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Determining Which Guards Are “Black Holes”

Is Kobe Bryant having the most selfish season ever by a guard?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).

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    Determining Which Guards Are “Black Holes” - Behind the Basket - The Antidote for Conventional Wisdom
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    Determining Which Guards Are “Black Holes” - Behind the Basket - The Antidote for Conventional Wisdom

Reader Comments (26)

Stats don't lie. I'm expecting a lot of push-back from Kobe fans, talking about MJ, or his rings, or whatever, but he's a ball hog, just admit it. Even call him a good ball hog if you want!

February 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

Who cares about your dumb ass chart. Are you kidding me? Kobe does shoot a lot, MJ shot a lot as well! BUT they both are still Hall of Famers! Who are the top 5 players with the best numbers on the USELESS chart? How many titles do they have? Also what was the reason for this article? To show that Kobe Bryant shoots a lot? Are you saying the Lakers would win more titles if he didn't shoot so much? "Share the ball Kobe'!!! Ok I told him now!! All is good!..Lol

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryour a idiot

If you're going to call someone an idiot in your name, at least spell "you're" correctly. Maybe you missed this from the very first sentence, but this article is a look at improving a "black hole" chart that people have been talking about for the past two weeks. I'm sorry you're having so much trouble reading the chart, but it shows a lot more than simply KB and MJ shot a lot - like MJ had good passing numbers, good eFG% numbers, and he didn't have multiple teammates outshooting him every year. You have to actually look at it to understand this. Thanks for skipping ahead to the comments section though.

February 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

Changed the name, feel better? Just kidding! Just so you know I was NOT calling you a idiot. If you thought that then I apologize. Also, I can read the chart. I understand it completely. Were you taking a shot at me cause you assumed I called you a idiot? Anyways who has been asking for a chart like this for weeks? What does it really prove? Does it mean if you are the best on the chart you will win a championship? Probably not. Anyways, I don't think you are a idiot. I know you are just doing your job. Peace.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryou're a idiot

The SB Nation "black hole atlas" was far too simple and missed a lot of important pieces - that's why I made this chart, to add more depth to any statistical discussion of which guards are black holes. It's simply a tool to be used toward "determining which guards are black holes." That's why that's the headline.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

On an aside, my coworker is a Kobe fan, and initially, as suspected, he felt this chart was pointless. However after some back and forth, he was willing to admit Kobe was good, but a ball hog!

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

Statistics don't lie but they also don't tell the whole story, which some people regard as spinning if not lying. For instance, what are his stats for meaningful games and playoff games? How about Lakers won/loss record when Kobe doesn't play? Kobe's oversized ego and competetive desire and confidence in his own ability surely make for ball hog stats, but these traits also have enabled him to will his teammates to victory when it really counts. Last year's game seven his stats were horrific (he did have 15 rebounds) but is there anybody who believes the Lakers would have won if he was injured and someone else took his place? I don't think so.

Here's a stat for you. Since MJ retired the NBA's coaches have been polled a few times about who would be their first pick of all active players to build a championship team around. A large majority chose Kobe Bryant. I wonder why? It must be the intangibles that don't show up on a stat sheet.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHoops McCann

Thanks for your comment.
I can't tell if you're kidding or not because I've posted, on many occasions, the winning percentages of the Lakers when Kobe doesn't play (which I agree is a great way to look at his influence), and they always get better, but it always goes in the trash if Shaq or Gasol miss time. The Lakers have been phenomenally successful without Kobe throughout his career, including going 4-1 last year during their toughest 5-game stretch of the season (only loss was a 1-pointer to Boston). It's easy to be a ball hog and keep winning if your team throws around the money necessary to have the most dominant frontcourts to clean up the offensive glass - which is quite important if your team's top shooter has never completed 47% of his shots in a season, a number that most great SG's surpass for a career average.

February 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterZachariah Blott

so just to clarify, who was the idiot?

