The 3-point Assist

My favorite box score stats in basketball is by far the 3-point shot.

It’s hard to not like the 3-pointer as a Warriors fan. Teams live and die by the 3, and the Warriors have died by the 3 way too many times. Until last season of course.

From a fan’s perspective the 3-pointer is brilliant for many reasons:

  • That moment of silence as the crowd silently watches the ball sail in (or out) of the basket is one of those reasons.
  • The feeling of knowing that a 3 is going in the second the ball leaves a player’s fingers is another reason.
  • 3-pointers are the only way an otherwise un-athletic NBA player can get the crowd pumped up.
  • Throwing your hand(s) up with the 3 sign during the shot and then having the ball go in is one the best feelings as a fan and it makes you feel like a wizard.
  • 3 goggles are awesome.

But the NBA loves the 3-point shot because it gives them another point, and as players become better shooters and coaches become better at drawing up plays for 3-pointers, 3-point shooting may very well be the future of basketball.

If you have not heart of effective field goal percentage, you should look it up. It’s one of the easier ‘advanced’ states to grasp, because it is not advanced. A flaw of the effective field goal percentage is that a miss is still a miss. I don’t have the statistics, but at least from what basketball coaches believe, certain misses (i.e. a missed corner 3) are more costly than others, because not all teams have good transition defense.

Well how about the effective assist? A LeBron kickout to Ray Allen is worth more than a Chris Paul lob to Blake Griffin, and does not mask the fact that people are still missing shots, even if the net points are the same.

Thanks to the Event Finder at Basketball-Reference, I was able to compile a list of each team’s assist-to-3-pointer leaders. Do you want to guess who led the league last year?

  1. LeBron James – 196
  2. James Harden – 188
  3. Chris Paul – 185
  4. Raymond Felton – 180
  5. Tony Parker – 170
  6. Damian Lillard – 168
  7. Greivis Vasquez – 165
  8. Jrue Holiday – 164
  9. Jeff Teague – 158
  10. Jeremy Lin – 158

In terms of Assist-to-3-pointer per game, the leaders are…

  1. Raymond Felton – 2.65
  2. Chris Paul – 2.64
  3. LeBron James – 2.58
  4. Tony Parker – 2.58
  5. James Harden – 2.41
  6. John Wall – 2.41
  7. Rajon Rondo – 2.16
  8. Greivis Vasquez – 2.10
  9. Jrue Holiday – 2.10
  10. Damian Lillard – 2.05

The stat above is a true testament to the greatness of LeBron. He creates 7.74 points a game off passing to his 3-point shooters.

So this is a very simple effective assist stat. Kind of similar to effective field goal percentage, I weigh the assist-to-3-pointers differently.

The Effective Assist = Assists-to-2-pointers + 1.5*Assists-to-3-pointers

And (drumroll…) your effective assist leaders from 2012-2013 are (with the boost they received in parenthesis

  1. Rajon Rondo – 12.13 (+1.08)
  2. Chris Paul – 11.01 (+1.32)
  3. Greivis Vasquez – 10.08 (+1.06)
  4. Jrue Holiday – 9.06 (+1.05)
  5. Tony Parker – 8.85 (+1.29)
  6. John Wall – 8.82 (+1.20)
  7. Deron Williams – 8.69 (+0.95)
  8. LeBron James – 8.54 (+1.29)
  9. Russell Westbrook – 8.23 (+0.83)
  10. Jeff Teague – 8.23 (+0.99)

I guess the big takeaway from this is to see which NBA players are better at finding 3-point shooters. I’m positive that NBA teams have this type of information, especially with how advanced and how much attention that sports analytics/video-tracking services like SportsVU and Synergy Stats have gotten, but here’s some stuff that every NBA fan can see.

Some other lists I’ve compiled that I thought were interesting.

Highest proportion of assists-to-3-pointers AKA “I’m not a playmaker per se, but if my teammate is open from 3 I’ll hit him up”

  1. Carmelo Anthony – 0.58 (100/171)
  2. Raymond Felton – 0.48 (180/372)
  3. J.R. Smith – 0.47 (103/218)
  4. Al Horford – 0.47 (113/240)
  5. LaMarcus Aldridge – 0.47 (90/192)
  6. Joe Johnson – 0.47 (118/253)
  7. Demar DeRozan – 0.46 (94/204)
  8. Pablo Prigioni – 0.46 (108/236)
  9. David Lee – 0.46 (127/279)
  10. James Harden – 0.41 (188/455)

Note the 4 New York Knickerbockers in the top 10. This is very significant and will probably be what I’ll talk about in my next article. I think it’s funny how if Melo is passing you the ball you are probably behind the 3-point line.

Here are the big men with the highest assists-to-3-pointers averages, AKA “I’m too soft to finish this play on my own”

  1. David Lee (1.61)
  2. Josh Smith (1.57)
  3. Al Horford (1.53)
  4. Pau Gasol (1.31)
  5. Blake Griffin (1.30)

I was initially confused by why the Rockets were in pursuit of Josh Smith, but I’m sure Morey and the rest of the Rockets organization were well aware of this statistic that Josh Smith was the second highest assist-to-3-pointer big man in the league.

This stat also makes David Lee one of the more intriguing big men in the league, and I will probably revisit the case of David Lee again, because I once wrote an article saying that the Warriors were better off without David Lee going forward in the playoffs, which in some ways they were.

The final stat I am going to present today is the total points generated stat, now with assist numbers that have context.

Points Generated – Total Points + 2*Assists-to-2-pointers + 3*Assists-to-3-pointers

Without further ado

Points Generated per Game

  1. LeBron James – 43.87
  2. Kobe Bryant – 41.35
  3. James Harden – 40.01
  4. Russell Westbrook – 39.67
  5. Kevin Durant – 39.26
  6. Chris Paul – 38.96
  7. Stephen Curry – 38.04
  8. Tony Parker – 38.02
  9. Rajon Rondo – 38.00
  10. Deron Williams – 36.31

Again LeBron James is a god. This stat has an obvious bias towards 3-point shooting, but every team in the league should be concerned with improving 3-point shooting.

Points Generated per 36

  1. Chris Paul – 42.04
  2. LeBron James – 41.72
  3. Tony Parker – 41.55
  4. Russell Westbrook – 40.93
  5. John Wall – 39.78
  6. Kobe Bryant – 38.53
  7. James Harden – 37.64
  8. Kyrie Irving – 36.79
  9. Kevin Durant – 36.70
  10. Rajon Rondo – 36.53

If you switched LeBron and Paul and asked me to list the 10 best all-around offensive players in the league, this would be close, and yes I know a lot of people are ahead of Durant, including Westbrook.

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