Last summer the Rockets went in search of a new point guard. The team traded for Mike James. They drafted Aaron Brooks. They signed Steve Francis. And they hoped someone would take Rafer Alston off their hands. But after 68 games this season, Alston not only remains on the team, he has started every game he has played.
Although the Rockets could not make a change at point guard, the perception of their point guard is somewhat different. After this team won 22 consecutive games, Alston was suddenly considered part of the solution in Houston. But has anything really changed?
Entering the 2007-08 season, Alston had played eight seasons with four different franchises. His career Wins Produced stood at 28.2. His WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes] was 0.104, which is virtually the same as the mark of an average player (0.100). In sum, Alston was average.
When we look at the individual stats – reported in Table One – we see why Alston should be thought of as average. Of the 12 statistics reported, Alston in 2007-08 is below average on six (and above average on six). When he is above average, though, he isn’t far above. Likewise, he’s not truly bad at anything either.
When we look at last year we see that Alston was a bit worse. But in 2004-05 – when he played in Toronto – he was a bit better than this season. In sum, Alston is capable of being a bit below average. And he’s capable of being a bit above average. But all in all, it is best to think of Alston as just average.
Now average is “not bad.” In other words, there are many below average players in the NBA, and Alston is not in that group. Of course, there are also many above average , or “good” players. Average Alston ain’t in that group either.
The Rockets 22 game win streak ended against the Boston Celtics. This is not surprising, since the Celtics are the best team (in terms of record and efficiency differential) in the NBA.
Everyone understands that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are the top two talents on this team. Of the team’s 56.2 Wins Produced, 25.5 come from KG and Pierce. But who is the leader of the rest? If you answered Ray Allen, you should right now be hearing the game show buzzer in your ear.
Allen is certainly having a good year [0.166 WP48]. But the third most productive player on this roster is actually the Remarkable Rajon Rondo. Prior to Thursday night’s game against the Mavericks, Rondo had produced 8.2 wins and posted a 0.204 WP48.
When the Celtics faced the Rockets on Tuesday night, though, Rondo’s claim to fame was a rather weak fight he got into with Rafer Alston. And although I am going from memory on this one, I think it was argued that Rondo was trying to fight Alston so that both players would get tossed. In other words, people were arguing that the Rockets losing Alston would be a bigger deal than the Celtics going without Rondo.
If you look at the final column of Table One, though, you will see that this argument doesn’t seem to fit the data. Rondo is not just as good as Alston. I think the numbers say he is better. In terms of shooting efficiency, both are pretty similar. Rondo, though, is better on the boards and he gets more steals. Consequently, Remarkable Rondo is a more productive player.
Last year people thought the point guard position in Houston was a problem. Although the starting point guard is the same, people now see Alston as a positive. In reality, Alston really hasn’t changed much. What has changed is the team’s success (and consequently the view people have of Average Alston).
In Boston, the point guard position is also considered a liability. And despite the team’s success, I think that perception lingers. People seem to think that Garnett, Pierce, and Allen succeed despite poor play at the point. In reality, Rondo is a very productive point guard and a key to the team’s rise to the top of the league.
Of course, although Rondo is a “good” basketball player, he still isn’t much of a fighter. And this might be a good thing, since bad fighters tend to avoid getting tossed for mixing it up with other players.
Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.
Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:
Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.