Breaking down the top 10 point guards of the efficiency era
The 2010-11 season was an exceptional one for scoring point guards: Jimmermania swept the nation, Kemba Walker led UConn's improbable run to the national title, and the criminally underappreciated Jordan Taylor had stat-heads marveling over his high-efficiency efforts at Wisconsin.
The exploits of the Taylor-Walker-Fredette trio made me curious enough to research that question, and build a database of the best offensive Value Add performances of the past nine seasons. (Because '02-03 is the first season in which full possession-based stats are available, including defensive strength of schedule, which Pudner's formula adjusts for, I had to start with that campaign.) Over the next three days I'll look at the top performances by point guards, shooting guards/wings and bigs, breaking down the top 10 overall players, as well as the top seasons by national title winners and one-and-done phenoms.
Pudner's Value Add formula is weighted to favor ironmen who logged massive minutes, and used a lot of their team's possessions, but efficiency (both in scoring and limiting turnovers) is still paramount. For example: Recently crowned NBA champ J.J. Berea, who used an insane 38.7 percent of Northeastern's possessions in '04-05 -- the highest usage rate among future pro point guards in my database -- but only had an offensive rating of 103.1 against mediocre defenses, didn't come anywhere near the top 10. Berea's Value Add percentage was just 2.63.
My countdown of the top 10 Value Add seasons by a point guard begins with a diminutive point guard who was far more efficient than the mini-Mav was in college:
Lawson's third (and final) season with the national champ Tar Heels was so brilliant that he cracked this list despite missing three games with a toe injury, and averaging less than 30 minutes per contest due to Carolina's breakneck tempo. He's the only point guard in the top 10 who played fewer than 85 percent of his team's minutes. His 134.3 offensive rating -- the highest in my database -- was an indication that he'd be an excellent sleeper pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
As much as college basketball is an impatient sport, rushing its young stars into the spotlight, it's hard to become a high-usage, high-efficiency point guard overnight, as indicated by the fact that Augustin is the only underclassman in the top 10. Texas retired Kevin Durant's number after his one-and-done career, but his Class of 2006 mate, Augustin, stuck around to have a monster sophomore campaign and lead the Longhorns to the Elite Eight.
Would you believe that The Jimmer is the only Wooden/Naismith award winner on this list? He's also the only player from a non-BCS conference to appear; Stephen Curry's one season as Davidson's point guard, in '08-09, came close, with a Value Add of 6.02 percent, ranking him 29th.
Diener toiled on a few average Golden Eagles teams after going to the Final Four with Dwyane Wade as his shooting guard. As good as Diener's junior year for a 19-12 Marquette squad was, his senior season, with a 127.5 offensive ratio and similar usage, was better -- but it was cut short after 23 games due to a broken left hand. Had he stayed healthy, would Dienermania have swept the Midwest?
Lucas knew how to pick his spots, as he has the distinction of being the only player on this list with a usage rate under 22 percent. He was overshadowed on the '04-05 Cowboys by future first-rounder Joey Graham, but the undersized point guard was the true driving force behind their campaign to earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Walker obviously had more value than this formula indicates -- there's nothing built in to measure clutch shots, or ability to lead an inexperienced team through an NCAA tournament -- but his stats look good on their own. Would you believe, though, that he's not the most statistically valuable national-champ point guard of the efficiency era?
Harris' last Badgers team is somewhat forgotten due to its second-round exit from the NCAA tournament, in which it was inexplicably given a No. 6 seed. But Bo Ryan's second-greatest point guard had a stellar junior season, becoming one of just four floor generals in my database to crack the prestigious 120/90/27 club (120-plus offensive rating, 90-plus percent minutes played, 27-plus percent possessions used). It's like the 30-30 club in baseball, except no one's ever heard of it.
During Scheyer's swan song with the Blue Devils, Coach K would often talk about how well his senior point guard "valued" the ball on every possession. That was a highly accurate descriptor, as Scheyer ranks as the top national-champ point guard, in terms of Value Add. In retrospect, the fact that he lost out to Maryland's Greivis Vasquez for both ACC Player of the Year and the Cousy Award seems like a shame. Vasquez's Value Add that season was just 5.68 percent, which ranked 40th.
Taylor's junior year wasn't just excellent in the context of his '10-11 peers; it has to be regarded as one of the best seasons of the past decade. I asked Pudner if the Value Add formula unfairly favors players on downtempo teams (and Wisconsin is among the slowest of the slow), since stars on up-tempo teams generally can't play as many minutes, but Punder disagreed. He argued that Bo Ryan, by playing at that speed and keeping his great point guards (Harris and Taylor) on the floor for nearly the whole game, maximizes their value. That's yet another reason Ryan is one of the best coaches of this era.
In Bell's final season at BC, the Eagles went 19-12 and lost in the second round of the NIT -- a lackluster finish that made his herculean efforts get overlooked in the annals of college hoops. While he didn't have the coach or the supporting cast to chase a national title, Bell was an unstoppable scoring point who rarely took a break. His NBA career didn't pan out (to the extent that
Scheyer, Walker and Lawson appeared on the above list, but this is a full ranking of the national title-winning point guards from 2003-2011, according to Value Add. (If you want to call Ben Gordon a point guard for UConn, he had a 6.34% Value Add in '03-04, but I considered Taliek Brown to be the Huskies' clear point man that season.)
1. 9.11%: Jon Scheyer, Duke, 2009-10 (Sr.)
2. 8.29%: Kemba Walker, UConn, 2010-11 (Jr.)
3. 7.55%: Ty Lawson, North Carolina, 2008-09 (Jr.)
4. 5.34%: Mario Chalmers, Kansas, 2007-08 (Jr.)
5. 4.41%: Gerry McNamara, Syracuse, 2002-03 (Fr.)
6. 4.28%: Raymond Felton, North Carolina, 2004-05 (Jr.)
7. 4.26%: Taurean Green, Florida, 2006-07 (Jr.)
8. 3.41%: Taurean Green, Florida, 2005-06 (Soph.)
9. 1.65%: Taliek Brown, UConn, 2003-04 (Sr.)
Since not a single freshman made the overall top 10, I decided to calculate ratings for the relevant one-and-done point guards from 2007-2011. (O.J. Mayo was not USC's full-time point guard, but I've included him here anyway, because it's interesting that he had more Value Add than the trio of Calipari point guards, who were perceived to have better freshman seasons.)
1. 5.33%: Mike Conley Jr., Ohio State, 2006-07
2. 4.67%: O.J. Mayo, USC, 2007-08
3. 4.17%: Derrick Rose, Memphis, 2007-08
4. 4.07%: John Wall, Kentucky, 2009-10
5. 4.03%: Brandon Knight, Kentucky, 2010-11
6. 3.42%: Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech, 2006-07
7. 2.10%: Tyreke Evans, Memphis, 2008-09