In Defense of Point Guards; How Does Russell Westbrook Stack Up?

In yesterday's post on the problems I've seen with the Thunder's perimeter defense, I singled out Russell Westbrook a bit, not so much to gripe, but as a jumping off point for more in depth analysis. We were able to see through some visual support that there are reasons why the Thunder struggle with opposing teams' guards, and how this struggle manifests itself statistically.

When examining statistics, context is of course everything. You can make a number say practically anything you want it to if you don't also provide a point of reference. Since I didn't do that yesterday, I thought it prudent to provide some follow-up on how the rest of the league's point guards look when examining their defensive contribution. 

Here is how the rest of the point guards in the NBA stack up:

Pg_defense_medium 

Total minutes and net rating provided by BasketballValue.com.
Records provided by Yahoo! Sports.
note: Memphis statistics were not available at the time of post.

Wooh boy, that's a lot of numbers. It is also pretty random. And when I say random, I really mean that - I ran a correlation between winning percentage and net defensive rating and the correlation coefficient was 0.04. In other words, a point guard's defense statistically has practically no relation to how well a team performs. Interesting, yes, especially since Mr. Westbrook's net defensive rating is so poor.

Table explained:

  • Table is sorted by team winning percentage.
  • ON represents the player's effectiveness (in this table, both offense and defense are included).
  • OFF represents how much better/worse the team performs when the player is sitting down on the bench.
  • Net is the difference between the two. A positive net value for offense is a good thing - it means that the team scores more when said player is on the court. A positive net value for defense is a bad thing - it means the team gives up more points when said player is on the court.
  • Players with a negative net defensive rating are highlighted.
  • Net O + Net D is the summation of the net offense (positive is good) and the absolute value of the net defense (negative is good). 
  • By comparing the net sum to winning percentage, I was hoping to draw some measure as to how much a point guard's effectiveness contributes to the team's success.

Observations:

  • There are only seven PG's in the league that have a net negative value; four are on winning teams, three, on losing teams. 
  • Steve Nash is #1 in net-net rating, which is surprising because he has long been held as a very poor defensive player. Yet his team is better defensively when he's on the court. His team has a losing record, which should make us wonder how bad they would be if Nash were traded. Double MVP? Makes a little more sense.
  • If you take the highest net-net rating combined with a winning percentage, you get Chris Paul.
  • if you take the highest winning percentage with the highest net-net rating, you get Rajon Rondo.
  • Strangely enough, the only player to have both a negative defensive AND offensive rating is Tony Parker. Parker is the PG for the team with the highest winning percentage.
  • If you rank the PG's from last to first by defensive rating, the dubious honor for numbers' 1 and 2 are Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook, respectively. To state more of the obvious, those two guys are the PG's for the two teams battling over first place in the Northwest Division.
Conclusions

/throws arms up in the air

This much we know - it still isn't good that Westbrook has a negative defensive rating, but it also is not the end of the world. Also, the guy who matters most to thwart Westbrook's team success (D. Williams) is even worse than Westbrook. I will contend though that to move into that upper echelon of PG play, the air where Nash, Paul, and Rondo reside, offensive and defensive work needs to improve. I think Westbrook will.
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