Looking At Rookies on Ziller's Pure Point Scale

The following is an independent work based off of the previous work done by Tom Ziller for BallHype.com.  While Ghostface Ziller was kind enough to provide me with the resources for this analysis, he was not involved in this project, nor does this column present any data he supports. I'm basically piggybacking off of his hard work.

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"Derrick Rose is not a pure point! I'm going to kick the next guy that says that in the nuts!"

This was me about three weeks before the draft, screaming at Corn in a Winston-Salem bar.  ESPN was having a little draft preview segment and I caught the words on the subtitles and immediately started freaking out.

This isn't a criticism of Rose, in fact, some might consider it a compliment.

Particularly when you start to look at Tom Ziller's BallHype Ballad for the Combo Guard.

In short, Ziller's analysis measures "pure" point guard tendencies and "impure" point guard tendencies, and creates a metric, which is then translated to a 100 point scale to analyze a guard's "purity." This scale isn't an efficiency scale like PER or even a Pure Point scale like Hollingers', which rewards assist tendencies as a positive metric.  Basically, it looks at the tendencies of NBA point guards without putting value judgments on them. It's descriptive, not good or bad. I cannot stress this enough, because it's easy to get caught up in that when you start looking at numbers. You have to examine it as a descriptive look at relative skills, not an analysis of how good or bad a player is at passing.

The result puts Kidd, Nash, and Calderon at the top, and Barbosa, Terry, and Ellis at the bottom.  So it passes the common sense tense.  What's interesting is where the Bulls' guards lie.

On the scale, seen here, Hinrich ends up as a 56, which is on the far end of combo guards, right on the cusp of pass-first guards. Gordon is, predictably, much lower, ranking in at about a 21 for last season, as well as his career. But that's Gordon's job, as a primary scorer.

But it got me thinking.  Where would Rose ift on this scale? Was I completely nuts in my perception that Rose's game focused on transition baskets and that he was much more of a scoring force than he was an assist passer? It's not that I think Rose isn't an all-world talent, it's that I'm concerned about his career being hurt by the Bulls trying to make him into something he's not.

What I wondered was where the rookies would end up on this scale.

After obtaining the necessary formulas from Mr. Ziller, I decided to compare the players based on their last year in college.  Now, this is a messy comparison, I'm in no way denying that.  You could choose to take their total college statistics, or just the freshmen years (a highly valuable comparison), or a differential-based projection of their rookie seasons based on previous cases (a dangerous projection I'm not willing to make).  I settled on their final year of college because I felt it best represented where they were when they entered the NBA.  This is an exploratory study, not a formal one.  If further work is going to be done on this, a comparison of both this metric and the comparative seasons is advisable.

So I took five point guards in the NBA, and analyzed their last years in college on the purity scale.  I decided to look at Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Baron Davis.

Here's how they shake out.

Player Purity Purity Scale
Jason Kidd .173 67
Deron Williams .118 62
Chris Paul .066 57
Steve Nash -.061 44
Baron Davis -.102 40

Now, the Purity Scale is only if you extrapolate them onto an average of NBA players, not college players.  So, if anyone's got some time and wants to develop a baseline average for college basketball players across time, that would be awesome.  For now, we're just looking at where they were coming into the season, so the second column, purity, is really the important analysis. Since this isn't a value based tool, but a descriptive tool, the third column can be used to look at comparisons between players in comparison to where they end up in the NBA.

Outside of Nash, who of course was a bit of a late bloomer as far as his passing prowess, this seems to match up with our conceptions. 

Now let's take a look at the rooks. I started with Rose, Mayo, Gordon, Bayless, Augustin, and Westbrook.  I threw in Chalmers later after his summer league performance and the needs of Miami, specifically.

Player Purity Pure Point Scale
Mario Chalmers -.014 49
Russell Westbrook -.099 40
Derrick Rose -.105 39
D.J. Augustin -.127 37
Jerryd Bayless -.210 29

OJ Mayo

-.284 22

Eric Gordon

-.322 18


So if we look at this, it's clear that the idea of Mayo running point may be a dangerous idea.  Rose is right about in the middle, which makes sense, and Augustin is considerably lower than you would anticipate him being.  Bayless is another player that if you look at this, the coaching proclamations about forching him to play point may be trying to put a square peg in a round hole.  Oh, and Russell Westbrook is in a pretty nice spot.  Let's look at the two lists together.

Player Purity Pure Point Scale
Jason Kidd .173 67
Deron Williams .118 62
Chris Paul .066 57
Mario Chalmers -.014 49
Steve Nash -.061 44
Russell Westbrook -.099 40
Baron Davis -.102 40
Derrick Rose -.105 39
DJ Augustin -.127 37
Jerryd Bayless -.210 29
OJ Mayo -.284 22
Eric Gordon -.322 18

First off, you'll notice that most of the first round draft picks are more scorers than pure points.  Also, Jason Kidd is freakishly pure, not only in the pros, but college as well.  Also, Deron Williams is a pretty pass oriented guy.  We've been looking at the Heat and saying they need to find a guy to complement Dwyane Wade. Well, as far as skill set goes, not skill value, but skill set, Mario Chalmers is what they're looking for. Ditto for OKC and Westbrook. Hope the Bobcats are looking for a scorer, and dear Lord, despite what Corn tries to tell me, if this analysis has any validity whatsoever, don't let Eric Gordon go near the point guard position. 

Now, of course, you've got to look at growth potential. Nash of course made an atmospheric jump on this scale, but so did several other players, and that's just in this limited analysis. So, while any good statistician will tell you that any metric is merely one way of looking at the game, this is a particularly narrow look.  This is like looking at the Sears Tower in pitch black with a flashlight.  While it does provide us with some interesting concepts, it also must be taken with a considerably large grain of salt. I'm not saying this to backpeddle on the research, but there's a reason I'm not posting this on APBR, you know?  I think it's interesting, not predictive.

So that leads us back to our original question that led me to pursue this little endeavor.  Where does Rose fit in with the Bulls? With Gordon as low on the scale professionally, and Hinrich as mid to high, looking at those two's college numbers should produce a similar result which will validate me and let me gloat, right?

Oh, hell.

Take a look at the three.

Player Purity Pure Point Scale
Derrick Rose -.105 39
Ben Gordon -.183 32
Kirk Hinrich -.225 27

Well, ain't that a doozy.  So Hinrich goes from a 27 to a 56, while Gordon goes from a 32 to a career 21.  And Rose is more of a pure point than either of them.  A bunch of ideas spring to mind here.  One is the effect of coaching on players.  The second is that Rose could end up going either way.  He could move more towards a negative purity (which is not bad, but more scoring oriented) and be the primary scorer the Bulls have been looking for.  Or he could focus more on his passing talents and become more of a pure point than Hinrich is.  Right now, this only shows that Rose is more of a centric guard on the scale than either of the main Chicago guards.

So to sum up, while this analysis is not meant to be predictive in any sense, it does illustrate the strengths of the rookies in comparison to other elite guards upon their entry to the NBA.  Further development might help to present a more accurate view point and provide a predictive scale for purity, but that's certainly a task better left to those more capable in statistical analysis than I. The realities are that the pure point scale analysis provides a descriptive tactic for examining the strengths of players upon entry to the NBA, and helps us to understand where they were at this particular point in time. It'll be interesting to compare rookie years of this year's crop with the rest of the guards discussed here in a year.

Special thanks to Tom Ziller for his assistance with this work, i.e. the actually hard work.

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