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Zach look why don't change the name of your website from behind the basket or hoops karma to I hate Kobe Bryant.com and we know you and all of the other Caucasian "so called" NBA bloggers all hate Kobe because you still have some pent up animosity for what Kobe did or didn't do to the whore white girl in Denver. Look she was a groupie who liked anal sex and obviously she trumped up a rape charge to save face because she got used like most other groupies who sleep with athletes. Look Zach even by your own accord (check last year's article on the finals) you didn't even watch the game but decided to speak about it. In all honestly I logged onto this website (something I have not done since last June) to see what your perspective was on Melo or Dwill but yet again I get a another pointless Kobe bashing article. Look you and all the other nerdy so called writers who barely watch a game should save your fingers for call of duty black ops and stop wasting space on writing about how bad Kobe is. Fact he is one of the 10 best players ever. Fiction the Lakers get all of this dominant talent around him. Lamar Odom was doing what exactly before he met Kobe and Pau was what losing in the first round every year. Yeah I thought so, look let me save you the time of responding and give some more facts. KOBE BRYANT is the only guard in the last 30 years to lead his team to multiple championships without another Hall of Fame Sidekick. Fact Pippen is a first ballot hall of fame player, Gasol and Odom are not. When (if) your boyfriend Lebron wins he would have done it with a another hall of fame player. The Celtics in 2007 three soon to be four hall of fame players (Rondo). Your dumb charts (I have an MBA from a better school than you went to and I make six figures at a fortune 100 company) which I have read mean zero to me because I actually watch the game. I have not missed a Lakers game in 11 years and that 2001 Kobe you have as number #2 on this stupid list is the reason that the Lakers dismantled the favorite Spurs in four games (3 blowouts). Go back and watch the tape jackass Kobe was the best player on the floor in the whole league check these numbers out. Again watch those games he carried them. Now Kobe was 22 what was Lebron doing at 22 oh yeah missing the playoffs. You got served.

8 8 2001-05-19 22-269 LAL @ SAS W 1 47 19 35 .543 1 2 .500 6 8 .750 1 9 10 3 1 1 4 4 45 28.9
9 9 2001-05-21 22-271 LAL @ SAS W 1 47 11 24 .458 1 4 .250 5 6 .833 1 6 7 6 2 1 2 4 28 21.0
10 10 2001-05-25 22-275 LAL SAS W 1 40 14 27 .519 2 4 .500 6 9 .667 5 4 9 8 1 0 3 1 36 29.4
11 11 2001-05-27 22-277 LAL SAS W 1 34 10 19 .526 1 4 .250 3 3 1.000 0 2 2 11 2 1 2 4 24 22.1

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTaj

Oh last post using your precious Basketball Reference Hall of Fame Calculator only 13 players are hall of fame locks and oh look Kobe is one of the 13th but I am sure in your little brain you will post an article saying Kobe is not a hall of famer and how Deron Williams is better. You are truly a moron.

Rank Player HoF Prob
1. Bill Russell* 1.0000
2. Wilt Chamberlain* 1.0000
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar* 1.0000
4. Michael Jordan* 1.0000
5. John Havlicek* 1.0000
6. Bob Cousy* 1.0000
7. Kobe Bryant 1.0000
8. Magic Johnson* 1.0000
9. Shaquille O'Neal 1.0000
10. Larry Bird* 1.0000
11. Jerry West* 1.0000
12. George Mikan* 1.0000
13. Bob Pettit* 1.0000

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTaj

Okay Zach if you answer this question I will let it go. Was it your girlfriend in Denver. Come on you can tell the 20 people who read this website.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTaj

Taj, no one cares about your alleged job, education or credentials, unless you are trying to overcompensate for your micropenis.

The post is about Kobe being a ball hog (black hole), which you, and no one else has disputed in the slightest.

Who cares if Zach doesn't think Kobe is as good as you. Present your evidence, he'll present yours, and people will decide. Instead you childishly ramble on with insults.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGavriel

Wow, you sound like you got life by the balls and I'm totally pathetic, yet you still visit my site for hoops insight - all I need to know. If you could actually relay facts about what I said or about the game of basketball correctly and at the same time not point out your big-time bias ("haven't missed a Laker game in 11 years"), you'd possibly make sense. Good luck with whatever it is you do when you're either visiting or avoiding my site, whichever one it is you claim to do.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

"we know you and all of the other Caucasian "so called" NBA bloggers all hate Kobe because you still have some pent up animosity for what Kobe did or didn't do to the whore white girl in Denver. Look she was a groupie who liked anal sex and obviously she trumped up a rape charge to save face because she got used like most other groupies who sleep with athletes"

Anal huh? Puts a new twist on 'man, kobe stinks tonight huh?'

