The Passing Game – Paul vs. Collison

Published: February 22, 2010

There was some talk in comments of the Pacers recap that got me curious: Does the team, as a whole, pass the ball more when Paul is out of the lineup? There were two theories that suggested this: 1) With Paul in the game, players tend to wait around, waiting for him to make an entry pass. When Collison is running the point, players are more likely to work to help create their shot. 2) When Paul is running the point, he has the tendency to hold the ball for a prolonged period of time, waiting for something to happen. With Collison running point, the team is more likely to get the ball moving around the court, leading to more assists for other players (because they have more time on the shot clock to make a pass). I think both theories may hold some water. But I didn’t just want to rely on an eyeball check. 

To test theory 2, I looked at the APG numbers of the three non-guard starters and Posey with and without Paul. The theory here is that, when Paul is in the game, these players are most likely going to be scorers. They will work to get open, and Paul will find them with the pass. Without Paul, they will be asked to help contribute more in the passing game. Here are the results:

West APG w/ Paul (2.1) APG w/o Paul (3.6)

Okafor APG w/ Paul (.74) APG w/o Paul (.59)

Stojakovic APG w/ Paul (1.32) APG w/o Paul (2.2)

Posey APG w/ Paul (1.06) APG w/o Paul (2.4)

Everyone except Okafor has seen their APG totals rise with Collison as the starter (and since Paul was hurt the second time, Okafor has averaged 1 APG). This would seem to support the theory that the rest of the team has more time and inclination to pass when Paul is not in the lineup. This is in no way proof, just interesting.

The other statistic I looked at in comparing the passing game between Paul and Collison was their percentage of the team’s assists per game (Player’s Assist/Team Assists). Again, if Collison’s assist percentage is lower than Paul’s, it would seem that the team looks to move the ball around a lot more when Collison is in the game. Below you’ll find my results. Because Collison has played much better in his second stint as a starter than he did in his first, I’ve also posted the splits between his two starting stints.

Paul APG: 11.6 Assist Percentage: 54%

Collison (Total) APG: 8.17 Assist Percentage: 35%

Collison (11/14-12/1) APG:6.36 Assist Percentage: 28%

Collison (1/30-2/21) APG: 9.78 Assist Percentage: 40%


I’ll leave y’all to draw your own conclusions here.

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