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An interesting look at our team (and players) assist ratio.

Assist ratio measures what percentage of a players possessions end in assists. Like most statistic, assist ratio doesn't tell the whole story when looking at players as a passer. For example, a player may have an amazing talent at passing the ball, but is also an amazing scorer so he doesn't create for others as often as he could. Or the player could be a horrible scorer so the only thing they do with possessions is create for others.

I got these stats from John Hollingers statistics on ESPN.

Before I begin, I want to share a few telling stats about ast ratio to give us an idea of what it means.

1. The San Antonio Spurs had the second highest ast ratio last season, AND the top offensive efficiency.

2. The Oklahoma City Thunder had the WORST ast ratio last season, but the second highest offensive efficiency. This tells me you don't necessarily have to be a good passing team to be a good offensive team. What it does show though is how your team gets baskets (assisted or not).

What I wanted to do is look at the jazz team as a whole and each of its players to see what we could figure out about last season and this upcoming season.

First, lets look at the Jazz team as a whole. Last year if you would have asked me how good of a passing team the Jazz were, I would have told you pretty bad. Their player with the most assists was Devin Harris, who averaged just 5 a game (good for just 22nd in the league). After having so many great passing point guards, I figured we had to be below average. The truth however was that the Jazz had an ast ratio of 15, which tied three other teams for 13th in the league. I thought that was incredibly remarkable considering our big men aren't the greatest of passers, and that a big number of our baskets come from offensive rebound put-backs, which obviously are unassisted.

Looking at past Jazz teams, I expected to find the Jazz in the top 10 in ast ratio since we ran the Flex offense and had Deron Williams as our point guard. The truth? We were an AMAZING passing team. In fact, dating back to the 06-07 season to our least season with D-Will, we never had lower than the 3rd best ast ratio among all teams, and had the top ast ratio in the league the 2008-2009/2009-2010 seasons.

As Jazz fans last year, we complained and complained about becoming an Iso team, and about the lack of passing after we dumped the ball to Big Al in the post. I also thought we had to have had one of the worst passing teams in the league, but the truth was that we were just used to being THE BEST passing team in the league for so long that merely being averaged killed us. Will this change next season? My guess is no, so long as our offense revolves around Big Al. But lets look at our players last year, along with our incoming player to see how they've faired passing the basketball (though admittedly it won't matter much as long as we run the same system as last year).

Ast. ratio

Paul Millsap- 12.1, 24th among power forwards (out of 86)
Big Al- 10.1, 25th among centers (out of 55)
Derrick Favors- 6.4, 72nd among power forwards (out of 86)
Enes Kanter- 2.3. Dead last among Power Forwards and Centers.

Just looking at this and ignoring playing time, our big men are below average passers collectively. Millsap is the only that is really an above average passer (Big Al is really just average….but that’s better than we all thought right?). Favors and Kanter both need to improve considerably in this aspect of their games, especially Kanter. He was just awful last season passing the basketball. In fact his ast/to ratio was 459th out of 462 players. Yikes. Lets hope he makes some improvements there.

Traditionally our big men have been good passers. Karl Malone was obviously a great passer for his position. Looking at Okur and booz were for the most part above average passers (though not great). Millsap is an above average passer, though Big Al is merely average. What would happen if Favors was given 36 minutes a night, and Enes 20? Our passing would even be worse than last year, something that I think would be hard for Jazz fans to stomach. Although I'm willing to bet our anger would be displaced and we'd blame our guards more than our big men.

Our point guards (and Hayward) however were pretty awesome.
Point Guards
Earl Watson- 45, first among point guards (out of 67)
Jamaal Tinsley- 38, sixth among point guards.
Devin Harris- 29.5, 22nd among point guards.

Devin Harris 2009-2010 (year before Jazz)- 25.5, 40th among point guards (out of 66)

To be fair to Devin, he really did work on changing his game to better fit the Jazz point guard mold. His ast. ratio during his two seasons with the jazz were the highest of his career. Remember how the number of times he went to the free throw line decreased with the jazz? Maybe it's somewhat because he was dishing the ball more when he'd penetrate instead of attacking the basket. Just an idea.

