Category 7: 3&D Plus Initiation

Category 7:  3&D Plus Initiation

(Skills:  Off-Ball Shooting, Initiating/Running a PNR, On/Off Ball D, Switchability)

George Hill (Senior) #26

Mario Chalmers (Junior) #34

Matthew Dellavedova (Senior) Undrafted

Patrick Beverley (Sophomore) #42

Tyler Johnson (Senior) Undrafted

Also in this category but not analyzed largely due to limited sample: Marcus Smart, Seth Curry, Josh Richardson.

I. What Sets Them Apart

This player archetype is built on two foundational skill-sets: shooting and defense.  Non-coincidentally, these players are usually found next to elite primary initiating two-way wings (Hill -> George/Hayward + Hood, Chalmers -> LeBron/Wade, Delly -> LeBron/Giannis, Beverley -> Harden, Johnson -> Wade). When you have enough playmaking either on the wings or at the 4/5 spots, surrounding those players with two-way shooters is immensely valuable, placing these kinds of players at a premium, yet, they are not typically drafted as such.

Defensively, Category 7 guys can almost always defend ones at the point of attack, which is more valuable than guarding smaller wings with shooting guard size, but they usually have the versatility to guard two positions in plus fashion.  George Hill is the prototype here, being a plus defender who not only adds deadly spot up shooting from the corners but can also run off screens to shoot, a hidden value amongst all off-ball players.

Some would consider this category of players “shooting guards” skill-set wise as none are high usage on-ball handlers and their primary offensive contribution comes from off-ball spacing.  I labeled them quasi-lead guards because they have enough ball-skills to handle under pressure, initiate offense and run a simple pick and roll, albeit less frequently than more high usage lead guards. As we progress in this process you’ll see a pretty fine line between this category and 1/2 3&D wings such as Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  The strengths of each group are the same (shooting and defense), but I delineate between the two based on the former possessing more advanced ball-skills and the history of being employed in such a role.

Overall, you can be an impact player in the league as a guard if you can shoot and defend in plus fashion even if you don’t have advanced ball-skills and can’t create your own shot consistently to score.  This is why so many of us were fans of Wade Baldwin in the draft, and some (including myself) ranked him ahead of Kris Dunn based on potential skill-set contribution to a winning team.  A quasi lead guard who can shoot and defend  in my opinion trumps a primary initiating lead guard who can’t shoot, isn’t an ET athlete and is a suspect decision-maker if we’re talking long-term contribution to winning from a team building standpoint.  You need specific players to pair with a Cat 7 player, but if situated correctly in that role a Cat 7 player is more valuable than building a team from scratch with a Cat 5 or 6 player in most cases.    Anyways, onto the skill attributes..

A.Low Volume Driving/Low Usage

2015/16 Regular Season Drives Per Game (Lead Guards, Non Inclusive)

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2015/16 Regular Season Usage (Lead Guards, Non Inclusive)

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  • Notice the stark difference between C7 and C6 players in terms of drives per game and corresponding usage.  These are low volume drivers due to having the ball less, instead relying on shooting efficiency to provide offensive value off ball.
  • The usage ranks are for “qualified point guards” per ESPN. ESPN has Johnson listed as a SG, so his ranking is not included above.  Thus, last regular season each of the above players were outside the top 50 in terms of qualified point guard usage, illuminating the degree of off-ball orientation here.
  • I presume a driving force for the Hill-Teague trade for Indiana (outside of the age difference) was Indiana’s desire to improve on their bottom 5 in the league in drives per game mark, rendering Teague (a high usage driver) more alluring than Hill.  This trade really encompasses the scheme fit of these two player archetypes: Hill is better at what he does, but what he does depends on having high usage shot creators at other positions (which Utah has), whereas Indiana only has one elite primary initiator, rendering the need for more shot creation.  I would still take Hill over Teague even in Indiana’s situation, but I understand the thought-process.

B.Spot Up Shooting

2015/16 Regular Season Spot Up Playtype

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  • This is key attribute #1 for this archetype, and you can see the elite proficiency from 3 of the above players. Chalmers’ shot has been on a negative trajectory over the last 2 seasons, but his shot still has to be respected by defenses.

