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By "Point Guard of the Future," We Mean Who Exactly?

Jazz fans are spoiled when it comes to point guard play. The longer we've been a fan of the team, the more spoiled we are: Deron Williams (2010 - 2006) and, before that, John Stockton (2003 - 1987). Do the math, and it shows we have had an All-Pro level point guard for essentially 23 out of the last 27 years. No other team in the league comes anywhere close. (Even Ricky Green was pretty solid, making the the 1984 All-Star team and posting a top five assist total from 1981 to 1984). It is in this historical context that we say, "When will we finally get our point guard of the future?"

With Enes Kanter punking Dwight Howard and Derrick Favors getting buzz as the team's MVP for his raw defensive presence alone (and showing a nice stroke from the line), the answer is likely "soon." But when we get our guy, will Jazz fans be happy? It's not like our stellar history promises us another All-Pro caliber point guard just waiting to join the team and guide us back to perennial championship aspirations. Our point guard of the future is a young point guard of the present, either in college or the pros. As we know that Myck Kobongo may as well get a tattoo of the classic Jazz note right now (yes, Amar has this much pull), I'd like to focus on the young point guards currently getting time in the league that might be available either as free agents or through a trade.

Let me warn you: there is no John Stockton or Deron Williams here, at least not on the surface. In fact, all things considered, we might wish for a second coming of Ricky Green given the modern crop of young point guards and their styles of play. A search of the league reveals a number of shoot first guards with disappointing shooting percentages and far from exceptional passing ability. But if that's who is available, that is the pool from which the Jazz need to draw the future facilitator of the team. And as all these players are young (or at least youngish), the hope is that with good players around them, good coaching, and maturity, there might be one worthy of taking up the mantle of point guard for the Utah Jazz.

The question is who. (What it might take to get him I'll leave for another day.)

To answer the question, I looked at this year's and last year's per 36 statistics for twelve point guards across the league that I thought: 1) the Jazz may have some interest in; and 2) might actually be gettable without giving up the farm. I originally color coded a ranking for how each performed in every category as compared to the group, but I can't get my charts to post in color. (Drat the theoretical but inaccessible possibilities of technology!) So you'll have to be satisfied with the raw numbers and compare players against the statistical average for the group yourselves. (The average is at the bottom of the tables.)

Here are the prospects:

2012 - 2013 Statistics

Name

Age

FGA

PTS

AST

TO

ST

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PA

3P%

AST%

TO%

Brandon Jennings

23

15.7

16.6

6.2

2.2

2.4

0.405

2.7

0.813

4.9

0.364

28.1

11.6

Jeff Teague

24

14.2

15.5

7.7

3.1

2

0.439

2.3

0.853

2.9

0.386

35.2

17.2

Greivis Vasquez

25

12.9

13.8

9.5

3.9

0.5

0.414

2.6

0.778

3

0.373

46.2

21.8

Ramon Sessions

26

16

19.1

5.6

2.6

1.2

0.378

7.8

0.833

2.5

0.194

28.4

11.8

Brandon Knight

21

12.7

16.2

5.7

3.8

0.6

0.422

4.3

0.783

4.8

0.435

27.3

20.6

Darren Collison

25

11.2

14.2

6.7

2.9

1.6

0.432

4.6

0.893

1.6

0.269

29.9

17.7

Eric Bledsoe

22

15.8

19.1

5.4

3.5

3

0.487

4

0.795

1.8

0.333

25.4

16.6

Jerryd Bayless

24

11.5

13.3

6.2

2.9

1.8

0.42

2.7

0.826

4.2

0.333

27.9

18.5

Isaiah Thomas

23

12.9

16.5

3.6

3.6

0.9

0.436

4

0.853

5.4

0.348

17

19.9

Rodrique Beaubois

24

11.1

9.8

6.1

2

1.5

0.314

2.2

0.8

4.1

0.263

25.3

14

Jimmer Fredette

23

15.8

22

4.2

3

0.6

0.481

4.8

0.917

5.8

0.414

21.8

14.3

Eric Maynor

25

11.1

10.4

5.7

2.6

0.5

0.293

2.7

0.85

4.7

0.343

22.9

17.3


23.75

13.41

15.54

6.05

3.01

1.38

0.410

3.73

0.833

3.81

0.338

27.95

16.78

>

2011 - 2012 Statistics (2010-2011 for Eric Maynor)

