Another Measure of Player Importance

Last week, I talked at some length about how vital Dwyane Wade was to the Miami Heat‘s offense this season. We quantified his importance using a number of different metrics — % of team shots taken while on the floor, touches per minute, etc. — before finally settling on his possession %, the rate of team possessions he uses (through scoring, passing, rebounding, and turning the ball over) while he’s on the court. And as it turned out, Wade’s possession % was on pace to be the best ever (and it still is; in fact, he’s raised it to 37.2% now).

Those aren’t the only ways to quantify a player’s necessity to his team, though. Here’s an old-school metric that can give us another look at who’s been indispensable to his team’s offense: the % of team buckets he played a direct role in. In other words, take a player’s FG, add his assists, and divide by team FG. It’s a simple but fairly effective way to see which players are playing a huge role in their team’s offensive gameplan, which is nice if you’re perusing the boxscores in the morning and you have neither the time nor the inclination to calculate some of the more arcane metrics we used in the original D-Wade post. Anyway, here are the 2008-09 leaders so far (through Saturday’s games):

Player          Tm      G       FG      AST     tmFG    %TmFG
Chris Paul      NOH     19      131     229     672     53.6%
Dwyane Wade     MIA     22      226     160     809     47.7%
LeBron James    CLE     24      223     154     910     41.4%
BaRon Davis     LAC     22      150     177     839     39.0%
Joe Johnson     ATL     23      194     121     809     38.9%
Derrick Rose    CHI     23      172     145     849     37.3%
Brandon Roy     POR     25      197     129     910     35.8%
Vince Carter    NJN     22      172     105     791     35.0%
Jose Calderon   TOR     20      85      183     781     34.3%
Raymond Felton  CHA     24      120     144     787     33.5%
Caron Butler    WAS     21      166     91      777     33.1%
Kobe Bryant     LAL     22      196     93      882     32.8%
Devin Harris    NJN     19      137     117     791     32.1%
Andre Miller    PHI     24      133     144     866     32.0%
Steve Nash      PHO     21      112     177     911     31.7%

Wade may be consuming possessions at a record pace, but CP3 is breaking some records of his own this season. That 53.6% mark would actually be the highest in NBA history, surpassing Tiny Archibald’s record 53.5% rate in 1972-73 (the year Archibald famously led the league in scoring and assists). Here are the rest of the all-time single-season leaders:

Player		Year	Tm	FG	Ast	tmFG	%tmFG
Tiny Archibald	1973	KCO	1028	910	3621	53.5%
John Stockton	1991	UTA	496	1164	3214	51.6%
John Stockton	1989	UTA	497	1118	3182	50.8%
Chris Paul	2008	NOH	630	925	3164	49.1%
Oscar Robertson	1964	CIN	840	868	3516	48.6%
John Stockton	1990	UTA	472	1134	3330	48.2%
LeBron James	2006	CLE	875	521	2908	48.0%
Oscar Robertson	1965	CIN	807	861	3482	47.9%
Gary Payton	1999	SEA	401	436	1756	47.7%
Gary Payton	2000	SEA	747	732	3108	47.6%
Jason Kidd	1999	PHO	310	539	1797	47.2%
W. Chamberlain	1964	SFW	1204	403	3407	47.2%
Gary Payton	2002	SEA	737	737	3131	47.1%
Michael Jordan	1989	CHI	966	650	3448	46.9%
John Stockton	1992	UTA	453	1126	3379	46.7%

It’s also worth noting that Wade’s 47.7% mark would also rank among the best of all-time, so we’re really getting a chance to witness two players have historic seasons in this regard so far in ’08-09. And remember, they’re not just ball-hogs, either — both have Offensive Ratings that are well above average (Paul’s is actually the league’s 3rd-highest among regulars, despite the heavy workload). So it’s definitely been a privilege to be able to watch these guys operate at such a high level this year… Let’s hope they keep it up!

About Neil Paine

I work for I've been a freelance writer for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Basketball Prospectus.

