-school” basketball circles one of the critical key statistical measures of the effectiveness of a point guard has always been the assist to turn-over ratio. In other words, as the point guard is the player most responsible for making their team’s offence well organized and functional, then the statistic that shows how often the player creates a scoring play in comparison to how often they fuck up a play is a useful measure. It’s interesting to look at a graph that shows how Simmons, Mills, Ingles, Dellavedova and Exum stack up against each other in the NBA.
Fifteenth best in the league
Surprised? Yup. Delly comes out way above the rest on the assist/turnover measure. His 3.3 rating has him sitting at around thirteenth best guard in the league and fifteenth best player in the NBA overall. While 3.3 is not earth shattering (Jose Calderon, Chris Paul and John Stockton… all point guard legends… rated at between 5.5 and 4.5 in their better years) it is not half bad either. A 3.3 rating is pretty much where a coach would want his starter point guard to be.
Simmons 2.4 rating is not so special. There are no less than 44 other guards in the NBA who have a better assist/turnover ratio. No-one gets to the basket better than Ben and his rebound rating is off the charts for a point guard. Also, he is a young guy. Every year his turn-over stat should improve thus raising his stocks in the assist/turnover area.
Jingles comes in with a 2.3 which is not great, but he can argue that his primary responsibility is as a small forward spot up jump-shooter. Fair enough. But when Australian pundits argue that he is a handy extra guard for the Boomers then his limitations as a play maker need to be kept in mind. On his day Joe Ingles can run an offence but it’s not his strength.
Patty Mills is a terrific player, but his energy, speed, and one-on-one skills are not quite enough to win him a starting PG role at NBA level if he cannot lift his 2.1 assist to turnover rating. This stat seems to confirm that Patty is at his strongest when used as a fast-scoring strike small two-guard. As is the case with Ingles, Mills has his moments running an offence but its not where he shines.
On paper Exum has all the skills. We all know he can shoot, he can attack the basket, he can play defence and he can pass the basketball but four seasons of confidence sapping injuries and failure to win significant minutes on the court as a result (more recently) have prevented him from establishing decent figures on the assist/turnover scale. Well, in truth, his minutes this season have not enabled him to even put together numbers that have any statistical meaning at all. Hopefully this will change if he can put together a few months of solid (uninjured) play with one team. We all know Exum has the goods, but it will take a bit more time to prove it.
Keep it in mind
Well there you go. Dellavedova is the only Australian guard in the NBA who puts up decent assist/turnover numbers. It doesn’t mean he is the best player. It doesn’t even mean he is the best point guard. But it is something to consider when the experts are considering who might do a decent job at getting the Boomer’s offence running smoothly this year.