Breaking Down the Defense: A Statistical Look at the Guards

One of the weakest areas in analysis across all sports is individual defensive statistics.  There are many reasons why it has continued to stump some very intelligent people but the biggest one is figuring out how to divide responsibility among the guys on the court for an action.  This is a huge problem in basketball because good defense is always played as a team.  Shutting down your man but letting the opponent lob over the top of the post defender all night is a fail.  Sure, your man didn't score but you let the big man score.  On the other hand, stepping in to cut off dribble penetration often leaves the man you're responsible for open along the perimeter.  If the guard kicks it out, your man hits a three because your teammate got beat off the dribble. 

David Hess at Audacity of Hoops has a great project going in trying to evaluate individual defense, his results highlight a few of the issues we have.  Looking at this results from the Colorado game, he has Tyrel Reed down as the best perimeter defender for the Jayhawks that night.  Taylor, Johnson, Selby, and Morningstar all bring up the rear, well behind Reed's rating.  However, as he mentions in his post on the Colorado game:

I’m willing to bet that has a lot to do with the smalls getting stuck guarding Cory Higgins and Alec Burks, while the bigs got Marcus Relphorde and Austin Dufault. That illustrates one of the biggest weaknesses in this project – lack of matchup info. Even among the smalls, as Tyrel Reed the best defender because of actual play, or because he got to guard the fifth wheel more often?

How often did Reed end up on Burks or Higgins?  That's information we don't have without spending hours breaking down film.  For this reason, I'm going to focus on how the opposing guards do as a whole and just apply it to KU's guards.  To judge the team defense, the average offensive rating, effective field goal percentage, turnover rate, and offensive rebounding rate is compared to how they performed against the Jayhawks.  If they're doing worse than their season average, good for the Jayhawks.

First up, the results of all players that I considered guards.  If a guy was a borderline big/small, I basically used 3 point attempts as the tiebreaker.  For example, Mario Little logs time at the 3 spot but few of us would consider him a guard. 

Avg ORt Game Difference eFG Avg Game Diff TO% Game Diff OR Avg Game Diff
Season Average 107.48 107.39 -0.08 52.46 49.80 -2.25 19.67 18.99 -0.58 3.94 3.74 -0.16

 

Looking through the numbers, we can see that opposing guards shoot a little worse against Kansas than their average but don't turn it over as much.  Neither is a huge difference from their average but it does cause the offensive rating to dip slightly.  These results still have a lot of noise though, Martavious Irving has an O-rating of 96 for the season and put up a 0 against Kansas.  As we know, zeroes kill averages but the defense should get some credit for that. 

Breaking this out further, the guards were broken up into two tiers.  The first tier is for the team's lead guards, the guys who use more possessions and are a big part of the offense.  The second tier would be the Tyrel Reed's and Brady Morningstar's, guys who play a fair number of minutes but aren't the focal point of the offense.  Basically, I was curious if the alpha dogs were giving us more problems than they should.

 

Average Game Difference eFG Avg Game Diff TO% Game Diff OR Avg Game Diff
Diante Garrett 100 102 2 47 50 3 17.3 16 -1.3 1.1 0 -1.1
Darion Anderson 105 106.6 1.60 49.3 43.3 -6 20 6.6 -13.4 8 2.6 -5.4
Lance Jeter 112.5 120.8 8.3 53.5 50 -3.5 16.1 27.2 11.1 2.2 0 -2.2
Toney McCray 95.4 118.3 22.9 51.7 50 -1.7 22.4 28.5 6.1 6.7 12.6 5.9
LaceDarius Dunn 115 84.9 -30.1 55.9 38.8 -17.1 18.9 35.7 16.8 3 4.5 1.5
AJ Walton 94 86.2 -7.8 53.7 62.5 8.8 34.8 53.8 19 2.9 4.1 1.2
Jordan Hamilton 116.8 98.1 -18.7 56.1 38.4 -17.7 14.4 23.5 9.1 7 4.4 -2.6
J'Covan Brown 104 145.9 41.9 49.3 75 25.7 22.5 14.2 -8.3 1.6 0 -1.6
Alec Burks 113.4 121 7.60 49 53.5 4.5 15.9 10.5 -5.4 8 4.1 -3.9
Cory Higgins 115.3 114.9 -0.40 48.3 56.6 8.3 14.1 7.1 -7 3.9 0 -3.9
Jacob Pullen 110.4 99.9 -10.5 48.9 45.4 -3.5 17.8 11.1 -6.7 2.9 4.9 2
Rodney MacGruder 116.7 93.2 -23.5 57.7 65 7.3 18.1 30.7 12.6 8.8 14.2 5.4
John Roberson 100 138.4 38.4 49.3 64.2 14.9 22 18.7 -3.3 0.9 0 -0.9
Average 107.58 110.02 2.44 51.52 53.28 1.77 19.56 21.82 2.25 4.38 3.95 -0.43