Posted on December 16, 2008, in Analysis. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. If I’m not mistaken, Paul’s assist ratio this season is the highest of all time. I don’t think anyone would claim that he’s a ballhog. I’ve talked to some fans, and they actually think he’s not shooting enough. This bears out in the statistics (lower usage and 3 fewer shot attempts). His percentages are sky high this year, and he’s not really taking shots away from someone more efficient (the only one who beats him in TS% is Posey), so I think there may be some merit to what they are saying. I don’t know if his current shooting numbers are sustainable, but his level of efficiency right now is still so good that he could probably afford to take a slight hit in order to increase his volume.

    Given this post, it’s not surprising that the New Orleans offense kind of goes off the rails when Paul isn’t on the court. He is years away from his prime, and he is still one of the best decision makers I have ever seen.

  2. Highest possession % is certainly not necessarily “best” or even good. Is %teamFG? How many on the all-time leader list won titles that year?Isn’t it zero?

  3. Where were Wade’s and Bryant’s %teamFG the years they won titles compared to years they didn’t?

    How many times in post Jordan era did the champ have the top or even a top 5 guy?

    Did this dominant involvement make Stockton and Payton teams a little to predictable and a bit easier to guard than otherwise despite all the benefits they brought?

    No Celtics on this seasson’s list. Or Spur on it or the all-time list. Is a more distributed attack the modern way to go? Why does Phil Jackson have Kobe at 12th place?

  4. Looks like Wade’s %teamFG was 40.4% his championship year, 15% less than now. Is that the highest post title winning Jordan? Kobe’s last title season was at 38.4%. What was Jordan’s highest when winning the title?

  5. I haven’t checked them all but looks like 92-93 Jordan was at 42.9% %teamFG and that probably is his highest when winning the title. That along with the susbstantial record of Stockton and Payton and the rest of the non title winning that year all-time leaders should give some pause regarding the message of this stat for Paul and Wade this season.

  6. “I haven’t checked them all but looks like 92-93 Jordan was at 42.9% %teamFG and that probably is his highest when winning the title.”

    Makes sense when you consider that he had to average 41.0 ppg in the Finals in order to get his team past Phoenix. Didn’t Wade have to average 34.7 to get by Dallas in ’06?

    A high %teamFG could indicate the “value” and to some extent the ability of a particular player, but it seems to me that TOO high a %teamFG usually means that one person is carrying too much of the load. Such a team may still perform very well, but they probably won’t be able to be the best teams, i.e. the teams that spread the burden around better. MJ was an anomaly in that he was efficient enough to carry more of the load and still manage to carry his team to *ultimate* success on a consistent basis. (for the people who get annoyed by how highly he’s regarded, that’s why – and he’s a shooting guard…you EXPECT a big man to be dominant enough to lead a team, but a championship team led by a shooting guard is rare, and MJ did it six times) We saw what happened when Lebron tried to do it for the Cavs in ’07…they got swept by San Antonio.

    The %teamFG for Chris Paul is exactly why I doubt the Hornets will be able to beat the Lakers or the Celtics in a seven game series. He makes those guys better than they are, but individually, David West and the other guys aren’t on the level of Kareem, Byron Scott, James Worthy… I make that comparison because Magic Johnson led the Lakers in the mid to late eighties, but he had players who were excellent in their own right, and therefore could shoulder more of the responsibility when necessary. Without Paul, the Hornets are not good enough. If the Hornets want to get the finals and maybe win, Paul will have to play for virtually the entire game. It could be done, but the margin for error will be less than it’ll be for the Lakers and Celtics.

    That’s why Boston won last season and why they’re probably still the best team. They can spread it around quite well. Paul Pierce is not Lebron/CP3/Wade night in and night out, but he doesn’t have to be. That’s the strength of the team and that’s why Miami can’t win squat without Wade having a huge game. Obviously Chris Paul has a better team than Miami, but it shouldn’t have to be said that it’s a matter of degrees when you’re comparing bad teams, average teams, very good teams, and title contending teams.

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