Hockey Assists and Deflections
Posted by Zach Lowe on Apr 2, 2009
We know teams track deflections (hat tip: TrueHoop), and we hear some fans who think the “hockey assist” should be tracked as well–to award the guy who makes the pass that sets up the assist. For last night’s game against the Bobcats, I decided to track both. I’ll do it a few more times (on games I’m not assigned to recap) to see if any pattern emerges.
Very quickly, you have to make some calls about what counts as a deflection. We think of a “deflection” as the instance when a defender gets their hand in the passing lane and knocks the ball out of bounds or to another player. But what about when a defensive player taps a rebound up in the air? Or when a defender slaps the ball out of the hands of the man he’s guarding? For tonight, I counted them all. Here are the stats:
1) Paul Pierce–7 (four passes, two tips to other C’s on the defensive glass, one “slapaway”)
2) Kendrick Perkins–4 (three tips on DRBs, one pass)
3) Ray allen–3 (two passes, one “slapaway”)
4t) Mikki Moore–2 (two tips on DRBs)
4t) Eddie House–2 (one pass, one kicked ball on a pass–should we count those?)
4t) Glen Davis–2 (one pass, one tipped DRB to a teammate)
No deflections–at least that I saw–by Rondo, the guy I’d expect (in the long run) to be near the top of a list consisting only of pass deflections. (Including rebounds, I realize, favors the big guys. Perhaps next time I’ll focus only on pass deflections?).
The Wall Street Journal (h/t TrueHoop) wrote a story on inflated assist totals, something a few NBA bloggers have been picking at for a while now. I normally don’t pay much attention to individual assists during a game, but I did tonight, and there were a few awarded (at least according to ESPN’s play-by-play and box score) that didn’t fit the definition of an assist as I understand it.
Take Stephon Marbury’s driving flip shot to bring the C’s within 46-44 with about 4:00 left in the second quarter. Mikki Moore was credited with an assist on the play. All he did was stand at the top of the key, receive a pass from someone along the sideline and basically hand the ball to Marbury, who drove about 20 feet to the hoop and made a nifty lay-up. The assist rule is confusing, and maybe Moore technically deserved one there. I didn’t think so as I watched.
On the other hand, Rajon Rondo did not receive an assist (again, according to the current box score and play-by-play on multiple sites) for his fast break pass from the middle of the court to Eddie House on the wing late in the fourth quarter; House took a dribble and a step back before draining a two-pointer to cut the ‘Cats lead to 93-91.
In any case, the Celtics recorded 21 assists tonight, two below their season average. I recorded just 10 “hockey assists.” I missed a couple (two, I think) because I didn’t record a regular assist on the play (such as Marbury’s lay-in). The rest of the assisted hoops didn’t have a hockey assist; the basket either resulted from a single pass (i.e. someone grabbed an offensive rebound and dished to a teammate) or a back-and-forth sequence between two players, in which the player who scored passed to a teammate and then got the ball back from the same teammate.
As this list will show, some hockey assists are more meaningful than others; four of them were “awarded” for inbounds passes.
1) Ray Allen (inbounder) to Rajon Rondo to Paul Pierce for a step back jumper.
2) Ray Allen to Paul Pierce to Rajon Rondo for a three-pointer.
3) Stephon Marbury to Paul Pierce, who finds Mikki Moore for a dunk on a screen/roll.
4) Eddie House to Ray Allen to Mikki Moore for a dunk.
5) Mikki Moore (inbounder) to Rajon Rondo to Perk for a lay-in on a screen/roll.
6) Rajon Rondo to Paul Pierce to Ray Allen for a three-pointer.
7) Glen Davis (inbounder) to Rajon Rondo to Eddie House for a three-pointer.
Kendrick Perikins (inbounder) to Rajon Rondo to Glen Davis for a dunk.
9) Paul Pierce to Kendrick Perkins to Eddie House for a three-pointer. Of all of these, this pass is the type people have in mind when they say the NBA should track hockey assists. Pierce drove down the right side of the lane, forcing Perk’s man (Okafor) to help and drawing other perimeter defenders toward the lane to rotate toward Perk. Pierce slid a pass to Perk; Perk, finding himself covered, dished out to House for the wide open three.
10) Rajon Rondo to Paul Pierce to Ray Allen for the game-winning three pointer.
So there it is. Ten “hockey assists” (by my count, and there’s a good chance I’m a bit off), with Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo “leading” the way with two each.
I’m not giving up on the hockey assist. The C’s offense was dribble-heavy and slow for the first 3 1/2 quarters of the game, and it took them nearly five quarters of basketball to approach their season assist average. We’ll try again on a better day.