Playing professional sports is the dream of kids all over the country and world. Kids dream of hitting the buzzer-beating shot, holding up a Super Bowl trophy or pitching in the World Series. For most, the step to the pros comes through the collegiate level, which is difficult to get to, and then even harder to make it to the next level.
With that, most players like to model their game after certain great players, and people always want to compare one player to another.
This is not about who this year has a chance of going pro, but taking a closer look at the individual players on the team and how they compare to players in the NBA. Not through the old-fashioned eyeball test, but instead through advanced statistics. Some ground rules needed to be established for this to work.
Only Union players who had played at least 40 minutes through the first four games this season qualified because any less would not give sufficient data.
PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is one of the key contributors to the comparison for most. PER is a stat that is supposed to calculate a player’s value into one number. It takes almost every known stat into consideration to look at how efficient a player is when on the court. In the NBA a 15 is average and scoring a 22 or higher usually means it may be an All-Star-level season. PER is supposed to be calculated for pace, meaning the amount of possessions a team has compared to the league average is taken into account. This helps balance it for teams that play at a slower pace. Division II doesn’t give those stats out, so I modified the PER formula to not need pace to get the results. When tested with NBA players my formula was off by 2.2 points at the most, but the average range of error was -1.2 points.
Rebound Rate is another contributor. It is the percentage of rebounds a player gets while on the floor.
Assist Ratio is the third category being looked at as something more important for guards. This stat looks at only the plays that a player finishes through either shooting, turnovers, getting to the free throw line or recording an assist. The number represents the number of times the player finishes a possession with an assist as opposed to shooting or turning it over.
The reason for using these stats is that they are based on minutes played, so if a player has played 50 minutes or 100 you should be able to still get an unbiased number as opposed to per game stats which would help out a player that plays more.
For each player three NBA counterparts were chosen, followed by field goal percentage, defensive ability, play style and other numbers to break the tie.
The NBA counterparts are chosen based on the numbers through this point in the season.
Jordan Montgomery = Paul George
Montgomery has a PER of 27.08, 11.81 rebound rate and 13.50 assist ratio. Montgomery’s PER would have him rated as a top-10 player in the NBA, and that kind of efficiency has clearly been a difference in the games thus far. He has close to identical numbers Blake Griffin and Paul George, but with George shooting so well from everywhere on the court it seemed like Montgomery fit that mold better. Montgomery has shot 65.2 percent from deep this season and has been active in all aspects of the game and his length and athleticism allow him to play at small forward or power forward just like George has done for the Pacers.
Marterrace Brock = Gordon Hayward
Brock has a PER of 15.71, 8.61 rebound rate and 12.62 assist ratio. This kind of PER would lead you to believe Brock is average or slightly above average, but he seems to be in a bit of a shooting slump so far this season, as his field goal percentage has gone down substantially. Brock always has some games in the season where it doesn’t seem like he can miss, and he drops 30 in the game. He also has some games where the ball just isn’t going in the way he’d like and it’s very clear it’s simply an off night. That’s what makes him a lot like Hayward since both can score a lot, but may hit slumps or have off nights that will bring their percentages down which effects the efficiency rating. Both players also have the ability to fill out a box score with more than just scoring with defensive ability and their athleticism allows them to play the two of the three positions.
Editor’s Note: Since this was written, two games have been played where Brock had a 30-point game making 13 of his 16 shots that game.
KC Goodwin = Marcus Smart
Goodwin has a PER of 10.77, 8.27 rebound rate and a 22.52 assist ratio. The start of the season hasn’t been as kind for Goodwin as people hoped for. The main reason for this number is that Goodwin is shooting 23.8 percent from the field, which is going to drop anyone’s efficiency rating a lot. Smart has trouble shooting so far this season too, but both players have still been excellent in filling up the box score through rebounding well for their position and dealing out assists. The upside for Goodwin is that he is shooting 94.1 percent from the free throw line which usually means the player is a solid shooter that is just having some trouble. Expect Goodwin to start shooting better by the midpoint of the season.
Serigne Mboup = LaMarcus Aldridge
Mboup has a 17.36 PER, 15.67 rebounding rate and a 9.51 assist ratio. Mboup has been great for a Union team that needed a big player who could score inside, and Mboup has shown that he is that and can score from outside the paint just fine too. He doesn’t get a lot of blocks, but he does play solid interior defense as a rim protector and is that big body down low. Aldridge is known for being a great player with a lot of versatility, but this season he hasn’t quite found that superstar level with the Spurs. This doesn’t mean that Mboup is like that, instead he is a solid player, he just hasn’t reached an All-Star level yet in the same way Aldridge hasn’t yet this season.
Ashanti Day = Josh Smith
Day has a 6.48 PER, 14.42 rebounding rate and an 18.51 assist ratio. Day is not anywhere near what his efficiency rating suggests, and he has clearly had a rough first four games and is looking to rebound in the next couple of games this season. His main issue has been shooting, mostly from outside, but his athleticism and size have allowed him to still rebound well. Smith is kind of that same kind of player—really athletic, lacks the deep ball most of the time, but can be an All-Star when in the right system. Day is much better than the first four games have shown, and he should be shooting better sooner rather than later.
Editor’s Note: Since this was written, Day has made 70 percent of his shots over the last two games.
Roy Bullock = Kemba Walker
Bullock has a 22.80 PER, 2.45 rebounding rate and a 23.75 assist rate. Bullock has been an efficient player off the bench and plays as much as some of the starters. Originally he appeared to be more of an Isaiah Thomas, which made some sense due to their height too, but Bullock has been a better shooter and Walker just made more sense because he can shoot better. They are both smaller players with the quickness and ability to get to the rim and the free throw line while still being a solid outside shooter. Bullock has also been a solid defensive player by forcing plenty of turnovers in the first four games. He has been and will continue to be a key contributor off the bench, and a great guy to take over if the offense needs steadying since he doesn’t turn the ball over that much.
Brennan Bowling = Anthony Morrow
Bowling has a 10.86 PER, 2.25 rebounding rate and a 13.64 assist rate. Bowling is a great three-point shooter. He doesn’t really do much else which is pretty clear because only one of his shots has not been from behind the arc. He does play defense and get steals—he’s not a black hole—but his purpose is to shoot. Morrow has been used similarly in Oklahoma City because of the other great players around him. Bowling does more on the court and hopefully as the season goes on we will see more of that, but being able to have a shooter on this team is good with the game needing more shooters to create space inside to score.
Felipe Rocha = Robin Lopez
Rocha has a 12.89 PER, 14.02 rebounding rate and a 20.78 assist rate. Rocha is a big body and works hard when he is on the floor. The numbers would show he is a great passing big, but he also doesn’t take very many shots when he is on the floor which inflates the assist ratio. However, he hasn’t recorded a turnover yet this season, plugs up the lane on defense and is great for setting screens on offense. Robin Lopez is kind of the same player, a little limited offensively, but gets rebounds and plays defense which is really all this team needs of Rocha. However, no one would complain if he started scoring more, and he has shown some ability to shoot from outside the paint at Bulldog Madness, which isn’t the same thing as a game, but maybe it will start to carry over into games later on in the season.
Over all there isn’t too much to complain about with this team—most of it is just picking at the small things. When a team is undefeated, it’s much harder to find what they’re doing wrong. These statistics and comparisons will be revised throughout the season when there is more data to use because basketball is a game where a player could hit a cold or hot streak for several games then snap out of it. By the time mid-January rolls around, we will have a better look at what these players will look like and what the team will look like moving forward.