Perk and Rondo: Return of the Turnover Problem
Posted by Zach Lowe on Jan 12, 2010
Kendrick Perkins turned the ball over six times last night, including four traveling calls. It seemed like an extreme performance, but it’s really the continuation of a trend.
In his last 11 games, Perk has turned the ball over 41 times.
In his last 11 games, Rajon Rondo has turned the ball over 44 times.
That’s eight turnovers per game between two players. And as well as these two guys have played, that’s just too many. Right now, there isn’t a more turnover prone center-point guard combo in the starting line-up of any NBA team.
Rondo is going to turn the ball over. He’s the point guard, he handles the ball all the time and he takes some risks. He’s still 7th in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.36), and that’s an improvement over his mark in that category (3.18) from last season.
Even so, Rajon’s turnover rate remains high. (Turnover rate is an estimate of how often a player turns the ball over on possessions during which he tries to do something with it). Rondo’s turnover rate—now sitting at 18.5 percent—is the 10th-highest among 71 guards who have played at least 500 minutes this season, according to Basketball Reference. That’s actually a (slight) improvement over last year’s number (a shade over 19 percent), and it’s something I’m willing to live with considering Rajon’s central role in the offense. Still—cutting the turnovers from four per game to three would be helpful.
(Side note: Chris Paul has the third-lowest turnover rate among those 71 guards. Chris Paul is insanely good).
Perk’s turnovers are more worrisome, since a) he’s a center and he doesn’t handle the ball in high-risk situations as much; and b) none of his six turnovers last night were illegal screens. As I’ve written before, I can live with the illegal screens; he gets called for one or two per game (on a bad night) and the extra oomph he puts into his screens—the very thing that results in officials deeming some of them illegal—is a net plus for the C’s in the long run, because of the extra space he creates for teammates.
But things get more problematic when you mix in traveling calls (four last night, three on Sunday), shot clock violations and no-chance-in-hell passes out of double-teams.
Perk has always been turnover prone. His turnover rate has been over 20 percent in each of his six prior seasons in the league. That’s bad.
But he had been better this season. He was under 20 percent after about 25 games, and he was a much more efficient offensive player as a result.
Now? He’s up to 22.3 percent, which is the 8th-highest figure among 85 players 6’10” or taller that have played at least 200 minutes this season, according to this data dive on Basketball Reference. And only two of the guys above him on that list—Tyson Chandler and the out-for-the-season Joel Pryzbilla—average more than 10 minutes per game.
The C’s have been a high-turnover club in each of the last three seasons. They have averaged between 15 and 16.5 turnovers per game in each season during that span and have ranked among the bottom five teams in overall turnover percentage each year.
This isn’t going to change. The C’s are going to commit a lot of turnovers. I’m not asking them to turn into the Hawks or the Heat. But a little bit of care can make a huge difference. The C’s are practically unbeatable (50-10 since the start of the ’08 season) when they turn the ball over 12 or fewer times. They remain a very good club when they simply stick to their average turnover rate; they are still 40-21 in that same span when they commit 17 or more turnovers, according to Basketball Reference.
But other facets of Boston’s game have to be extra good for them to win those high-turnover games against good teams. Not enough of those things were extra good against Atlanta last night, and they lost.
Sure, it’s better to play sloppy in January than in May. But the C’s—especially Perk—need to get this cleaned up before it becomes a habit.