Category 5: Offensive Scheme-Breakers

Category 5 Lead Guards: Offensive Scheme-Breakers

(Needed Skills: At Least 1 of Dribble-Drive Finishing or Foul-Drawing + High Quality Passing/Decision-Making On Offense; On-Ball Defense + Steals & Switchability on Defense)

  1. Ricky Rubio (International) #5 (Age 21)

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(Joe Bielawa, Wikimedia)

  1. Elfrid Payton (Junior) #10 (Age 20)

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(Keith Allison; Flickr)

  1. Emmanuel Mudiay (International) #7 (Age 19)

20140402_MCDAAG_Emmanuel_Mudiay_baseline.JPG

(TonytheTiger, Wikimedia)

  1. Michael Carter-Williams (Sophomore) #11 (Age 22)

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(Philadelphia 76ers, Flickr)

  1. Rajon Rondo (Sophomore) #21 (Age 20)

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(Aaron Frutman)

Others in this category but not analyzed: Cory Joseph, Shaun Livingston (very unique situation)

I. What Sets Them Apart

If you’re a lead guard who can’t shoot competently either off the dribble or on spot ups, you’re working from a point of significant disadvantage.  In order to compensate for the lack of shooting and defenses going under on basically every pick schematically, you have to be an impact defender who can either finish around the basket on offense in plus fashion or get to the line + convert free throws, while adding upper-echelon passing/decision-making.  Rubio is the prototype here.  He’s 1 of the 5 best passers in the league, a top 5 defender at the lead guard position, and gets to the line + converts just enough to not be a sizable minus on offense as a scorer.  He’s a notoriously poor finisher, which is the one aspect that keeps him out of the top 10 lead guards in the league (other then shooting of course).  Rubio is also the only above average lead guard on this list. Rondo was in his prime of course when he played defense, and was probably a better peak player than Rubio because he added finishing along with elite decision-making.  The other 3 players are all young, but share a similar overall skill-set: non-shooters, non-elite athletes, plus defensive size/frame (switchability), struggle with decision-making (more so MCW & Mudiay, the latter of course being a rookie) and trying to find scoring impact as a finisher/drawing fouls.

A.Non-Shooters (PNR Finishing Effect):

2015/16 Regular Season TS% (Lead Guards)

Rubio1

2015/16 Regular Season PNR Ball-Handler Stats

Rubio2

  • Notice the unsurprising correlation between lack of shooting and PNR scoring.  Rubio salvages his sizable minus shooting with a positive FT Rate and %, while Rondo floats over 50 on TS% because of his respectable finishing.  The other 3 really don’t have a plus quality (MCW is a decent finisher).  Again, the PNR is the fulcrum of basically every NBA offense. If you can’t shoot, defenders will just go under picks which will often result in less valuable shots for bad shooters.  That’s a problem. The above TS% list for lead guards was out of 77 qualified individuals (shedding light on just how ghastly Mudiay was as a scorer/shooter in his rookie season).

B.Passing/Decision-Making:

2015/16 Regular Season Assist Rate/TOV Stats (Lead Guards: Sorted by Assist Rate)

Rubio 3

  • Rondo and Rubio are both high volume passers with exceptional court vision (Rondo assist-hunted a ton last season which is reflected in this chart, but he’s still a plus passer).  Payton faired well not turning the ball over, something that MCW has always struggled with as a pro despite promising college indicators.  Mudiay is a rookie, so I’m not going to judge the turnovers too harshly, especially since they seemed to temper down after a really rough start.

C.Drives/Finishing:

2015/16 Regular Season Drives Per Game (Lead Guards: Not in Precise Order)

Rubio 4

2015/16 Regular Season RA Finishing (Lead Guards: Sorted By RA Attempts)

Rubio 5

Ricky Rubio 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

Rubio Shot Chart

  • Rubio REALLY struggles as a finisher.  He has good speed and burst getting into the lane, but is not an explosive vertical athlete.  He struggles with length and while he can finish with either hand, he doesn’t have good touch.  Perhaps as a testament to the lack of finishing moxy, he drives substantially less than most other lead guards.  He’s also not an especially shifty handler, lacking side to side wiggle with the ball, but does have a tight handle and makes excellent decisions.

Rajon Rondo 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

Rondo Shot Chart

  • Rondo was an absolute speed demon in his prime, and still has some juice as an accelerator.  He’s always been a plus finisher with that patented fake behind-the-back move as his go-to dribble move space creator that somehow seems to work.  He definitely has the burst to get into the teeth of the defense, using his length and speed separation to create room to finish to compensate for his lack of vertical explosion.

Elfrid Payton 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

Payton Shot Chart

  • Despite not having a ton of juice, sudden explosion or lift at the rim, Payton finds a way to convert a decent percentage at the rim. He relies more on side to side movement and craftiness to score, but isn’t super slippery with the ball.  He has a solid floater game to compensate for his lack of a left hand.