Also, you black? Also, you mad? Wanna play COD?

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Zach hope all is well with the changes. WHile I get the point about this chart please consider one point.

Dr. Buss has said having Kobe on the team is worth about $80 mil per year in total revenue. Kobe may be a ball hog, but it seems people are paying to see him bea ball hog and the Lakers are profitting significantly from it. It seems hard to argue that Kobe is hurting his team because he shoots too much.

I have no empirical evidence but I think more fans than not prefer to see Kobe shoot the ball rather than not. We can agree this may not be the best form of basketball, but I think we can also agree "basketball" and "entertainment" are 2 different things.

Kobe may be a ball hog but his teams win, whether he is the primary offensive option or not, and the fans continue to fill arenas when he comes in town, knowing they will likely see Kobe shoot a lot. Winning championships and putting butts in seats. How can one find fault with that?

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

I will never dispute that he is worth a lot of $ from a merchandising/butts-in-seat perspective. Is he still worth all that money if he wasn't on LA? Is he still worth that money if he isn't consistently on one of the 2 highest-paid teams in the league that's often deep with talent? Is he worth all that money if he doesn't have Shaq and later the Gasol/Bynum/Odom frontcourt to get all those offensive rebounds so his missed shots don't look as bad? Is he still worth all that money if three of those title runs didn't include some of the most magnanimously reffed fourth quarters of all-time? He's in a perfect situation - no doubt about that.

February 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

Zach, you should ask Jerry West that question. Obviously he saw something and ran with it. Kobe is popular with fans because he plays hard ALL the time. Keep in mind before Colorado it was Kobe, not Shaq, with the McDonalds deal so oviously he resonated with mainstream America.

Taj did make a fair and accurate point about Kobe's play against San Antonio. Would Kobe generate the same amount of money elsewhere, probably. If you can't bring yourself to the point where you note his contributions for championship teams thats on you. Sucks for you that LA gets calls, just like it sucvks for me that I watched MJ push off Byron Russell with no call. Superstars get calls.

Kobe may be a ball hog. But he has also led a team to back to back titles without playing with another HOF player. He has had the same success in his career with Shaq and without. No matter how you see him he has been the best or 2nd best player on 5 NBA champions. Very few players, ball hog or not, have that on their resume.

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

As always, thanks for the comments. I disagree with you on a few points you've made, but no need to start this up again. You still in NJ?

February 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

Zach yes I am

March 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

Only asked because I might be visiting LA shortly and was hoping we could catch a game together.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

how the fuck can you say a player is a bad passer looking at his assist dumbass?what if the player he passed the ball to passed it again to another player?what if the player he passed the ball to missed the shot?what if you are within an offensive system where your pass is gonna be passed again dumbass

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrapiyo

Ahhh, the old "hockey assists" argument that Kobe lovers like to bring up since none of his passing stats ever look that good (unlike most other great guards). I'm not sure if you've watched the Lakers much, but Bryant is not a good passer. Some flashy ones, yes. Some good ones, of course. Overall, not so much. His turnover numbers are lower than they should be because he plays with so much talent they're able to save some of his bad passes that get tipped away into space. Also, his assist numbers are higher than they should be because he plays with so many players who have much higher shooting percentages than himself. You need to a) watch the games, and b) understand how the stats work if you're going to just blindly cast away stats that don't support your guy.

March 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZachariah Blott

Good atricle...

I don't get how people don't understand this: as talented as Kobe is, he's just plain goddamn stupid when it comes to making decisions with the ball...

It's not because you shoot well that you should shoot all the time!

Go watch some ol' Bulls game (watched the 3 first games of the 1997 finals a couple of days ago) and you'll never see MJ isolate... He took a lot of shots, indeed, but often with great position. He didn't run any iso for himself until the last shot (made, of course), heck, it even feels like Pippen had the ball in his hands more than him!!!

