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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Using EPM to judge the 2010 All-Star picks

For an explanation of Efficiency Per Minute, click here.

Over the past few weeks, I have been listing the top EPM players at each position and discussing a few of the surprises. I decided to take the next step and plot EPM versus minutes per game, figuring that the results might shed some light on who is playing the best basketball this season. After all, if you’re playing big minutes at a high level, you’re one of the best players in the league.

Below are five charts that show the EPM and MPG of the top 30 players (in terms of total minutes played) at each position. The higher the EPM, the better. The players in red were All-Stars this season.

Click on the chart for a larger view.

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Efficiency Per Minute: Centers

For an overview of this statistic (and the point guard numbers), click here. I ran the numbers for centers, and here are the top 10 in EPM:

Tim Duncan (0.781)
Dwight Howard (0.730)
David Lee (0.720)
Andrew Bogut (0.665)
Marcus Camby (0.644)
Nazr Mohammed (0.625)
Joakim Noah (0.620)
Samuel Dalembert (0.619)
Andrew Bynum (0.616)
Brook Lopez (0.616)

Next 5: Jefferson, M. Gasol, Shaq, Horford, Nene

Mohammed is the only player in the top 15 playing less than 20 minutes per game. He’s averaging 8-5 and almost a block per game in 17.1 minutes…Andrew Bogut is having something of a breakthrough year, averaging 16-10 with 2.3 blocks per game…Who are the bottom five Cs playing more than 25 minutes per game? 1. Ben Wallace, 2. Channing Frye, 3. Mehmet Okur, 4. Spencer Hawes and 5. Andrea Bargnani.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Efficiency Per Minute: Power Forwards

For an overview of this statistic (and the point guard numbers), click here. I ran the numbers for power forwards, and here are the top 10 in EPM:

Chris Bosh (0.767)
Kevin Love (0.719)
Carlos Boozer (0.702)
Pau Gasol (0.684)
Dirk Nowitzki (0.649)
Josh Smith (0.635)
Anthony Randolph (0.631)
Amare Stoudemire (0.629)
Zach Randolph (0.628)
Kevin Garnett (0.620)

Next 5: Murphy, Blair, Landry, Odom and Scola.

Kevin Love has the highest rebound rate of any power forward in the league, but is only playing 29 minutes per game…One thing’s for sure — Anthony Randolph wasn’t getting enough minutes prior to his ankle injury. He’s obviously very talented, but doesn’t seem to be mature enough to handle the ups and downs of an NBA season…Josh Smith really stuffs the stat sheet. Not only does he post a 15-9, he also averaged 4.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.1 blocks per game…Marreese Speights, Tyrus Thomas, Paul Millsap and Andray Blatche came in 16th, 17th, 18th and 21st, respectively, though Speights has only played 670 minutes this season playing behind Elton Brand…Who are the bottom five PFs playing at least 25 minutes a night? 1. Jared Jeffries, 2. Boris Diaw, 3. Jonas Jerebko, 4. Yi Jianlian and 5. Rashard Lewis. Those last three names are actually pretty surprising.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Efficiency Per Minute: Small Forwards

For an overview of this statistic (and the point guard numbers), click here. I ran the numbers for small forwards, and here are the top 10 in EPM:

LeBron James (0.827)
Kevin Durant (0.672)
Carmelo Anthony (0.644)
Corey Maggette (0.642)
Gerald Wallace (0.569)
Danny Granger (0.547)
Andrei Kirilenko (0.534)
Ersan Ilyasova (0.526)
Paul Pierce (0.492)
Kris Humphries (0.492)

Next 5: Deng, Gay, Hill, Marion, S. Jackson

Corey Maggette is one of the best in the league at getting to the line, so while seeing his name amongst the other top small forwards is a little odd, he is very good offensively (and plays for the Warriors, who really push the pace)…Ersan Ilyasova’s presence in Milwaukee more than makes up for the loss of Richard Jefferson, and has allowed the Bucks to stay competitive this season…Kris Humphries is averaging 7-5 in just 16.5 minutes per game, and should probably be getting more run…Neither Trevor Ariza (0.378) nor Ron Artest (0.375) are having particularly efficient seasons…Who are the bottom five SFs playing at least 25 minutes a night? 1. Shane Battier (the no-stats MVP), 2. Tayshaun Prince, 3. Richard Jefferson, 4. Corey Brewer and 5. Al Thornton.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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