Name

Age

FGA

PTS

AST

TO

ST

FG%

FTA

FT%

3PA

3P%

AST%

TO%

Brandon Jennings

22

17.3

19.5

5.6

2.3

1.6

0.418

3.7

0.808

6

0.332

26.7

10.6

Jeff Teague

23

11.1

13.7

5.3

2.2

1.7

0.476

3.1

0.757

2.5

0.342

24.3

15.1

Greivis Vasquez

24

11

12.4

7.6

3.1

1.3

0.43

2.5

0.821

2.8

0.319

35.7

20.5

Ramon Sessions

25

11.9

15.2

7.5

3

0.9

0.428

5.2

0.782

2

0.443

35.5

17.3

Brandon Knight

20

13

14.3

4.2

2.9

0.8

0.415

2.3

0.759

4.7

0.38

20.8

17.1

Darren Collison

24

10

11.9

5.5

2.2

0.9

0.44

2.9

0.83

1.8

0.362

24.9

16.2

Eric Bledsoe

21

9.8

10.2

5.1

3.6

2.4

0.389

3.4

0.636

2.3

0.2

21.6

24.4

Jerryd Bayless

23

14.1

18

6

2.7

1.2

0.424

4.5

0.852

5.3

0.423

30.7

14.4

Isaiah Thomas

22

12.4

16.3

5.8

2.3

1.2

0.448

4

0.832

4.8

0.379

25.6

13.9

Rodrique Beaubois

23

13.9

14.8

4.8

2.2

1.8

0.422

2.2

0.841

4.1

0.288

22.7

12.8

Jimmer Fredette

22

14.1

14.7

3.4

2.1

1

0.386

1.5

0.833

6.9

0.361

15.1

12.5

Eric Maynor

24

10

10.4

7.1

2.3

1

0.402

1.8

0.729

2.9

0.385

30.3

17.7


22.75

12.38

14.28

5.66

2.58

1.32

0.423

3.09

0.790

3.84

0.351

26.16

16.04

Observations on each player

Brandon Jennings, age 23: In this crop of players, Jennings compares well. His only persistent area of weakness is the number of shots he takes--but even there, this season he is shooting less than last year. How his FGA might change on the Jazz is debatable, but it is unlikely we would depend on our guards to score as much as the Bucks have while Jennings has been part of their roster. His other strengths include steals and turnovers, which have both been stronger than the average for two consecutive years. He's a little weak at the free throw line but makes up some of that by taking a lot of threes and making an average or better percentage. (Plus, three free throws a game shot at 80%+ is respectable.) His assists per game and assist percentage are average as well, with both growing slightly from last year to this. Overall, Jennings compares favorably to this population of players as an overall player without any significant disadvantages shown in the stats.

Jeff Teague, age 24: Teague is another solid across the board prospect with only one red flag area, free throws (particularly attempts). He's a little older than the average and shoots a little more this season, but with that increase in shots and role on the Hawks, a number of his statistical productions have improved, particularly his assists and assist percentage. He is now only one of two players with 30% AST% or greater from this pool of players. Also, he is one of only two players to shoot better than average from the field, line, and three point range this season. (The other is Jimmer Fredette.) Combine that with a better than average steal total for two straight year, and you get arguably the most well rounded of these prospects, at least by the numbers.

Greivis Vasquez, age 25: Vasquez has been on my radar for more than a year as an interesting possibility, in spite of his age. He has a lot of vulnerabilities: he turns the ball over a lot, steals very few balls, and is bad both getting to the line and shooting from there. But the flip side shows Vasquez as the best distributor in the lot by a wide margin. He takes relatively few shots and is doling out a ton of assists this season, giving him a very high assist percentage (highest in the pool for two years running). As pure distributors go, he's simply performing better than any of these other players, and by a wide margin. And while he isn't shooting particularly well overall, he is making threes at a higher than average rate, perhaps because he doesn't take as many as other players here.

Ramon Sessions, age 26: I debated whether 26 was too old to include Sessions in the group but decided to leave him in because of what I found to be interesting numbers. Of all the players on the list, Sessions showed the greatest ability to patent his game according to roster. In one of the two years he has shown the ability to do nearly anything at an average or better level. (The only statistic where he was below average both years was three pointers attempted, and that can be seen as good or bad.) His versatility is interesting: this year with the Bobcats, tied for the top scorer; last season with the Lakers, second in assists. His shooting this year has been quite bad, but last year he posted above average shooting from both the field and from three. He gets to the line a lot consistently, and seems average when it comes to steals. He may not be able to play the scorer and passer at once, but he clearly can do both.

