Category 4: Two-Way Initiators

Category 4 Lead Guards: Two-Way Initiators

(Skills: Balanced Across the Board)

  1. Kyle Lowry (Sophomore) #24 Overall Pick (Age When Drafted: 20)


(Keith Allison; Wikimedia)

  1. Mike Conley (Freshman) #4 Overall Pick (Age When Drafted: 20)


(Sean Davis; Flickr)

  1. Jrue Holiday (Freshman) #17 Overall Pick (Age When Drafted: 19)


(Keith Allison; Wikimedia)

Update: From a skill perspective you can argue Lowry is close to a Category 1 archetype with enhanced off the dribble shooting and two-way play in the regular season, but it’s hard to make that leap given career postseason play.

I.What Sets Them Apart

Lowry, Conley and Holiday are all two-way balanced threats who can do a bit of everything. Lowry has emerged ahead of the pack with his ability to get to the foul line, and has experienced rare success/improvement in the later stages of his career. Both Conley and Holiday are underappreciated, largely because they have problems staying on the court.  At their peaks, both are top 12 or so lead guards who provide versatile contributions across the board.

A.Dribble Jumper Threats:

2013/14 Regular Season Pull-Up Jumpers (Lead Guards Sorted by FGA)


2014/15 Regular Season Pull-Up Jumpers (Lead Guards Sorted by FGA)


2015/16 Regular Season Pull-Up Jumpers (Lead Guards Sorted by FGA)


  • While none are elite off the bounce shooters, each presents enough of a threat that defenders can’t just routinely go under picks at the point of attack, which as discussed in the category 3 lead guard section is a huge bonus to NBA offenses. Holiday especially is an underrated off the dribble shooter.

B.Pick and Roll Ball-Handler:

2015/16 Regular Season PNR Ball-Handler Stats


  • Continuing the theme throughout this positional section, these 3 players are all high usage, plus PNR finishers.  Conley is the most efficient player, and while I don’t have the data from years past I’m willing to bet his shooting this year is a negative outlier.  None of these guys is an Irving or Lillard level of efficiency/volume dribble jumper shooter, and none really strikes that level of fear into defenses, ergo the Category 4 distinction.

C.Ability to Play Off-Ball/Spot-Up Shooting:

2015/16 Regular Season Spot Up Shooting Stats


  • Lowry’s spot up shooting, especially as a three-point shooter, is an underrated catalyst for his success, especially being paired next to a high usage handler like DeRozan.  Conley, though not quite at the same level of spot up shooter, is enough of a threat to warrant attention, which is paramount in Memphis’ heavy horns sets with Gasol commanding so much usage at the elbows.  Holiday isn’t an off ball knockdown shooter, but similar to Conley in the above section I’m guessing this is a negative outlier.  It does raise concerns about Holiday’s potential fit next to another ball dominant guard like Kris Dunn.


2015/16 Regular Season Isolation Stats


  • Each of these players has shot creation ability via an above average handle. Lowry has the most juice first step wise of the three off the bounce, blending it in with an assortment of step-back moves. Conley is masterful at changing speeds and has good burst exploding, despite a lack of vertical athleticism. He is very adept at dribbling with either hand (as well as finishing).  Holiday has very underrated burst/speed, and uses hesitation dribbles well despite not have a ton of wiggle.

E.Dribble Drives:

2015/16 Regular Season Drives (Lead Guards: Sorted by Drives Per Game)


  • Holiday’s combination of size, frame and vertical explosion at the rim give him a productive package finishing off drives.  He’s not an elite break-defenders-down-off-the-dribble guy but he has enough juice and strength to get into the lane and finish in traffic.  Lowry is a pit bull with his compact frame, and has fantastic body control once he uses his burst to get into the lane to draw fouls and finish through contact.  Conley’s lesser drives per game I’d wager is largely system-based with so much offense filtering through the post in Horns sets.  Conley has an expert ambidextrous floater game as a finisher to make up for his lack of lift.


2013/14 Regular Season DRPM


2014/15 Regular Season DRPM


2015/16 Regular Season DRPM


  • Lowry is an elite defender with his compact frame, toughness and tenacity on the ball.  He’s always been a plus steals guys with good instincts.  Holiday is more of a frame-based versatile defender capable of switching most of the time 1-3, possessing good strength and lateral quickness. Conley is exceptionally quick laterally with tremendous positioning and ability to navigate around screens quickly.  All three play plus defense at the point of attack.

II.College Indicators/Translations



  1. *Lowry’s measurements were not in the DX database, but at 6’1″ with a compact frame with plus athleticism he compensated for his lack of height.
  2. Conley is another player who broke the outlier barrier for height, possessing underrated speed and fluid athleticism and a positive wingspan.
  3. Holiday’s frame was fantastic for the youngest player in his class, having a strong base to pair with a positive wingspan.

