Charting Chris Paul's Assists Versus the Golden State WarriorsOn several occasions, I have charted the assists that have officially been credited to various players in order to determine how accurate the NBA's "official" assist totals are. Last night, Chris Paul authored a spectacular performance as his L.A. Clippers defeated the Golden State Warriors 126-115: Paul scored 42 points, dished off 15 assists and swiped six steals, becoming the first player to post 40-15-5 in those categories since the NBA began officially recording steals in the 1973-74 season--but did all of Paul's assists fit the strict rulebook requirements for an assist? It is no secret that NBA scorekeepers often employ a very liberal definition of an assist; here is the official description of an assist, as posted at NBA.com in 2002 (the rule has not changed since that time):
An assist is a pass that directly leads to a basket. This can be a pass to the low post that leads to a direct score, a long pass for a layup, a fast break pass to a teammate for a layup, and/or a pass that results in an open perimeter shot for a teammate. In basketball, an assist is awarded only if, in the judgement of the statistician, the last player's pass contributed directly to a made basket. An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player's pass led to the field goal being made.
The last sentence brings some subjectivity into the matter but old school scorekeepers would not award an assist on a play in which the recipient of the pass clearly did the bulk of the work to get open.
Here is my take on Chris Paul's 15 assists versus the Warriors:
1: Blake Griffin dribble drive, 11:02 1st Q: Correct, but borderline; Paul passed to Griffin, who received the ball at the free throw line, made a slight fake, took one dribble and scored. Griffin made an immediate attempt to score after catching the ball--so the assist has some validity--but the play could also be interpreted as a one on one move, not an assisted basket.
2: J.J. Redick fastbreak layup, 7:40 1st Q: Correct; Paul passed to Redick, who scored an uncontested fastbreak layup.
3: Blake Griffin drive, 6:07 1st Q: Incorrect; Paul passed to Griffin on the right wing and Griffin made a fake, took four dribbles and made another fake before scoring a layup. Giving Paul an assist on this kind of play is such ridiculously bad scorekeeping that it makes one question the validity of the assist statistic, because Paul had nothing whatsoever to do with Griffin scoring on the play. Griffin created the shot entirely for himself.
4: DeAndre Jordan dunk, 5:48 1st Q: Correct; Paul lobbed the ball to Jordan for the dunk.
5: Jared Dudley jumper, 5:13 1st Q: Correct; Paul fed Dudley for a catch and shoot jumper.
6: Blake Griffin jumper, 4:28 1st Q: Correct; Paul inbounded to Griffin, who held the ball briefly before nailing a jumper. A very strict scorekeeper might not award an assist because Griffin did not make an immediate attempt to score after receiving the pass.
7: Jared Dudley three pointer, 4:19 2nd Q: Correct; Paul passed to Dudley, who immediately fired away from long distance.
8: Jared Dudley fastbreak layup, 3:19 2nd Q: Correct; Paul fed Dudley, whose layup attempt was goaltended by Andre Iguodala.
9: J.J. Redick jumper, 1:44 2nd Q: Incorrect; Paul swung the ball to Redick, who used a pick and took two escape dribbles before nailing a tough, contested shot. Redick created the shot opportunity for himself, as opposed to the shot being created by Paul's pass.
10: Blake Griffin fastbreak dunk, 5:03 3rd Q: Correct; Paul lobbed the ball to Griffin for the dunk.
11: Blake Griffin fastbreak dunk, 4:47 3rd Q: Correct; Paul lobbed the ball to Griffin for the dunk.
12: Blake Griffin fastbreak dunk, 4:31 3rd Q: Correct; Paul lobbed the ball to Griffin for the dunk.
13: Jamal Crawford three pointer, 9:44 4th Q: Correct; Paul passed to Crawford for a catch and shoot jumper.
14: Jamal Crawford layup, 8:10 4th Q: Correct; Paul inbounded to Crawford for an uncontested layup.
15: J.J. Redick three pointer, 3:11 4th Q: Correct; Paul dished to Redick for a catch and shoot jumper.
Two of Paul's assists were incorrectly scored, one was a borderline case and the remaining 12 were clearly legitimate. This is the seventh time that I have charted Chris Paul's assists; in those games, he has been officially credited with 87 assists but only 70 of those assists comply with the rulebook definition--and that includes several borderline plays. Why does this matter? Assist totals are used by some commentators as a way to evaluate who are the league's best passers--and "stat gurus" use raw assist totals as part of their "advanced basketball statistics." Thus, if the raw assist totals are inflated/inaccurate, it is not appropriate to rank passers based on assist numbers and the "advanced basketball statistics" have to be taken with a grain of salt because the basic, raw statistics used to create the "advanced" numbers may not be correct.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:38 PM