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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Correlation Between 2-pt% and Assist to Turnover Ratio

As I have broken down numerous college point guards this year, the same strengths and weaknesses keep coming up. One of the big things is how a guy runs the pick and roll offense. You have two ends of the spectrum here - guys who change speeds and play under control and guys who go full speed and rely on their athleticism. All of the guys are able to score in the mid-range area and pass the ball to open teammates. There isn't a guy difference there. The biggest difference comes from being able to put yourself in situations to get good shots, to get teammates open, and make smart decisions. The pick and roll game exemplifies the point guard's ability because it puts him in a situation where he can shoot, pass, drive, and also work an in-between game. You literally have countless options out of the pick and roll and its up to the offense player to be able to take advantage of them.

The problem with some guys is they don't know how to play in these sets. When they have an on ball screen, they feel the need to quickly accelerate around the corner and try to force their way into the lane. Trying to get around defenders with pure speed puts them in bad situations where they are often out of control and are forced to throw up an off-balanced shot or unpremeditated pass. I study the games of point guards who shot the ball exceptionally well from 3-pt range and had great athleticism inside, yet found that they had terrible efficiency inside the arc. Why? It all comes down to changing speeds.

If you watch Phil Pressey of Missouri and compare him to an average college point guard, you can really see a difference. Pressey understands the conceptions I am talking about. He uses hesitations, changes in direction, changes in speed, and other moves to keep the defense honest. When he gets a screen, he can dance around it, teasing the defense with his 3-pt ability while still being in attack mode. He doesn't feel the need to force things. Pressey can slip in between the two pick and roll defenders or he can slowly attack the defense while remaining under control. When Pressey gets inside the arc, it doesn't mean a shot or a pass is coming within seconds. That is because he enters the lane under complete control and with numerous options in mind. Instead of barreling into the lane and have to make quick decisions, Pressey is able to toy with the defense while sizing them up. Being able to take his time, he can make much more efficient passes to his teammates, while also getting them more open since he holds onto the ball longer. He also is able to get much more efficient shots himself since he isn't going in at full speed. Some guys have the size that they could keep bad habits and just run into the lane and fire up floaters, but Pressey has learned from an early age that he must work to find good shots.

What am I getting at?

Well first, the pick and roll is obviously incredibly important and becomes an even bigger factor in the NBA. In the NBA, you absolutely have to know how to change speeds because every player is an excellent athlete. The guys in college who rely on athleticism are going to have big adjustments to make.

So the pick and roll is valuable and what makes you a good pick and roll player is the ability to change speeds. At least, it plays a big factor. And the pick and roll effects all parts of your game. It effects your passing and efficiency.

Look at the two top assists to turnover players from last year - Kendall Marshall and Scott Machado. It is no surprise that they were great passers and smart decision makers, but did you know they were also amongst the top players in 2-pt%?

Using DraftExpress's stat page, I took a look at the 16 point guards who made their top 100 draft prospect list from this past draft. Of those 16 guys, Machado, Marshall, and Dion Waiters were in the top 4 in both 2-pt% and assist to turnover ratio. Now Waiters is a great finisher so his 2-pt% is no surprise, but Machado and Marshall have always been regarded as average finishers at best.

It all comes down to the pick and roll game and changing speeds for them. Both of them play very under control and rarely have to put of forced shots. When they go into the lane, they have multiple options inside their head. It goes along with the idea of being a triple threat and a lot of guys don't present that ability off the dribble in the lane. So Marshall and Machado both are efficient inside scorers despite not being very explosive or even particularly good shooters.

It is no surprise they are also the two best passers. It is all about leaving their options open. 2-pt% and assists to turnover ratio go hand in hand for point guards.

There are a lot of variable that explains why the numbers don't always back this up, things like how Tyshawn Taylor is such a good 2-pt shooter while having a bad assist to turnover ratio. This can be explained by the athleticism and size thing. Even without great understanding of changing speeds, some ultra talented guys like Taylor can get by in the college game with elite size and athleticism. The opposite can be used to explain why my example, Phil Pressey, is only an average 2-pt shooter. He really isn't a very good finisher in traffic at all, but if he didn't understand how to get good looks and keep the defense on their heels, his 2-pt% would be at the bottom of the league.

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