George Hill 2015/16 Shot Chart

Hill

  • Hill is a high usage, highly efficient player from the most deadly shot in the game, the corner 3.  He’s also a threat anywhere beyond the arc while being a respectable threat inside the arc.

Mario Chalmers 2015/16 Shot Chart

Chalmers

  • Chalmers’ low efficiency from the corners seems like an outlier, but his shooting metrics are the worst amongst this group.

Matthew Dellavedova 2015/16 Shot Chart

Delly

  • Essentially a non-threat inside the arc as a scorer (teams really need to force him to shoot that running floater more often), Delly is pretty automatic from 3, especially from the corners.

Patrick Beverley 2015/16 Shot Chart

Bev

  • It should be no surprise that Beverley takes an absurd amount of 3s for the analytics-driven Rockets, and is proficient from every spot.

Tyler Johnson 2015/16 Shot Chart

Johnson

  • Johnson’s shooting sample is the smallest of the group, and it’s unclear if he can sustain last season’s shooting acumen.  But there are at least some encouraging positive indicators here.

C.Shooting Off Screens

2015/16 Regular Season Off Screens Playtype

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  • This phase of the game really separates Hill, who is not only a spot-up threat but adds immense value as a high-efficiency shooter off screens, a scheme-changing offensive quality.

D.Pick and Roll Ball Handler

2015/16 Regular Season PNR BH Playtype

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  • This playtype measures pick an roll *finishing* components, not passing, thus it’s not surprising to see a player like Delly suffer as far as comparative percentile goes (he’s not really a scoring threat in PNR, but one of the main reasons he’s still in the league is he’s a highly adept passer in these settings).
  • The overall possessions of the above players used in this playtype can get down to roughly 1/4 of high usage drivers, shedding light on the difference in driving volume and on-ball usage.
  • There were a lot of skeptics when Brooklyn gave Tyler Johnson that 4 year $50M offer sheet, but looking at the metrics to supplement the eye test, the Nets undoubtedly saw a player who is efficient both on and off ball.  He’s a better player than Jordan Clarkson for example, and in my opinion (again SSS) one of the most underrated players in the league.

E.Defense

2015/16 Regular Season DRPM

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  • Again, DRPM is just being used as a quick point of reference and this category is largely based on the eye test.  All of these guards either have bigger bodies (Hill, Johnson, Delly, Chalmers) or are high intensity tough/strong defenders (Beverley).  Each can guard opposing lead guards and offer some versatility switching onto “twos”.
  • It should be noted that Chalmers for example doesn’t grade out especially high by DRPM, but is one of the few qualified “lead guards” who grades out positively in Defensive Box Score Plus Minus.  There are numerous metrics that can assess defensive acumen reasonably well, and they should all be combined to give an accurate defensive depiction.  That isn’t the goal here.

II. College Indicators/Translations

1.MeasurementsHill8

  • Johnson, Chalmers and Delly didn’t have “official” draft combine measurements, thus I didn’t include them here.
  • Hill and Beverley both have intriguing wingspan/height ratios, and it should be noted how compactly built and strong Beverley is for his size.

2.40 Minutes Pace Adjusted

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  • Hill: Hill’s 5 game sample Junior season wasn’t included above, but you can see very encouraging shooting efficiency marks on reasonable volume from both two and three (even the foul shooting improved enough to draw out a high sample positive conclusion).  Hill never posted elite steal marks, but each was above average, and paired with his physical tools it was a fair assumption Hill would be a positive defender in the league.
  • Chalmers: Chalmers had elite shooting efficiency and steal marks over multiple seasons, illuminating the 3&D appeal.  Had I been doing this in 2008 I would have been pounding the table for him earlier than pick 34 and not based on any “big shot tournament bias”.
  • Delly:  Delly’s stats translated pretty accurately to the NBA floor:questionable 2 FG%/finishing and very consistent outside shooting buttressed by consistently elite foul shooting.  Delly wins more on individual “toughness” and physical, instigating defense (HA!) than raw impact events like steals to be an above average defender, thus the eye test was more illustrative of his defensive prowess.
  • Beverley: Beverley had both positive (consistent 3FG% on high attempts) and negative (outlier bad FT%) inputs, as well as negative 2pt FG%.  Not the cleanest prospect in terms of stats, but profiled similar to Delly in terms of utilizing the eye test to see the defensive toughness (coupled with better speed and agility).
  • Johnson: Johnson was all over the map his first two seasons but noticeably improved over his final two years at Fresno State.  That’s usually a red flag statistically, and there’s a reason Johnson didn’t get drafted.  Every once in a while however there is an exception to the rule.

