What kind of point guard is he?

The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose shoots a free throw while playing the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter of their NBA game in Chicago February 17, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

We hear it all the time. NBA analysts call one point guard “pass-first” and another “shoot-first.” Or they say one guy is “turnover-prone” while another “takes care of the ball.” But really, what makes a player a “pass-first” point guard? How carefree must he be with the ball to be considered “turnover-prone”?

I first tackled this subject two years ago, and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is “pass-first” or “shoot-first.” The higher the number, the more of a “shoot-first” player he is. To determine whether or not a player is “turnover-prone,” I calculated each player’s assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball.

I narrowed the list of players to 33, one for each team plus a few extra for teams like Cleveland, Sacramento and Denver, who have a couple of players manning the position. I also added eight prospects (indicated in green) just to see where a few of the younger guys land. Here’s the graph — it’s small, but if you click it, you’ll get to a bigger version:

So the pass-first/shoot-first aspect goes left to right, and the turnover-prone players will be towards the bottom, while the guys that take really good care of the ball will be up top. Players indicated with a blue diamond are in the Top 10 in this group in Efficiency Per Minute. I set the axis for each category at the average of the 33 players in question, so 1.97 for FGA-to-assist and 2.70 assist-to-turnover.

Two years ago when I conducted this study, seven of the top 10 EPM performers were in the top left quadrant (pass-first, takes care of the ball). This year, only five of the top 11 (I included both Rondo and Calderon, since they tied for #11) are in that quadrant. This is due to the emergence of three shoot-first, (fairly) turnover-prone guards who are emerging as stars: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

A few takeaways:

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The NBA’s Top 10 Franchise Players

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (R) is defended by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (L) in the first quarter during their NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, January 30 2011. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

When I originally debuted this list almost two years ago, I took some (surprisingly angry) flack for not settling on a 10th player and for ranking a few guys too high.

The idea for the list sprung from a conversation that I regularly have with a buddy when we are tipping back a few adult beverages: If you could have one current NBA player to build your franchise around, with the goal of winning a NBA title in the next five years – who would it be?

Here’s who I had almost two years ago:

10. Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (A reader named “all” was very upset that I couldn’t pick a #10 guy. He’s probably still upset about it.)
9. Derrick Rose
8. Brandon Roy
7. Deron Williams
6. Chris Paul
5. Kevin Durant
4. Dwight Howard
3. Kobe Bryant
2. Dwyane Wade
1. LeBron James

I took some heat for including Rose, but obviously he has panned out very well and is likely to win the league MVP this season. Roy’s knees have killed his stock. The other seven picks look pretty solid.

So let’s take another stab at this. Remember, we’re trying to win a title in the next five years, so youth and health is paramount.

Honorable Mention: Carmelo Anthony (defense), Amare Stoudemire (defense, age, knees), Pau Gasol (age), Tyreke Evans (regressing) Tim Duncan (age), Dirk Nowitzki (age), Paul Pierce (age), Rajon Rondo (moody, in a funk since Kendrick Perkins trade) and Kevin Garnett (age).


12. John Wall (20 years-old)
All right, I’m projecting a little bit here, but it worked with Derrick Rose and I think Wall has a chance to be in the same league. Check out his month-by-month stats over the course of his rookie season:

October 2 39.0 0.417 3.0 9.0 1.5 3.0 21.0
November 8 38.1 0.430 3.8 9.1 3.1 4.1 17.3
December 9 34.4 0.383 4.2 7.6 1.0 3.3 13.7
January 16 38.4 0.388 4.2 10.5 1.5 3.9 13.9
February 12 36.3 0.421 4.9 7.9 1.2 3.5 16.5
March 11 41.4 0.411 6.0 7.3 2.0 4.4 19.1

So he burst into the league with a good October and November, but struggled a bit over the next two months as teams had a chance to game plan for him. Then in February and March, he’s able to counter that and get back to his early-season numbers. Great sign.

