SB Nation recently posted an article that tried to figure out how selfish Kobe Bryant is by creating a “black hole atlas.” It plotted several guards’ Usage Percentages against their Assists Per Shot Attempt. Bryant came out with the worst combination, implying he is the most selfish guard in the NBA. Depending on how you look at the atlas, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Martin were also in the running for the title.
But there’s an inherent problem when you go that simple with it: some players should shoot more because they’re more likely to score than their teammates. Also, if a player is a good passer and can still handle the ball a lot without turning it over, you might as well let him hang onto it a lot if he’s also capable of scoring at a decent clip.
I’m not exactly sure how to combine all of this information into a single graph or number, but I’ve looked at some of today’s top guards who have particularly high Usage Percentages, plus a couple of guards’ numbers from the past 20 years simply for comparison (including MJ, who gets the “black hole” tag from time to time), to see how they all compare to each other after making these considerations.
I broke the numbers into three sections: Usage, Passing, and Shooting Vs. Teammates. For Usage, I simply laid out the Usage% and shots per game for these players – pretty easy to follow. For passing, I looked at APG, turnovers per game, field goal attempts per assist, and assists per turnover. The Shooting section is where I’m trying to address a player’s right to shoot a lot. Their eFG% tells us how good they are at getting points when they shoot (for reference, league average is usually right around .500), but I also looked at their three teammates who shoot the most shots and their eFG%’s. I considered those particular players and not the rest of the team as a whole since they’re the ones who are most likely to be able to handle more scoring opportunities, and then we can look at how good or bad of a decision it was for each guard to be shooting so much.
I’ve color coded some of the numbers that were bad (yellow), very bad (orange), and horrendous (red). In the Shooting section, I color coded teammates’ eFG% if they were significantly better than the guard in question (so they were more likely to score than the guard and should have had more opportunities), plus I color coded the difference between the guard’s eFG% and the collective number posted by the trio (weighted by their shot attempts).
The historical players in the mix were Michael Jordan in 1997 and 1992 (I chose those years since they were the middle year of each threepeat), Isiah Thomas in 1990 (most important non-MJ guard on any champion of the past 20 years), and Kobe Bryant in 2001 (middle year of threepeat, and to compare his current self to then).
Here is the chart. If you look at it for a minute, it shouldn’t be too hard to follow:
Notes on the chart:
1. Kobe Bryant currently has the highest Usage% of any player on the chart, including both Jordans. His passing numbers are bad, and his eFG% compared to the next few shooters on his team are terrible (Gasol and Odom – Bynum wasn’t included, so it would be even worse for Bryant if Bynum played more). This is pretty much the textbook definition of a ball hog.
2. Kobe Bryant’s 2001 self looks very similar to now: bad passer and really low eFG% compared to his other teammates, which included Shaq. His extreme black hole status holds.
3. Although Michael Jordan was obviously shooting a lot and didn’t have a ton of assists compared to his shot attempts, his assists/turnover were good (his 2.44 in 1992 tops the group), and his eFG% was above-average (two of the best on the chart) and fell right in line with his collective teammates. He wasn’t hurting his team by shooting so many shots.
4. Tyreke Evans and Russell Westbrook do poorly on this type of comparison. Both are shooting considerably worse than their teammates and should probably be passing the ball a lot more. Monta Ellis' line doesn't look too good, either.
5. Although Kevin Martin shoots a lot and his passing numbers are the worst, he easily had the widest gap between his eFG% and that of his teammates (in a good way). In fact, he currently has the best eFG% of Houston’s top-4 shooters; he should probably be shooting even more.
6. Isiah Tomas definitely should have been passing more: all three of his listed teammates had considerably better eFG%'s than Thomas.
7. The current players who came out looking the best (least “black hole”-ish) were Dwyane Wade and Eric Gordon (plus possibly Martin, see #5). Although both have questionable passing numbers, they are shooting well compared to their teammates, particularly Gordon. Manu Ginobili has better passing numbers, but his comparative eFG% isn’t so hot (not terrible, just not good).