July 31, 2014

WFNY Stats & Info: Luke Walton’s passing excellence

Here’s your mind-blowing stat of the day: Among all non-guards in the NBA with at least 75+ minutes played this season, Luke Walton ranks 2nd in assist percentage at 21.8%. He’s only trailing LeBron James, while outpacing Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, the definition of assist percentage is “an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor.”

Walton, who missed Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors with foot/ankle soreness, actually has quite the reputable career mark for his passing expertise.

Canceling out guards again — who usually are more well known for their assists — and Walton has a 19.5% mark, ranking No. 32 all-time among players with at least 7,500 minutes played. Obvious names like Magic Johnson LeBron James, Nate McMillan and Oscar Robertson dominate the leaderboard, while his father Bill Walton also ranks No. 58.

Most notably on this list of 80 non-guards with at least an assist rate of 16%, Walton has the fourth-lowest usage rate (although usage is dependent on turnovers, which only have been tracked since 1977). Usage estimates a player’s overall involvement in the offense by all available statistics, so it show how Luke has been quite effective as an unselfish ball-passer, as The Basketball Jones pointed out last week too.

The NBA’s famous son might be the butt of many basketball-related jokes, but Walton has provided quite the niche for the suddenly hot Cavaliers. He had 7 assists in just about 18 minutes of play in both wins last week over Boston and Milwaukee. Obviously, that’d adds up to an incredible 14 total assists over the often discussed 36-minute barrier.

[Related: Finally some fun for Cavalier fans]

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Walton has definitely been able to shake off the rust and play better over the last month or so. The passing is a nice bonus, but the fact that he’s been able to knock down a few shots here and there is what really matters to me. He’s still only sitting at 42.6% FG and 28.6% 3FG for January, which probably still isn’t good enough to balance out his solid passing game, but it’s certainly better than it was.

  • Jon

    Did anybody watch the game on Friday? It was actually painful to watch Luke Walton play basketball. He tried pushing the ball up the court a couple of times, and then leaped into the air (very unathletic-ly) before passing the ball out of bounds. Someone needs to tell him what I learned in my first season of youth basketball, which is to never leave your feet, and Byron needs to play Casspi over him!

  • brownstown

    Named my Kid Price called this about a week ago and had some guys grilling him over it… The old goat looks like he was right!!!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Honestly, now that we have Speights who can play the power forward position as well as center, I’m good with a three person frontcourt rotation of Thompson, Zeller, and Speights leaving Casspi and Kevin Jones to fight over the scraps. I know this is just wishful thinking because Byron Scott + Luke Walton = Forever, but a man can dream.

  • mgbode

    i was one of the guys grilling and while the assist% was up with Walton on the floor, every single other number was worse. that was my point.

    Walton has had a couple decent games in the last couple weeks, but I still want no part of him on our team after this season.

  • mgbode

    for fun, think about Rick Pitino coaching Luke Walton. the guy who cares about 3 things: athletic ability, getting easy layups and shooting 3′s coaching the guy who just likes to take long 2pters and slow everything down. good times.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Haha, love it. I also enjoy thinking of him in a D’Antoni offense. He left the Lakers too early, we almost had it!

  • woofersus

    That was an ugly moment, but in the same game he had 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 5 points in 18 minutes. Casspi, in about a third of Walton’s minutes, had 0 points, 0 assists, and 1 rebound. And believe it or not, Casspi is making shots at a lower percentage than Walton. If Casspi was a lock-down defender I could see an argument for playing him over Walton, but he’s not.

  • mgbode

    well, we get to see the Dwight&Pau floor combo as a consolation prize. where is Odom when you need him?!

  • mgbode

    on another note: you had mentioned Livingston reminded you somewhat of Andre Miller’s style of PG. I have watched him with this in mind and just don’t see it enough. He’s not silky smooth getting into the lane or with his passing and he doesn’t seem to be stout against bigger guards.

    having a hard time fingering a good example for him though. he’s tall and lanky with decent passing but man his movements just seem herky-jerky to me as if he changes his mind where to go once he starts moving.

  • woofersus

    I agree that on a good team Walton is buried at the end of the bench, but I don’t think he’s as bad as the stats you listed are suggesting. I realize the stats take into account the entire season and I’m probably thinking about the last month or so, but still, I’m curious about the possibility of those stats being affected by the people he tends to be on the floor with during his minutes. Even though his time on the floor represented the worst and not just bad, but is it possible his minutes tend to be shared with the worst combination of players, or he plays fewer minutes with some starters on the floor than others? It just seems like the second unit – the whole second unit with no starters – is less inept at running the offense and making defensive rotations when he is in there with them.

    I’m not sure if the info is available without doing a ridiculous amount of work, but I’m curious what percentage of each player’s minutes are spent with at least 2 starters on the floor. (including said player if a starter)

    This is, of course, completely academic since I would sincerely hope that regardless of his relative worth, we’ve improved enough next year that there is no point in considering retaining his services.

  • SDA

    Its nice knowing that my eyes didn’t deceive me!!

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    Thanks for having my back BT!

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    My thing was the offense flows better with him on the floor. We had too much trying to take your man one on one. Instead of looking to create for others and moving the ball to create easy opportunities for your teammates. This article backs me up on that. If he is gone after the season and these young guys learned from him I say job well done sir!

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    There is a reason he’s a journeyman

  • mgbode

    yes, and I agree that the passing is better. yet, we still have been scoring less efficiently with him on the floor. all other numbers are down. now, again, this was before the last few games he played when he actually hit a few shots, which helps.

  • mgbode

    the worst dropoff numbers were when he was on the floor with mostly starters (including Kyrie) per 82games.com

  • woofersus

    That’s interesting. I’ll have to spend some time digging into those stats.

  • mgbode

    just as a snippet, here’s his 2 most used 5man units (couple weeks old):
    Irving-Waiters-Gee-Walton-Zeller
    0.74-offense / 1.35-defense where 1.0 is league average.

    Irving-Gibson-Gee-Walton-Zeller
    0.96-offense / 1.02-defense

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Did you happen to copyright “Byron Scott + Luke Walton = Forever”? Because I want it on a t-shirt.

  • woofersus

    The Gibson-for-Waiters substitution between those lineups is interesting, but that’s another topic….

    Here’s what I wonder about the “Walton Effect” on those lineups. What if the falloff is more about the loss of Thompson than the addition of Walton? Here’s a less used lineup that has significantly different results:

    Irving-Waiters-Gee-Thompson-Walton: 1.61 offense / .71 defense. Win% goes from 0 to 80.

    I realize this lineup was used little enough that it could be a statistical anomaly, and there are other lineups used more where Walton is replacing Zeller instead of Thompson that show a similar change but to a lesser degree, but I wanted to focus on just the swap of one player for comparison’s sake. It’s also worth noting that in his Player Floor Time Stats by Position, he looks dramatically better at C than at PF. He also looks better at SF, but it looks like that amounts to <1% of total time so it's not worth considering.