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A look at the guards.

In a previous post, Doc raised 5 questions about the current team as it stands today. In keeping with this theme, I wanted to take a statistical look at one of the preseason’s biggest questions: guard play. For the sake of this analysis, I am just going to look at the three players who play the bulk of the minutes at the two guard positions (Drew II, Strickland, and Ginyard) and will exclude the G/F players like Graves and McDonald.

First, let’s look at the total production of the trio. To ease any comparisons, I have normalized each of the player’s output to reflect a "per 40 minute" basis.

[table id=7 /]

At first glance, it really does not appear that there is much of a difference in production between the three, but results-based data such as these often fail to tell the entire story, so I will now present each of the player’s efficiency numbers:

[table id=8 /]

  1. EFG% (Effective Field Goal percentage): accounts for the fact that a made 3 point FG has 50% more value than a 2 point FG.
  2. ORtg (Offensive Efficiency): The number of points a "team" of the player in question would score in a 100 possession game.

With both sets of data, it now becomes a little easier to make comparisons and judge the overall production. Looking only at the total production of the three players, it would be easy to say that all three are performing at about the same level (aside from Drew’s outstanding assist rate, which I will touch on in a bit). However, when you look at the efficiency stats, it becomes clear that Strickland’s play, while often spectacular, has also been far less effiecient then either Drew’s or Ginyard’s has been. This is to be expected of a freshman. It is also to be expected of a player learning a new position. The fact that Strickland is doing the latter, while being the former, and still maintaining a fairly high level of play, really speaks volumes to his potential. (The data is not available to me now, but I plan to start tracking Strickland’s stats as a function of playing with and without Drew II to try and determine what effect playing a foreign position is having on his overall production.)

Looking at the stats as a whole, it is obvious that they all turn the ball over too much, Drew and Strickland foul too much, and the free throw shooting of Ginyard and Strickland has been surprisingly bad. But overall, I would say the (offensive) production from these three has been pretty good and probably constitutes a positive answer to the preseason questions. (Ironically, one of the perceived strengths of UNC in the preseason was going to be their defense, but their current defensive efficiency is ranked 57; none of Roy’s other UNC teams ranked lower than 23.)

Lastly, Larry Drew’s performance has been somewhat of a revelation. The following table compares Drew’s current numbers with those of the last three "great" UNC PGs during their sophomore seasons. Just as before, the "per game" statistics have been normalized to 40 minutes per game. An obvious criticism of this will be the fact that Drew has not played a full season. While I certainly plan to revisit this at the end of the season, I will also point out that production does not necessarily drop once conference play starts. Because starters often see an increase in minutes, it is quite common for production/efficiency to actually increase during conference play (e.g. Hansbrough in 2008 and Lawson last year).

[table id=9 /]

Looking at these data, two things really stand out to me. First, to state the obvious: Ty Lawson was really, really good. His numbers as a sophomore were outstanding, yet they are almost pedestrian compared to what he produced last year.

Second, Larry Drew’s numbers are very comparable with both Cota’s and Felton’s. He is not the thief or rebounder that the other two are, but his assist rate and three point shooting significantly outpace all three of the other elite Tar Heel point guards. It should also be pointed out that the three former UNC guards all started as freshman and were much more experienced at running the team when they started their sophomore seasons. Additionally, under Roy Williams, both Felton and Lawson (as well as Adonis Jordin, Jacque Vaughn, and Kirk Hinrich) improved significantly between their sophomore and junior seasons. I see no reason to expect anything different from Larry Drew.