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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Bucks don’t match T-Wolves’ offer for Sessions

I’ve written about this ad nauseam, but the Bucks elected not to match Minnesota’s offer for up-and-coming point guard Ramon Sessions.

Even with the whole Ricky Rubio/Jonny Flynn mess strategy, this is a nice move by the Timberwolves. Sessions can play a little off guard, but he and Flynn will have some battles in practice and should ultimately make each other better. He’s just 23 and has proven that he can be productive in limited minutes, and now that he’s locked into a reasonable contract, he’s going to be a valuable asset for the T-Wolves.

Ramon Sessions finally signs an offer sheet…

…and it’s not with the Knicks or Clippers. It’s with the Timberwolves.

The waiting and wondering is finally over for restricted free agent Ramon Sessions, who agreed Friday to sign a four-year, $16 million offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

A source told ESPN.com that the paperwork on the deal was being processed Friday morning. After Sessions signs, the Milwaukee Bucks will have seven days to match the offer, which they are not expected to do.

The Knicks were only willing to guarantee one year because they did not want to eat into their cap space next summer.

As regular readers know, I’m a big fan of Sessions’ game and I think $4 million per season is a steal. I hope my beloved Bucks match the offer, but all signs seem to point to the franchise letting him go.

Here’s what I wrote about Sessions back in July…

Three million, eh? That’s what a 23-year-old with the 13th-highest PER amongst point guards garners these days? Sessions has the 5th-highest PER amongst point guards under the age of 26. This means that if he continues on his current career trajectory, he has a great shot at being a perennial top 10 point guard in the NBA.

But the past is the past, and the Bucks are faced with losing an up-and-coming, highly-efficient, very talented point guard because they aren’t (or may not be) willing to pay him more than $3 million per season. If the Bucks are smart, they’ll match any offer up to the mid-level and let Sessions and Jennings battle every day in practice. Sessions has already proven he can be productive in 25 minutes per game, so it’s not like he’s going to suddenly lose his value because he has to share time with Jennings. And neither guy is a great shooter, so the Bucks won’t have to drastically change their offense when one guy subs into the game.

One thing’s for sure — Sessions is an asset, and he shouldn’t be let go because the Bucks want a $2 million cushion under the luxury tax. Heck, there’s no guarantee that Jennings is going to pan out or that he’ll get along with Scott Skiles. Sessions might just turn out to be the Bucks’ point guard of the future.

Small market teams have to build through the draft and via trade, not through free agency. This means that they have to hold onto assets when they have them, not let them walk away at a discount.

We’ll see what GM John Hammond decides, but right now it’s not looking good.

Knicks pursuing Rubio?

It seems like an obvious match on paper. The Knicks have a well-documented need for a point guard and Ricky Rubio is threatening to play another year or two in Spain so that he can avoid playing in Minnesota, at least for the time being. Then, of course, there is the T-Wolves’ decision to draft point guards with back-to-back picks in this year’s draft. Throw in the Knicks’ reluctance to sign a point guard this summer and it all adds up — they’re pursuing Rubio.

One insider tells RealGM’s Alex Kennedy that Kahn could be working out a scenario where Rubio would be dealt to the New York Knicks.

“Kahn and [Knicks’ President] Donnie Walsh are close and New York is looking for a cheap point guard who could help attract free agents next summer. Rubio fits that mold. I think that’s what this latest trip to Spain is about, working something out with New York.”

First, let me state that this is all speculation. An “insider” told Real GM that Kahn “could be” working out a deal that would send Rubio to New York. This isn’t exactly substantial stuff.

Regardless, it’s not clear what New York would have to give up in this scenario, as they don’t have too many assets to offer. David Lee is a possibility, but the T-Wolves are pretty set up front with Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Nate Robinson is a good scorer, but wouldn’t be equal value for the potential that Rubio brings to the table. Wilson Chandler is a nice (though not particularly efficient) small forward, which is the same position that LeBron James plays.

Lee would seem to be the best that the Knicks have to offer, but would the T-Wolves want to pay him $8-$10 million per season when he’d likely come off the bench? Thinking about it, Chandler plus an unprotected first round pick might do the trick.

What are the Knicks waiting for?

BREW HOOP has a nice roundup of the Ramon Sessions situation. The Knicks haven’t yet signed him to a deal, but the two sides are still negotiating.

Rumor has it that the Bucks would match up to $3 million per season. The Knicks’ payroll is currently projected to be around $27.4 million heading into next summer, and if the salary cap drops to $50 million, that leaves $22.6 million to sign LeBron (or some other max player) and David Lee and/or Sessions. (This assumes that GM Donnie Walsh can’t move Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries.) Whatever deal the Knicks offer Sessions will cut into that cap space in 2010 since the minimum contract length is two years for a restricted free agent. It appears that the Knicks are looking at the worst case scenario (not being able to move Curry or Jeffries) and have to choose between Sessions and Lee.

As for the Bucks, I’ve made my feelings clear — they need to hold onto Sessions.

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