2.Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted:


  1. Lowry:
    • Shooting: Lowry didn’t provide a voluminous shooting sample over 2 seasons (403 FGAs, a mere 40 3PAs, 228 FTAs), and the results weren’t consistent, so it was hard to peg him as a shooter at the next level, especially from 3.  He definitely improved enough his Sophomore year to silence some negative outlier doubts.
    • Defense: Lowry posted one positive and one elite steal season.  Pairing this with his pit bull on ball defense, overall toughness and plus athleticism, Lowry was projected to be a plus on-ball defender despite his height.
  2. Conley:
    • Shooting: Conley was a mixed bag as a categorical shooter (309 FGAs, 69 3PAs, 144 FTAs), compensating for his below average 3FG% and FT% with an insane 2pt%.
    • Defense: Conley was a steal artist in college, posting an elite steal season, and his quick hands were projected to and have translated to the league despite his frame concerns.
  3. Holiday:
    • Shooting: Holiday hovered around average to above average in overall shooting efficiency on a limited sample (249 FGAs, 88 3PAs, 62 FTAs) in a similar mold to Conley.
    • Defense:Holiday’s steal number was a sizable positive in his only season, and considering his size, advanced frame and age Holiday projected as a versatile plus defender.



  1. Lowry: After a rough Freshman year efficiency/decision-making wise Lowry rebounded in his Sophomore season to post average to above average metrics as a shooter and decision-maker. Whether Lowry was a pure lead guard or more of a scorer was a mixed bag considering his differentiating season and personnel surroundings.
  2. Conley: It’s hard to come across a cleaner pure lead guard projection than Conley, who sported elite figures across the board as a 2pt shooter and decision-maker.  Conley had low percentages from the foul line and from 3, but still had an elite TS%, shedding light on his 2pt jumper ability and ambidextrous finishing.
  3. Holiday:  Holiday had slightly plus decision-making, while having more of a pure lead guard profile.



  1. Interestingly, none of these players harbored even an average usage number, mostly based on surroundings. Lowry played next to Randy Foye and Alan Ray, who both commanded usage.  Conley shared floor time with Daequan Cook and of course Greg Oden in the middle. Holiday shared the ball with Darren Collison. Thus, none really had that preferred usage number. Conley was the safest pick of the three as he had surreal efficiency to compensate for it.
  2. Lowry: Lowry’s FTA/POS number his Sophomore year was a sizable plus, and has translated to the next level.
  3. Holiday: Holiday did not profile well as a foul-drawer, and he’s never been impactful at getting to the line in the pros.

5.Skill Translation:

  1. Lowry:
    • Defense/Steals
    • Average-Above Average Shooting Profile
    • FT Rate
    • First Contract Translation: Backup lead guard for the his first 5 years. Didn’t start until year 6. Rare late bloomer who made his first all-star game at 28 (10th season).
  2. Conley:
    • Defense/Steals
    • Decision-Making/Pure Lead Guard Profile
    • Above Average Shooting Profile
    • First Contract Translation: Not an immediate starter.  Late Bloomer in his 5th/6th season.  Has never made an all-star team.
  3. Holiday:
    1. Versatile Defense/Less Impactful Steals
    2. Slightly Pro-Lead Guard Profile
    3. Size/Frame
    4. Average-Above Average Shooting Profile
    5. Lack of FT Rate
    6. First Contract Translation: Not an immediate starter. Made all-star team in Year 4.

III.Overall Takeaways

  1. Steals Translate: Steals and rebounds are notoriously the two stats that really translate, and each of the aforementioned 3 players sported plus/elite steal figures in college and became plus point of attack defenders in the NBA.
  2. Non-Elite Shooters Probably Wont Become Elite Shooters Most of the Time: Lowry, Conley and Holiday are all passable NBA shooters, but none had the college shooting profile across the board of a Category 1 or 3 player, rendering it less likely the three would become impactful NBA shooters (which they haven’t been).
  3. Skill-Players Translate in Different Time-Frames: Lowry is a definite anomaly, peaking at age 28.  Conley didn’t take quite as long to be a plus at his position, but it took longer than his first contract (remember the reaction to his extension?).  Holiday had the quickest ascent to success, which you can either credit his frame/age anomaly or just the weaker Eastern Conference that year.  Holiday had the best physical tools of the bunch which perhaps enabled him to adapt to the NBA game faster, although he didn’t peak as high as the other two.  None of these players experienced the same immediate success as Category 1, 2 or 3 players.

Next Up: Category 5 Players (Defensive Tools/Non Shooters: teams go under on PNRs)

*Stats drawn from,,,,,