3.Efficiency

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  • Hill: Hill again posted consistently elite shooting efficiency and really flashed his ability to get to the line against lesser competition.  He definitely profiled more as a score-first guard with questionable decision-making metrics, but given his usage on a lower tier team that can rationalized.
  • Chalmers: Chalmers’ Junior year was his best in terms of profiling as a quasi lead guard who could make decisions and playmake for others.  He was a consistent shooter throughout.
  • Delly: Delly’s decision-making prowess was definitely underlooked in the draft process. He’s always been a smart player who can really read the defense, especially in pick and roll settings.  Posting consistently plus A/TO marks, pass first metrics and all above-average shooting seasons should have given him more looks in the second round.  The physical tools and athleticism were lacking, but this is the kind of player that slips through the cracks.
  • Beverley: Beverley is the most off-ball oriented player on this list and that was definitely foreseeable from his college stats.
  • Johnson: Similar to the pace adjusted stats section, Johnson’s metrics fluctuated more than the others here, and were mostly negative efficiency wise, which was obviously concerning .  Tyler is a late bloomer who really improved when he got into the league, but always possessed eye-test athleticism.

4.Usage

Hill15

  • Outside of Freshman years, only Johnson posted a negative usage after that.  Hill had the highest usage, which you want to see from a small school guy, and his corresponding efficiency was fantastic.  Delly’s usage spiked some his final two years at Saint Mary’s, and his ability to maintain playmaking efficiency again went underlooked.

5. Skill Translation

  • Hill:
    • Shooting Efficiency
    • Not a Pure Lead Guard
    • Plus Defense
    • First Contract Translation: Rotation (Backup to Parker, Starter Year 5)
  • Chalmers:
    • Shooting Efficiency
    • Not a Pure Lead Guard
    • Plus Defense
    • First Contract Translation: Year 1 Starter, Rotation + Starter Years 1-3
  • Delly:
    • Shooting Efficiency
    • Negative 2pt Finishing
    • High IQ Decision-Making
    • Pass First Nature
    • First Contract Translation: Rotation
  • Beverley:
    • 3 Point Shooting Proficiency
    • Not a Pure Lead Guard
    • First Contract Translation: Starter in Years 2-3
  • Johnson:
    • Flashes of High Level Decision-Making and Shooting
    • First Contract Translation: Rotation

III. Overall Takeaways

  1. Lack of Star Power: As you’ll notice from the above, this player archetype doesn’t contain any all-stars, and some of the above haven’t even earned consistent starting positions.  This lack of star upside has likely led to this crop being underappreciated.
  2. Importance of Scoring/Creation Narrative: You’ll often here league personnel say modern day lead guards ideally need to be pass first but also capable of scoring.  That latter aspect is what hurts category 7 guys: the lack of translatable scoring/creation especially off the bounce.
  3. Attainability Late in Drafts: This player archetype is perhaps the most attainable in the draft out of any lead guard category, as none of the aforementioned players went in the top 20 picks and two went completely undrafted.  Guys like Josh Richardson fell through the cracks into the second round as well.  This trend likely presents one of the few draft inefficiencies, largely due to the negative association with “combo guards”.  The key however is the understanding that shooting + defense is a very valuable combination for perimeter players in the league.

Next Up: Two-Way Playmaking 4s

*I’m going to go “out of order” here as I’m still not quite sure how to approach wing categorization yet currently having 13 and unable to simplify.  4s and 5s are more clear-cut.