Michael Carter-Williams 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

MCW Shot Chart

  • MCW’s open court plus athleticism is apparent, but that athleticism has never really translated to the half court setting as a finisher.  He has a decent handle with good burst and a plus first step, but is caught in no man’s land around the basket as a non-elite vertical athlete in the half court and not being especially crafty.  He’s an average finisher, which doesn’t cut it with his lack of shooting and shotty decision-making.

Emmanuel Mudiay 2015/16 Regular Season Shot Chart

Mudiay Shot Chart

  • Mudiay has the most shake of any of these players with the ball, as he is a natural probing and creating space off the dribble with a plus handle.  His finishing this past season was other-wordly bad however.  He has a strong compact frame and the size to absorb and finish through contact to the point he projected to be a plus finisher, despite not having elite lift.  It seemed like he rushed himself around the basket last year, and his finishing could be salvaged with more patience refinement. The numbers were really brutal however, especially for someone like Mudiay who needs to get to the basket and finish at an elite rate to be a positive offensive player.

D.Getting to the Line:

Rubio 6

  • Rubio really separates himself here (one of the primary reasons he’s the best player in this category) by getting to the line at a respectable rate and actually making free throws.  Rondo has notably become a huge negative outlier at getting to the charity stripe.

E.Defense:

2013/14 Regular Season DRPM (Lead Guards)

Rubio 7

2014/15 Regular Season DRPM (Lead Guards)

Rubio 8

2015/16 NBA Regular Season DRPM (Lead Guards)

Rubio 9

  • Every player but Mudiay (who gets a rookie pass) has shown the ability to defend at a positive level.  Rubio is consistently elite, and no statistic is going to be able to capture his value as a communicator on that end.  All of these players have plus lateral agility and at least one significant positive physical tool: Rondo (length), Rubio (size, length), MCW (Size), Payton (Size) and Mudiay (Size + Frame).  Possessing positive defense at the point of attack is one thing, but a paramount component here is the ability to switch onto wings and hold ground in the post.  All of these players can do that with their size.

II.College Indicators/Translations

1.Measurements:

Rubio 10

  • Both Mudiay and MCW have elite size for the position, with Mudiay possessing an insanely advanced frame for his age.  Payton similarly possessed plus size and had enormous hands.  Each one of these players unsurprisingly had a positive wingspan.
  • *Rubio and Rondo did not officially measure and are thus not in the DX database, but as mentioned above Rubio has elite size and Rondo elite length for the position.

2.Per 40 Minutes Pace Adjusted:

Rubio 11

  1. Rondo:
    • Shooting: Rondo had glaring negative outliers as a shooter from the foul line both years, while also being a minus three-point shooter. His positive 2pt FG% did shed some light on his finishing acumen, but overall Rondo was projected to be a minus shooter (505 FGAs, 99 3PAs, 222 FTAs).
    • Defense: Rondo posted one of the D1 Steal marks for lead guards in the past 15 years his Freshman year.  He followed that up with a sub-elite mark his Sophomore year. Given his length, lateral agility and steals acumen, Rondo projected as an elite defender at the point of attack.
  2. Rubio: (I’m not Kevin Pelton, so I don’t have ACB/Euro stat conversions)
    • Shooting: Rubio was a mixed bag as a shooter across 4 years, posting both positive and negative outlier numbers.  Consistently however, Rubio struggled on 2pt jumpers and was mediocre at best from 3.  His FT% was somewhat encouraging because he put out positive indicators over multiple years.
    • Defense: Again, I don’t have a model to convert international steals to domestic steals.  That being said, Rubio had some insane steal numbers over his European career, and combining that with his physical tools and instincts it was not difficult to foresee Rubio becoming an elite defender.
  3. Carter-Williams:
    • Shooting: MCW had one positive shooting indicator from 3 his Freshman year, but was a consistent negative shooter over each area otherwise (452 FGAs, 137 3PAs, 209 FTAs).
    • Defense: MCW posted two elite steal seasons, and similar to Rubio combining that profile with his size and lateral agility he looked like an elite defensive prospect.
  4. Payton:
    • Shooting: Payton had negative outlier marks as a 3pt shooter and from the foul line consistently over 3 years.  He also didn’t have an elite 2pt FG% like Rondo to compensate for that.  Thus, there was no real expectancy that Payton would ever be able to shoot.
    • Defense: Payton played against inferior competition, thus you’d like to see elite steal numbers instead of just positive numbers as an offensive minus.  However, with his size and quick hands Payton profiled at worst as a slightly positive defender.
  5. Mudiay:
    • Shooting: Mudiay only played 12 games in the Chinese League, thus I’m not even sure if the sample here is worth analyzing intently. Mudiay did have decent indicators on both 2pt FGs and 3pt FGs, but had a negative outlier from the foul line.
    • Defense: Again, not putting too much stock in this, but it does merit the point that Rubio put up significantly better steal numbers in a vastly superior league, rendering it probably unreasonable to assume from a statistical standpoint Mudiay would reach that level on defense.