 

So the numbers do show a bit of a bump for the alpha dogs against the Jayhawks.  They shoot a little bit better than their average when facing the Jayhawks but also turn the ball over a little more often.  Can this information lead us to thinking that whichever Jayhawk is guarding these guys is a little more aggressive on the ball (Taylor) but also gets beat or gets caught going for steals elsewhere, leaving open shots?  Maybe, I don't know but it makes sense to me.  As for the offensive rating being higher overall, I'm not too worried about that.  Roberson's performance alone takes it from a difference of -.56 to 2.44. 

Role Players

 

Average Game Difference eFG Avg Game Diff TO% Game Diff OR Avg Game Diff
Melvin Ejim 112 112.8 0.8 53.7 50 -3.7 15.8 16.6 0.8 10.8 10 -0.8
Scott Christopherson 109 85.5 -23.5 54.9 34.6 -20.3 14 0 -14 1.2 2.4 1.2
Eshaunte Jones 97.3 125.1 27.8 44.9 50 5.1 12.6 25 12.4 2.2 10.5 8.3
Caleb Walker 108.5 43.2 -65.3 52.3 16.6 -35.7 19 0 -19 8.1 8.6 0.5
Brandon Richardson 101.7 67.3 -34.4 52.9 14.2 -38.7 23.2 25 1.8 0 0 0
Drake Beranek 98.7 135.9 37.2 54.9 66.7 11.8 26.4 0 -26.4 2.2 8.6 6.4
Cory Joseph 111.5 93.2 -18.3 54.3 62.5 8.2 17.5 20 2.5 2.7 13.3 10.6
Dogus Balbay 115.9 204.9 89 57.6 100 42.4 20.5 33.3 12.8 6.7 0 -6.7
Marcus Relphorde 106.2 122.3 16.1 48.5 50 1.5 18.1 8.3 -9.8 5.2 0 -5.2
Levi Knutson 142.6 172.7 30.1 68.9 100 31.1 9.4 33.3 23.9 3.6 0 -3.6
Nate Tomlinson 100.1 206 105.9 58.3 66.7 8.40 34 0 -34 0.6 0 -0.6
Will Spradling 109.4 77.4 -32 52.2 33.3 -18.9 28 20 -8 2.2 0 -2.2
Martavious Irving 96 0 -96 47.9 0 -47.9 22.5 50 27.5 2.9 0 -2.9
David Tairu 113.1 24.5 -88.6 50.3 0 -50.3 9.3 0 -9.3 4.3 0 -4.3
Javarez Willis 88.9 105.9 17 47.5 57.1 9.6 26.1 16.6 -9.5 0.5 0 -0.5
Average 107.39 105.11 -2.28 53.27 46.78 -6.49 19.76 16.54 -3.22 3.55 3.56 0.01

 

For the role players, we see a dip in performance.  This makes intuitive sense if you compare the depth of KU's guards to those of the rest of the Big 12.  Kansas doesn't have an Alec Burks or Jordan Hamilton but they have three or four guards that would be the second best guard on a lot of teams in the Big 12. 

I'm not sure if there's anything to take from these numbers or not.  Without looking at usage stats, it's tough to tell how much of an impact a player had going by just offensive rating.  But the numbers pass the eye test for me, Kansas struggles with the studs but is very tough against the rest of the guards.  One thing I didn't include and wish I would have was free throw rate or some type of fouls drawn stat.  That might have told us a little more about how the guards handle the dribble from the defensive side.

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