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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Ramon Sessions is available? Get Kahn on the phone.

It looks like the Cavs are interested in Ramon Sessions and according to reports, he is available for trade, especially since T-Wolves GM David Kahn signed another Bucks’ backup point guard to a long-term contract. With Sessions, Jonny Flynn and Luke Ridnour on the roster, and Ricky Rubio theoretically on his way next season, Sessions appears to be the odd man out.

And the guy can play. I have a long documented love affair with Sessions’ upside and even though he got limited run last season in a backup role (in an offense that doesn’t suit his skills), he had a 16.00+ PER in each of his first two seasons and is just 24 years-old.

In his second year for the Bucks he averaged 12-3-6 in 28 minutes a game. In 38 games as a starter that year, he posted 15-4-8 and shot 45% from the field.

There are several teams looking for a point guard, and I don’t know why they aren’t looking at Sessions. If I were running the Pacers, Bobcats, Cavs, Knicks, Raptors, Pistons, Hawks or the Grizzlies, I’d tell my assistant to get Kahn on the phone. Pronto.

Five players who could be on the move

Marc Stein lists five “big” names who could be on the move as the NBA trade season begins in earnest. Those names are: Andre Miller, Nate Robinson, Brandon Bass, Marcin Gortat and Ramon Sessions. Here’s part of Stein’s writeup on Miller:

Miller might actually find it easier to operate in Portland’s offense with Oden off the floor and less of an emphasis on throwing the ball inside. Harsh as that sounds, given Oden’s unquestioned likability and hideous luck, Miller and Roy appeared to be the main sufferers from the lack of offensive flow that has plagued Portland this season as Oden’s role expanded. If the Blazers open things up a bit more with Oden sidelined, as Roy envisions, that could really help Miller.

Yet the reality remains that Miller and Roy are an iffy tag team because both need to see so much of the ball to be effective, which explains why Miller has started only nine games. There’s this, too: While NBA front-office sources say there is considerable outside interest in young (and mostly forgotten) Portland guard Jerryd Bayless, Miller’s more substantial salary — $6.7 million to Bayless’ $2.1 million — would probably bring a bigger talent payoff in a trade.

“They need a Mo Williams-type to play with Brandon Roy,” said one rival team executive in the West. “They need a shooter to play off him.”

Stein suggests that both Miller and Sessions were signed so that the Blazers and T-Wolves would have tradeable assets that they can “flip” at some point during the season. Sessions supposedly had an opportunity to play for the Knicks on a one-year deal and probably should have done just that. Chris Duhon is struggling, so it’s likely that Sessions would be the starter by now, and with his ability, he could post some nice numbers in Mike D’Antoni’s system. The Knicks aren’t going to trade for Sessions now because his contract would eat into their projected cap space next summer.

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.

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