Our backup point guards is what really impressed me though. They both truly were our offensive facilitators when on the court last year. Considering how poor the ast ratio's were of our other backups, we truly needed them to step up and crate for others, which they did a fine job of doing. I think it's because of Watson and Tinsley that we even had an average ast ratio as a team last year.

Wings
Gordon Hayward- 20.6, 15th among shooting guards (out of 83 total)
Raja Bell- 15.6, 39th among shooting guards.
Alec Burks- 10.5, 69th among shooting guards.
CJ Miles- 10.7, 40th among small forwards (out of 63)
Josh Howard- 9.9, 45th among small forwards.
Demarre Carrol- 12.8, 31st among small forwards.
Jeremy Evans (big man or win player? Not sure) 19.4, 10th among small forwards)

Another great statistic for Gordon Hayward. My two favorite stats about him are his ast. ratio, and PPS (points per shot). Not only is he an efficient scorer, but he distributes the ball very well. With these two things in mind, I think we should be running our offense through Gordon Hayward, not Big Al. The rest of our wings were average to below average passers. Just to put in perspective Burks rookie year, he barely had a higher ast ratio than Big Al, someone we complain about being a black hole in the post..... just saying. My hope is that Burks this year becomes more of a willing passer, and that will hopefully come with added minutes. My WTF moment was when I saw Jeremy Evans ast. ratio (though to be fair, he didn't "qualify" because of diminished minutes-although he was still above average last year). With a crazy good TS%, a good ast. ratio, and a TON of blk/per48, lets give this kid some more minutes and see what he can do with them!

Now I want to take a look at our newcomers and see how they compare.

Mo Williams 2011-2012-17.9, 63rd among point guards

Mo Williams 2009- 24.8, 43rd among point guards.

I wanted to give stats for last year and the last year he was his teams starting point guard. What jumps out at me is that his ast ratio wasn't as high as Devins last year, and it generally has been lower than Devins every year for the past couple years. If we think things are going to change on the offensive end with Mo Williams (even marginally), I think we're fooling ourselves. Where he does improve our team though is defense, but that's a different topic.

Marvin Williams- 11, 38th among small forwards (out of 63).

Marvin's best ast ratio since he came into the league is 11.3. What I'm interested to know though is his lower ast. ratio a consequence of his style of play, or of his team system (who is in charge of distributing the ball). He had four teammates who were all above average at distributing the ball for their postions (Smith and Hortford top 10 for their positions, while Joe Johnson and Teague were just above average), so maybe he has just never had the opportunity to create for others. His incredibly low TO% (6.1) backs this up.

Randy Foye- 16.2, 36th among shooting guards (out of 83).

My impression of Foye before doing this analysis is that he had developed strictly into a spot up shooter that can't create his own shot. While it may be true that he can't create for himself, he was at least average at creating for others. He had a better ast. ratio than Bell, Miles, and Howard while playing almost exclusively as a shooting guard last year, so there is reason to believe he'd be able to play as a backup point guard for our team.

Lastly, I don't think the Jazz are heading back to a top 3 passing team in the league any time soon without a dominant point guard and with a different system other than the flex offense. In fact, I'm a little weary we'll be able to improve at all next year.... but it's possible. Here are some reasons why we will or will not improve our ast. ratio.

For

1-Big Al's ast. ratio will improve with more shooters surrounding him. Last year when he did show a willingness to kick the ball back out, we knocked down the shot at a pretty poor rate. With better shooting, that ast. rate should go up. And to think more optimistically, if he sees the ball going in more, maybe he'll be even more willing to pass the ball.

2-Haywards usage should increase. With an increased usage from Hayward (assuming he at least maintains his solid 20.6 ast ratio), our team as a whole should see our ast. ratio increase.

Against

1-Mo's ast. ratio is even lower than Devins, which will lower our teams ratio.

2-Foye will get most of the minutes as primary backup pg, which will give our ast. ratio champs (Earl and Tinsley) no time on the floor.

3-Burks and Favors will see more time on the floor, and both have poor ast. ratio's.

Like most Jazz fans, I hope our team becomes more willing passers. I miss the flex offense, but hopefully we can still succeed without it. GO JAZZ :)

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

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