Rubio 14

  • More fun with volume stats of recent prospects courtesy of Hoop-math.com!
  • Carter-Williams: MCW got to the rim a promising amount of times his Sophomore year, while also showing the ability to create his own shot on a high volume of 2pt jumpers.  On the negative side, he shot a woeful percentage on 2pt Jumpers (26%) and not only did not make a lot of threes but didn’t create his own 3s (barring him from category 3 talk).
  • Payton: Payton got to the rim an obscene number of times off the dribble, which was one of his most alluring skills as a prospect.  He also demonstrated the ability to create his own shot off the dribble with a large sample of 2pt jumper attempts, though again with worrisome results.  Payton was essentially a non-factor from three.

3.Efficiency:

Rubio 12

  1. Pure Lead Guard Theme: With the exception of Mudiay, the other 4 players profiled more as pure pass first lead guards than scoring guards with some outlier indicators posted via the AST/FGA metric.
  2. Decision-Makers: Payton was the only player to really garner criticism via decison-making ability on paper with consistently below average A/TO marks, as Rubio at least had multiple positive indicators there.  Note MCW’s insane A/TO mark, and how that level of decision-making hasn’t translated.

4.Usage

Rubio 13

  1. Usage Rate: Only MCW, Payton in two years and Mudiay posted above average usage rates for lead guards.  This metric was most important for Payton, who played at a smaller school and thus you wanted to see that ball-dominance and decent efficiency.
  2. FT Rate: I couldn’t locate Mudiay’s figure here, but notice how everyone else got to the line at least at an above average rate.  Rubio and Payton both posted positive outlier numbers over multiple seasons.

5.Skill Translation:

  1. Rondo:
    • Defensive Profile/Steals
    • Negative Shooting/Scoring Profile
    • Finishing Ability
    • Pure Lead Guard Profile
    • Plus Decision-Making
    • First Contract Translation: All-Star Years 4-7. Full-Time Starter Year 2. Immediate impact on defense.
  2. Rubio:
    • Defensive Profile/Steals
    • Negative Shooting/Scoring Profile
    • Negative Finishing Profile
    • Pure Lead Guard Profile
    • Plus Decision-Making
    • FT Rate
    • First Contract Translation: Basically an immediate starter and impact defender.
  3. Carter-Williams:
    • Defensive Profile/Steals
    • Negative Shooting/Scoring Profile
    • Average Finishing Profile
    • Pure Lead Guard Profile
    • First Contract Translation: Immediate starter on a bad team.  ROY.
  4. Payton:
    • Defensive Profile
    • Negative Shooting/Scoring Profile
    • Dribble-Drive Ability
    • Pure Lead Guard Profile
    • First Contract Translation: Started 63/82 Game in Year 1.
  5. Mudiay:
    • Negative Shooting/Scoring Profile
    • First Contract Translation: Immediate Starter.

III. Overall Takeaways

  1. Negative Outlier Shooters Don’t Necessarily Get Better: It’s become somewhat common adage now to say “Player A does everything but shoot” and to assume Player A will be able to shoot at some point.  The above players had negative shooting profiles coming into the league, and outside of a few positives weren’t expected to shoot and haven’t shown the ability to do so.  Mind you, it’s not the only negative in most of their games, but taking non-shooters and expecting them to develop respectable jumpers probably isn’t a reliable strategy.
  2. The Inherent Ceiling in this Player Archetype: Only one of these players has made an all-star team (and also only one has won a championship, but that’s almost non-existent for lead guards), and he played with 3 hall of fame players.  If you can’t shoot as a lead guard even if you’re a plus defender you’re likely not a top 10 lead guard in the league. Maybe if a player is an elite finisher and foul-drawer at this spot while also a plus distributor that would be top 10 worthy.  Using Rubio as the prototype if he could finish at a plus level he’s likely top 10 at the position and a fringe all-star.  The problem is it’s rare to find a player who can do all of these things well.  I think Mudiay has the best shot of any on the above list, but his year one profile is pretty damning.  My common adage is if you aren’t a top shelf athlete and can’t shoot off the dribble, especially 3s, you’re an average at best lead guard. Every team needs a competent lead guard, but building around a non-shooter at the point of attack is one of the tougher fits in the league.
  3. Situational Outliers: Rubio played in the ACB league (2nd best league in the world) as well as pm the Spain National Team, both at a ridiculously young age. He showed rare maturity and basketball intelligence which is basically unmatched by anyone.  Similarly, Rondo experienced tremendous success in the league, but as noted above also played with 3 HOF talents who could all space the floor. It’s difficult to analogize to these outliers.

Next Up: Category 6 Lead Guards (Dribble-Drivers)

*Stats drawn from http://www.nba.com/stats, http://www.espn.com,http://www.basketball-reference.com, http://www.sports-reference.com,http://www.hoop-math.com, http://www.draftexpress.com.

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