Average Guards Galore

Published: September 25, 2014

It’s that time!  Training Camp is around the corner.  The Pelicans are about to embark on another rough and tumble slog through a Western Conference that has more titans than Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Destiny, and Mecha Anime combined.

The Pelicans arrive on the scene with their own trio of giants in Asik, Davis and Anderson that should provide a storm of complimentary skills capable matching any frontcourt they could face.  The only questions about that unit that remain are “Is Anderson Healthy?” and “Will Anthony Davis Marry me?”

The big name backcourt trio is another story.  These guys are going to have 36 million of Tom Benson’s dollars lavished on them, and in return are required to be the fuel for that fine, fine frontcourt motor.  Yet I don’t have a clue if they are worth it.  I can point to a lot of promising signs.  Tyreke Evans was phenomenal after the all-star break, living on a steady diet of unstoppable drives to the rim.  Eric Gordon regained the shooting stroke that made him so highly paid and stayed healthy until the season was out of reach.  Jrue Holiday is a freakin’ former all-star, hit some big shots, and showed moments of brilliance as an off-the-dribble shooter and defender.

There is one nagging question however, I can’t get away from.

Are they anything more than average NBA guards?

This comes up because I’m putting together a projection for the team, and using analytics like PER, RAPM, Win Shares, and WP48 to try to come up with an estimate.  Guess what.  Most of those measures rate our trio of guards as pretty ordinary dudes.  No, not bad.  Just ordinary.

Take Jrue Holiday, for instance.  Over the past couple years, Jrue has been between 5 and 15% better than an average NBA point guard in the following categories: Rebound rate, Assist Rate, Blocks rate, Steals rate.  He’s been 5 to 15% below average in eFG%, TS%, Free throw Attempts, Three point makes and turnover rate.  So . . . a guy who will help in a bunch of categories, but not much of an efficient scorer.

Tyreke Evans is in the same boat.  Compared to NBA Shooting Guards, he is above average in assist rate, rebound rate, block rate, free throw attempts and steals rate.  He is below average in eFG%, TS% and turnovers.  Production-wise, he’d essentially be the shooting guard Jrue Holiday if the sheer number of Free throws he generates didn’t make him slightly more efficient overall than an average shooting guard.  Slightly.

Lastly, we have Eric Gordon, who is the opposite of his backcourt mates.  He’s above average in eFG%, TS%, and Free throw attempts.  He’s below average at rebound rate, assist rate, turnover rate, block rate, and steals rate.  So while he’s more efficient than your average guard scoring, he contributes nearly nothing anywhere else.  Net: average.

So what do you do with that?  Production-wise, you end up with a trio of pretty average dudes.  Do we still point to their age and say “They’ll improve?”  The standard production trajectory of an NBA player peaks during ages 24-25. (Good god.  Davis is 21.)  All three of these guys are 24 or 25.  Is average their peak then?  For some players, you could point to their defense to classify them as a better than average player – but the Pelicans were awful defensively last year.  Not much proof of this.

So what do you guys think.  Is average a fair label?  If Dell Demps’ gambles on young veteran guards produces mostly average players is that a success for you?  An all average team should win 41 games, remember!  Right?

Does it even matter?  Couldn’t average be good enough if you have Anthony Davis?


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