With the combine and lottery behind us, preparations for the 2016 NBA Draft will be building towards a fevered pitch. This is the time of year when every potential prospect is dissected by every element of their physical profile and resume of performance. NBA teams take all sorts of different approaches to finding the right player to select — some adhere to the philosophy of best player available, while others are looking for the best player to fit a specific roster need.
Several teams could use help at the point guard position but, other than maybe Kris Dunn, this draft class’ crop of floor generals seems to offer as many questions as answers. There is plenty of talent but, beyond Dunn, no one is quite overwhelming enough to be selected on the strength of innate talent alone. Fit is going to come into play quite a bit in determining who goes where, which is why I thought it might be a good idea to try and parse out some of the stylistic differences between this year’s point guard prospects.
To do that, I’ve adapted Seth Partnow’s Point Guard Personality Test. The idea is to measure point guards on four different spectrums of offensive style. It is a wonderful tool for understanding how a point guard plays, not necessarily how good they might be — which makes answering questions about player fit a great application.
The four stylistic traits covered are shoot first vs. pass first, floor spacing, driving vs. probing, and level of involvement. Seth’s original work used some SportVU data which is not available for college basketball, so our measures are a little more rudimentary. To measure a point guard’s propensity for shooting or passing first, we can take a simple ratio of their true shot attempts (shot attempts plus trips to the free throw line) and assists. For floor spacing ability, we use a player’s three-point attempts per 100 possessions. For a player’s level of involvement (think of this as how much responsibility they have for running the offense), we look at plays involved (true shot attempts plus turnovers plus assists) per 100 possessions. To measure a player’s propensity for driving vs. probing, we look at their non-transition two-point shot attempts as a ratio of shots at the rim to mid-range jumpers.
With that data we can plot each player’s mark on four axes and we can see a graphic representation of how they play the point guard position.
The data I’ve used is only for the 12 prospects here, so they’re comparisons on each axis are only to the other 11 point guards. It is possible that if we included all Division I point guards some of the players might look more or less extreme in some of these stylistic categories. Still, we get a fairly clear picture of the similarities and differences of this group.
The two most stylistically similar players in the grouping are Yogi Ferrell and Melo Trimble, both of whom are fairly well-rounded and sit near the middle of the spectrum in all four categories. Another interesting comparison are teammates Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe from the University of Kentucky. Ulis shows up as a highly involved floor-spacer, he’s also much more likely to look to set up his teammates or settle for a jumper when looking for his own shot in the half-court. Briscoe is almost the polar opposite, shoot first and attacking the rim relentlessly.
Kris Dunn is likely to be the first player selected from this group and while his talent may be unique, his style isn’t necessarily. Both Wade Baldwin IV and Kay Felder look similar, with Felder offering a little more floor spacing and Baldwin looking to drive a little more often than Dunn.
It’s important to remember that none of these styles are explicitly tied to positive or negative results. Look around the NBA and you can find point guards of all different varieties helping their teams in enormous ways. Stylistically, there is very little that connects Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook, but they have each helped lift their teams to the Conference Finals by leveraging different skill sets. Pairing these point guard personality graphs with an understanding of the player’s efficiency and overall statistical profile, their physical profiles, and all the other pieces of accumulated scouting information just helps to offer a slightly more detailed picture of what they might be at the next level.