He’s an outstanding playmaker (9.1+ assists in 2-of-5 months) and is lightning quick. His rookie numbers are very similar to Rose’s, only he’s averaging 2.4 more assists per game. He’d likely be the Rookie of the Year if Blake Griffin hadn’t blown out his knee last season. In three or four years he might be vying for best point guard in the league honors.

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My interview with FantasyPros

Late last week, FantasyPros announced that I was 2010’s Most Accurate Expert, and as a part of the competition’s post-mortem, I was asked to answer a few questions for the site’s founder, Dave Kim.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your site, The Scores Report, and how you got started in the fantasy business?

John: The Scores Report is a national sports blog. We cover all the major sports, but my focus is on fantasy football during the NFL season, and then my focus turns to the NBA and college basketball once the season is over. I started writing for Bullz-Eye in 2005 and shortly thereafter began covering fantasy football on BE and then on The Scores Report.

Q: Can you briefly describe your process for coming up with your player projections/rankings?

John: I have an engineering background, so statistics play a big role in my rankings. I calculate strength of schedule each week, and use matchups to put my rankings together. I don’t do player-specific projections, at least not yet, so my rankings probably have more “feel” than some of the more math-driven rankings that are out there. This allows me to create rankings that reflect my own opinion on each player, including the level of trust that each player has earned. In other words, if a player is a risky start but has considerable upside, I generally won’t rank them ahead of a solid start with little upside. If I have one player ranked ahead of another, it almost always means that I would personally start them in that order as well. I wouldn’t want to advise my readers to start someone that I wouldn’t start myself under the same circumstances.

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The 10 Dumbest Things in Sports

I love sports, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Here are ten things that drive me crazy on a regular basis, in order of increasing stupidity:

10. The scoring system in tennis
Love? 15? 30? 40? Deuce? Actually, I kind of like “deuce.” But why not just go to four, win by two. It’s the exact same thing and a lot easier to follow when you’ve already thrown back a couple of Bloody Marys.

9. The overkill of NASCAR
Does it really take 500 laps to figure out which car and driver are the fastest? Here’s an idea: Make every race 50 to 100 laps and limit the number of pit stops. Every decision will be magnified and second-guessed and strategy will become an even bigger part of the sport.

8. Offsides (in soccer and hockey)
Anytime that you have defenders trying to encourage offsides calls by pulling up as they run/skate back to protect their goal, it’s not a good thing. There’s no offsides in basketball and it works just fine. When Randy Moss outruns a cornerback, play doesn’t stop because he has a clear path to the endzone. Why not reward anticipation and speed, and make soccer and hockey that much more exciting by creating a flurry of one-on-one situations between the striker/forward and the goalie?

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The curious case of Santonio Holmes

All right, a show of hands…how many of you thought that Santonio Holmes was going to start of the 2009 season with a 9-131-1 statline against the Tennessee Titans last night?

Be honest.

Holmes finished 2008 (his third season) as fantasy’s WR33, averaging 3.7 catches for 55 yards and 0.3 TD in 15 games. His ADP entering the season was in the 5th round, largely because of the numbers he produced in the playoffs. After a mediocre 2-25-0 start against the Chargers, he posted 2-70-1 against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game and 9-131-1 against the Cardinals in the Super Bowl. (You’re reading that right — Holmes had the exact same line in the Super Bowl as he did last night against the Titans.)

Heading into the season, I thought Holmes was a nice value in the 6th round, or a decent pick in the 5th if I had to go WR and the other guys — Eddie Royal, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Anthony Gonzalez and Braylon Edwards — were already gone. Holmes just seemed overrated after winning the Super Bowl MVP. After all, this is a guy who finished no better than WR29 in PPR leagues in the last two seasons, and converted just 48% of his targets into catches in 2008. (The league average last season was 57.5%.)

Holmes’ production seems to be at least partly dependent on how well the Steelers are running the ball. Over the past two-plus seasons (and including last night’s game), Holmes has posted 70-plus receiving yards in 13 games. In those games, the Steelers ran the ball well (4.0 ypc or greater) just three times: versus the Bengals and Rams in 2007 and again against the Bengals in 2008.

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