2×2’s and You: A Comparison of Assist and Turnover Ratios Among Point Guards

If you have ever taken even the most basic of business classes in your life, there’s about a 95% chance you have come across the classic 2×2 matrix. Used often in the consulting world, these matrixes are used in order to demonstrate relationships between data points and used to make decisions based on how the points compare to the average.

In this week’s installment of 2×2’s and You, we’ll be taking a look at two advanced statistics that reflect the skills an ideal point guard possesses. As the trigger man of the offense, you want your point guard to put other players on the floor in position to score. You also want him to take care of the ball by not turning it over. However, merely looking at assists per game and turnovers per game does not tell the full story. Therefore, we’ll be using Assist Ratio and Turnover Ratio as our metrics. Quick introduction (or refresher) on these statistics:

Assist Ratio is defined as the percentage of a player’s possessions that ends in an assist. The formulation is as follows: (Assists x 100) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44) + Assists + Turnovers]

Turnover Ratio is defined as the percentage of a player’s possessions that end in a turnover. The formulation is as follows: (Turnovers x 100) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44) + Assists + Turnovers]

Note: All numbers courtesy of John Hollinger and are accurate through February 8, 2012.

For simplicity’s sake, we will only be looking at the starting point guard for all 30 teams in the league.

Top Left Quadrant: This was by far the most deceptive quadrant. Classically, this would be the quadrant that you wouldn’t want your point guard to fall into as it contains those PGs with an above average Turnover Ratio and below average Assist Ratio. However, when we look at the names of the players that fall into this quadrant, it is important to look at the roles these players must assume on their particular teams. Of the seven players in the quadrant, five of them (Curry, Douglas, Irving, Wall, and Williams) play on teams that are under .500 while Chalmers and Westbrook man the point position on two of the top three teams in the league. Many of these players’ roles on their respective teams are to be scorers rather than distributors. In fact, Westbrook (2nd), Williams (3rd), Irving (7th), Curry (9th), and Wall (10th) all rank among the top ten PGs in the league in points per game. As a result, they will be looking to handle and shoot the ball rather than pass which leads to an increased turnover rate and decreased assist ratio.

Bottom Left Quadrant: This is essentially the previous quadrant on a more efficient scale. Here we’re looking at below average Turnover and Assist Ratios. Players here are typically pure scorers; in fact, of the five players that are in the top ten in scoring among PGs and who didn’t fall into the top left quadrant, Rose (1st), Jennings (4th), Parker (6th), and Evans (8th) are contained here.  Unless Rose goes on an absolute tear and LeBron stops having one of the most insane statistical seasons we have ever seen, he won’t repeat as Most Valuable Player. When healthy, he has done an admirable job of taking over a game and scoring when he needs to in order to will the Bulls to victory. We saw it so often all last year, particularly in the Bulls-Pacers first round matchup, and Rose has been able to continue his strong work this season.

Bottom Right Quadrant: Breaking news alert: Chris Paul is really, really good. CP3 was the only top ten scoring point guard to register an above average Assist Ratio and below average Turnover Ratio. In other words, he is the complete package. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that has seen Paul play this year, or ever for that matter, but sometimes it’s just nice to see when the numbers back up the “eye test” as well. Jose Calderon meanwhile is quietly having a solid year despite being on a poor Raptors team. Calderon is averaging 8.3 APG and shooting just under 91% from the free throw line while running an offense that does not have many offensive weapons. The fact that he currently holds the highest Assist Ratio among any PG in the league is impressive to say the least.

Top Right Quadrant: You could call this the prototypical point guard quadrant. Despite technically having played enough to qualify, Kidd appears to be an outlier in this quadrant with ridiculously high Turnover and Assist Ratios.  It comes as no surprise to see Nash and Rondo here as they represent two PGs known for their tremendous court vision and passing ability.  As the window continues to close exceedingly fast on Boston’s title window, Rondo needs to continue distributing the ball to the rest of the Big Three and others while simultaneously knowing when and how to take over games when needed. As long as Danny Ainge holds onto Rondo, he is going to be the future in Boston. Knowing this, it is going to be imperative that he refines his game in order to reduce his turnovers as his career evolves. Rondo’s turnovers per game has increased every year since he’s been in the league going from 1.8 per game in his rookie 226-07 campaign to 3.8 per game this season. His turnovers per 36 minutes have also increased every year since his sophomore season from 2.3 to 3.8 this year. It’s not to the point where it is setting off alarm bells in the Boston area, but it may if it continues on this trend.


Eric Maroun

Eric is a born and bred Cleveland sports fan who is convinced that if given the gift of immortality, he still would not see a Cavs title in his lifetime. He currently resides in Indianapolis where he gets to see the Pacers exist in basketball purgatory.