Sunday, January 2, 2011

Is Deron Williams better than Chris Paul?

Honestly, I'm not sure why I care that much about this debate, other than my in-laws in Utah are big Deron Williams homers. It all started on draft night when I read Bill Simmon's draft journal where he says this:

Following a trade with Portland, Utah takes Deron (don't call me De-RON) Williams at No. 3. Perfect pick – with some luck, he'll be half as good as Chris Paul.

Now, I watch virtually no sports these days, and I wish I could. Instead, I read about sports, so take this post for what it's worth. But I love getting into the statistics, so when I discovered The Wages of Wins website occasionally I'll drop on by to see what they have to say. And they've consistently rated Chris Paul not just the best point guard in league but one of the best ever and one of the best in the league at any position, year after year.

Well, I've been casually following Chris Paul this year, and when New Orlean's got off to their fast start I was pretty excited, but they have since slowed waaay down and it seemed like Deron Williams was putting up better numbers this year as I would occasionally scan their respective box scores.

I also know that there are serious concerns about Chris Paul's knee, so I was willing to concede on this debate this season...

But then I read this article about Chris Paul this season on Wages of Wins. No comparison to Deron Williams here, but they do say:

"As the following table notes, Chris Paul is really very, very, good. In fact, Paul is once again among the leaders in the NBA in Wins Produced. "

And I said to myself, whaaat? So, I checked for myself, here are the stats of the two player side by side, this season

Chris Paul: MIN: 34.9, FG %: .497, 3P%: .447, FT%: .910, STL: 3.00, TO: 2.4, PF: 2.5, Rebounds: 4.4, Assists: 9.9, Points: 16.6

Deron Williams: MIN: 37.9, FG %: .471, 3P%: .369, FT% .844, STL: 1.20, TO: 3.3, PF: 2.9, Rebounds: 3.9, Assists: 9.3, Points 22.2

Now the only statistic Deron Williams is doing better in this year is points, but in every other category he's doing worse, again this year. Wages of Wins makes the point that points is the statistic that gets the most attention, which is why many people believe Deron Williams is having a better year (he is having a great year, I'm not arguing that), but points scored is misleading. If someone consumes a lot of shots to get their points (think Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant), they are actually hurting their team.

For this reason, the more important measure is how much a player does to maximize the number of possessions that turn into points for their team, and it's here where Chris Paul excels at historical levels. He turns the ball over very infrequently for a point guard, he gets lots of steals, he is a good rebounder at his position, he shoots the ball at a very high percentage and he gets a high number of assists. In other words he maximizes the number of possessions his teams gets with the ball (turnovers, steals and rebounds) and converts those possessions into points at a very high percentage (shooting percentage, assists).

The one difference this year, because Chris Paul is still recovering from a really bad knee injury that he suffered last year, is that Paul's minutes have been limited compared to previous years and compared to Deron Williams this year. This is a factor (given equivalent minutes, his turnovers would be slightly higher - but so also would be his steals, points, assists, and rebounds). Also, the minutes Chris Paul sits, another less effective (than Paul and Williams) guard is playing which does hurt the team's ability to win.

But when you look at his statistics, it is easy to see why Chris Paul is one of the best point guards ever to play the game.

Again, his knee problems may shorten his career and in the end Deron Williams, based solely on career longevity, may end up being the better pick for the Utah Jazz. But there should be no doubt that for the past six years of their respective careers, Chris Paul has been clearly the better player, and he is having the better year, this year.


Wages of Wins has an article on the Utah Jazz and Deron Williams.

So, here's the "Wins Produced" data side by side:

Deron Williams: 17.0 wins produced.
Chris Paul: 26.6 wins produced.

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