Brandon Knight, age 21: The youngest player on the list probably has as much growing to do as anyone here, so numbers can only suggest so much of what he might become as a point guard. As of now, he's an aggressive and efficient scorer who needs to work on his passing and, especially, ball handling. He turns the ball over as much as anyone in the group, and often it isn't trying to make plays for others. He also hasn't shown much of an ability to steal the ball. But as a scorer, there are clear reasons for excitement: he is one of only two players on the list producing greater than average points on fewer than average shots. He does this by both getting to the line and taking and making a lot of threes. But with one of the highest turnover percentages paired with one of the lower assist percentages, he has a ways to go before anyone could say he's skilled at orchestrating a team.

Darren Collison, age 25: Collison really intrigues me. He's fairly average when it comes to scoring, but that falls in line with his far fewer than average shot attempts two year running. When he does shoot, he's shown he can do it well, posting better than average percentages from the field, line, and three point line at least once in the last two years, while keeping his overall shooting above average both years. He posts consistently good assist totals when compared to his turnovers, and he's even upped his steals this year to an above average rate. His assist and turnover percentages are pretty standard, but when paired together show him to be one of the better facilitating prospects of the bunch, especially given his willingness to deny his own shot.

Eric Bledsoe, age 22: Last year, Bledsoe wasn't much to behold statistically. But as you'd expect from a player turning 22, this season he's shown great improvement. Right now, he excels at two things: putting points on the board by shooting a great percentage from the field and stealing the ball. He also gets to the line more often than most these guys. But balancing that are below average shooting percentages from the free throw and three point lines for two years running coupled with lots of turnovers and fewer assists than the bulk of his fellows. He can guard and attack the hoop, but has not yet shown the ability to consistently shoot, pass, or take care of the ball.

Jerryd Bayless, age 24: Bayless is interesting, as he's the only player not to post any stat significantly below average over the last two seasons. His strengths are consistently his ability to steal the ball and shoot well from the field while taking a lot of threes. He's shown the ability to do everything better than average with the exception of dole out assists, where he has been consistently average and never below. In fact, the greatest disadvantage he shows when in this group is his age. Most of the players are younger than 24--but then, few have shown the consistency of Bayless.

Isaiah Thomas, age 23: Thomas's rookie numbers were astoundingly good, with only his assist percentage coming in slightly below the group average. This year his ability as a facilitator has apparently fallen off a cliff: exactly as many assists as turnovers, which for a point guard is horrible. He's the only player to post a higher turnover percentage than assist percentage. But his scoring has remained above average across the board, with high percentages everywhere along with lots of threes taken and trips to the free throw line. Both years, Thomas has produced better than average points on fewer than average shots. The second year player has never proven himself even on par when it comes to assists, and his recent turnover problems compound that problem.

Rodrique Beaubois, age 24: In the last few years with the Mavericks, Beaubois has gone from an exciting, athletic future game changer to a bust in many people's minds. The poor percentages in all areas this year reflect that, as does his glaring point total (lower than his shots per game). But there is good to find as well: his assists have climbed to average while his turnovers have stayed at a group best low. He has also consistently been an average or better player and ripping steals. If he can get his shooting to the respectable levels from last year and continue to keep down his turnovers, he might make an unexpected rebound as a prospect.

Jimmer Fredette, age 23: Fredette entered the league with such hype that his poor rookie season has most writing him off as a bust already. His showing thus far this season gives reason to reconsider. He came into the league as a scorer who can shoot, and his performance this year is bearing out both claims. Fredette's shooting and scoring ability is the class of this group, with very high shooting averages in all areas, lots of free throw attempts, and many threes all adding up to the greatest per 36 scoring total in the group: 22 points per game. He also is average or better when it comes to turnovers. The downside? Jimmer shoots a lot, doesn't assist much at all, and doesn't offer much when it comes to steals. But the super scorer who never was looks like he may be after all.

Eric Maynor, age 25: Honestly, Maynor's numbers thus far this year aren't stellar, even in this competition. He scores fewer points than shots he takes. He steals fewer balls than anyone else and is shooting an atrocious percentage from the field, while posting a very low assist percentage. He doesn't turn the ball over too much and can shoot from three and the line, but the negatives are easier to find than the positives. As he was injured last season, we have to go back two seasons to find a comparison--and that tells a more positive story. Two years ago, Maynor posted an above average number of assists while turning the ball over very rarely. His shooting still wasn't great but it was better, including a nice percentage from three. He still didn't score, but his willingness and ability to pass the ball while not turning it over made him worth putting on this list.