Kobe is a better tough-shot maker (than Jordan, yes sir), but the problem is his ego is so goddamn huge the guy WANTS to shoot tough shots... Jordan was always moving without the ball searching for an opening... Very rarely you would see him stand around the top of the key calling for the ball and an iso...

It's not only Kobe, but with his talent and will, it gets really annoying (same goes for james and his last 2 botched buzzer-beaters)...
Btw, why not include LeBron? He may be a forward, but given the time he spends on the perimeter with the ball in his hands, it would be interesting...

It's like, the guy cares more about being MVP than winning a title... He has to do it by himself, or it's no good...
Idk, maybe that's just who he is, maybe he can't see those openings, or maybe he's just a dick who thinks he has more chances by himself...
So what do you choose? Dickery or bad vision?
'Got to pick one or the other!

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBreyzh

@ Brezyh

I think you are agreeing with rapiyo just saying it differently. Kobe is a good passer and more often thean not puts the ball in the right places when he chooses to pass. But you are correct that he doesn't choose to pass as often as you would like. Willingness to pass is not an indication of being a good or bad passer. Wilt was a terrible passer but led the league one year. Shaq IMO was a great passer but rarely averaged more than 5 APG.

Go to the BUlls games before 97, when Stan Albeck was coach and lined Jordan up on one side and the other 4 guys on the other. How else do you think MJ avg 37 a game. The year he averaged 8 asts a game it wasn't because he was a good passer. It was (just like wilt) too many people said he didn't pass so he did it to prove people wrong. Would that be dickery?

I agree that Kobe (like MJ) has the hero complex and wants to be the man. But how can you plausibly argue he wants to win MVP more than a title. To be fair, analyze Kobe's whole career. He has been more than willing to sacrifice stats for the good of the team. QUite frankly he did it the way you wanted then he choose to do it his way. How can you fault him for that? Wouldn't you do the same?

Bottom line, he has played on 7 teams that have made the NBA finals. He has had major contributions to 5 NBA championship teams. He gets paid to shoot the ball. People pay large sums of money to see him shoot the ball a lot. His style produces championships.

Its ok to hate Kobe. But your criticism seems petty and ridiculous.

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJamesD

Kobe's style doesn't produce championship, P. Jax and Buss' style does...

I mean, you said it yourself: when MJ was in Kobe mode (no time to elaborate, I'm at work), he didn't have the best coach of all time to tell him what to do...

I don't give a care about how many points he averaged, but more about how he scored...

They both have the same coach...
Btw, I never, ever said Jordan was a better passer than Kobe...

I said "it's like he cares more about MVPs than titles"... Underline "it's like"...
If you want to play the "hockey assist" card, MJ is still way over Kobe... Because, like you said, he's a more willing passer...
I don't give a ish about stats, the only stats that count is championships and how you did it...

Because you can't tell me Kobe would have had the same success in, say 'Sotta, coached by the terrible Stan Albeck...

It's not so much about stats for Kobe, but about being the man... He never sacrificed that... Ever... Ask Shaq... Ask P. Jax...

No plan B, only plan Kobe in his mind...

Hell, look at the ending to those 97 finals: Steve Kerr burries the final shot on a Jordan assist that was planned before-hand... It wasn't Plan A MJ, it was plan A Kerr...
You'll never see plan A Gasol, so could you imagine a plan A Fish?

Again, Kobe is a fantastic player, but he never played "my way" (man, I feel like Larry Brown), he never sacrified being a hero for his team to play better... I mean: even P. Jax says so... A lot...

He's talented enough to get bailed out by it, but he certainly isn't the best player he could be... That's my only beef with him, actually....

It's not so much about passing or not, it's about how much your teammates get the ball (their Usg%, if you will), whether you passed it to them or not...

Stop it with the "Kobe hater" defense, it's really getting old... Everytime someone critcizes a part of his game (while admitting he's a fantastic player), he's a hater? C'mon, son, that's way too easy...

I criticize Bron's selfishness, Devin Harris' bad passing, or Andray Blatche's stupidity... Does that make me a hater?

I've wasted enough time with this and my coworkers are surely starting to wonder what's with all the typing... So.... Yeah...

March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBreyzh

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