There we are, twelve potential point guards, all 26 or younger, with most being 24 or younger. The above assesses many of their strengths and weaknesses, but I wanted to add another level. Because playing point guard for the Jazz isn't just about how well you play--it's about how you play. There's too much history of pass first point guards here for many of us to buy into a player who would rather score 25 a game than pass out 10 dimes. To satisfy the bulk of Jazz fans--and maximize the potential of two very exciting bigs in Favors and Kanter--any player we bring in to orchestrate our team for the better part of the next decade should be a strong facilitator--dare I say it, a pure point guard. Not everyone agrees, but I wanted to see to what extend these twelve players statistically fit the description.

To measure this I created (to my knowledge) what I call a Pure Facilitator Score (PFS). The stat is AST% - TO% / USG%. My reasoning is that a facilitating point guard should be defined by his ability to successfully distribute the ball to other players so they can score. Simultaneously, as the primary ball handler for the team, he has to do this without costing his team possessions. No one wants a distributor equally likely to pass to either team. The difference between the AST% and TO% serves as this base of involving others while managing possession. But how much a player dominates the ball while doing this is another factor. A great facilitator will combine a high AST% and much lower TO% with a fairly low USG%, allowing plenty of time in an offensive possession for other players to operate according to their strengths. (Stockton had a career USG% of 18.9 compared to Russell Westbrook's 29, for example.) He'll orchestrate the offense without BEING the offense. The more a player can do that, the more I want them leading the Jazz attack. Generally speaking, a PFS around 1 shows a pure point guard whose AST% is greater than his TO% by an amount equal to his USG%. Such players typically get assists frequently while not turning the ball over too much or dominating possession. For a better idea of what the stat might mean, here are some historic baselines:

Career PFS

John Stockton: 1.555

Chris Paul: 1.396

Deron Williams: 1.079

Steve Nash: 1.057

Jason Kidd: 1.041

Rajon Rondo: 1.041 (last season he posted a 1.435)

Magic Johnson: 0.964

Isiah Thomas: 0.814

Just another way to prove Stockton was the man--as well as providing a new metric to use in evaluating the crop of upcoming point guards on our list. Also, note that Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas both have a career PFS below 1. This stat isn't meant to illustrate quality of play so much as quality and style of play. Anything above a 1 suggests a player performing at a high level in the role of traditional point guard. Magic Johnson almost reached that level from sheer awesomeness, in spite of his anything but traditional play.

So, here is a list of the top PFS for these twelve players for the past two years, from highest to lowest:

1.03 - Greivis Vasquez 2012-2013

0.843 - Ramon Sessions 2011-2012

0.776 - Jeff Teague 2012-2013

0.76 - Greivis Vasquez 2011-2012

0.734 - Eric Maynor 2010-2011

0.705 - Brandon Jennings 2012-2013

0.663 - Jerryd Bayless 2011-2012

0.649 - Rodrique Beaubois 2012-2013

0.622 - Brandon Jennings 2011-2012

0.607 - Darren Collison 2012-2013

0.601 - Ramon Sessions 2012-2013

0.591 - Isaiah Thomas 2011-2012

0.512 - Darren Collison 2011-2012

0.485 - Jerryd Bayless 2012-2013

0.482 - Jeff Teague 2011-2012

0.45 - Rodrique Beaubois 2011-2012

0.332 - Eric Bledsoe 2012-2013

0.295 - Eric Maynor 2012-2013

0.286 - Brandon Knight 2012-2013

0.285 - Jimmer Fredette 2012-2013

0.171 - Brandon Knight 2011-2012

0.127 - Jimmer Fredette 2011-2012

-0.126 - Isaiah Thomas 2012-2013

-0.147 Eric Bledsoe 2011-2012

So there's information on some players the Jazz might look at in the next few years as they seek a floor general of the future, along with quite a bit of information on each as well as a few of my own thoughts. I'm sure there are other prospects I didn't cover, including players like Kendall Marshall, who I like quite a lot. This post was an attempt to look at players who are still young but have a large enough body of work to statistically indicate what they might offer once in a Jazz uniform. As I said, no John Stocktons in the lot--but that's what is available. The question now is, given the options, where do the Jazz go?

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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