Assist Tracker: Dec. 18

Not much happened in the world of assists during a slow day in college basketball. Only one player went over 10 assists, and that was even with some of the top assist guys in college basketball playing. Here’s a look at five of the highlights.

Shabazz Napier (G, Connecticut) – Napier had 13 assists in the Huskies’ 77-40 win against Holy Cross. Five of the 13 assists (38.5%) were for dunks. That’s pretty consistent with his season average. Also worth noting is that he had two assists for threes, both went to Jeremy Lamb.

Jordan Daniels (G, Boston College) – The Eagles proved their not terrible, with a 75-55 win over Bryant in which Daniels had nine assists. Six of those assists went to Lonnie Jackson, who led BC with 26 points. In all the two combined to account for 17 of Jackson’s 26 points and five of Jackson’s seven made threes came from Daniels.

Tim Frazier (G, Penn State) – Frazier is one of the most fascinating point guards in the nation and he didn’t disappoint against Mount St. Mary’s. He finished with 15 points and eight assists in 38 minutes in a 72-43 victory. His eight assists went to six different people and six of the eight were for threes. Frazier is the definition of a drive-and-kick point guard.

Nate Wolters (G, South Dakota State) – After turning some doubters into believers with 34 points and seven assists in a 92-73 win over Washington Wolters has to be feeling pretty good right now. The Jackrabbits’ guard, who is beloved by tempo-free wonks, played all 40 minutes against the Huskies and was the best player on the court. None of his assists went to a teammate close to the basket. He assisted on two jumpers and five threes on the night.

Luka Mirkovic (F/C, Northwestern) – Like Wolters, none of Mirkovic’s seven assists in Northwestern’s 87-72 victory over Eastern Illinois went to a teammate near the basket. The assisted on four jumpers and three threes, welcome to a center in the Princeton Offense. Want to know why David Sobolewski shot so well against the Panthers (he was 5-6 for 12 points). It was the two-man game with Mirkovic, who gave Sobo four of his seven assists. Oh, two of John Shurna’s record-tying threes were off Mirkovic assist as well.

Who does more? Looking at assists

Everyone thinks they know the best way to rack up a bunch of assists: Play fast, surround yourself with a bunch of talented scorers and let the dimes pile up like Scrooge McDuck’s vault. The best playmakers though don’t just benfit from the talent around them. They also raise their teammates up. Who is doing that this season?

Let’s take a look at the top eight players in assists per game from BCS conferences and try and figure it out. The list: Kendall Marshall, North Carolina; Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall; Tim Frazier, Penn State; Vincent Council, Providence; Peyton Siva, Louisville; Myck Kabongo, Texas; Shabazz Napier, Connecticut and Junior Cadougan, Marquette.

Looking at the individual tendencies of the Top 8 BCS assist men

Marshall leads the group at 10.2 assists per game, but he’s getting a bunch of help from his teammates. Of the eight players in the survey Marshall has the highest percentage of his assists that result from jumpers at 31.4%. Combining that with the 23.5% that have resulted in threes thus far this season means he’s needed a teammate to knock down a shot 54.9% of the time.

Surprisingly, that isn’t the highest mark of the eight point guards. Drive-and-kick guards like Kabongo, Cadougan and Frazier have very high percentages of their assists result in threes. Since 56.3% of Frazier’s assists have ended up being to shooters behind the arc, he’s actually helped out in some way on almost 60% of the Nittany Lions’ points this season. Thus PSU is incredibly reliant on their junior point guard, which is probably why he’s played fewer than 34 minutes in just two games.

Frazier has another quality that makes him stand out as well; no point guard on this list spreads the ball around to different teammates as much as he does. Thus far this season Cammeron Woodyard has gotten 21.3% of Frazier’s assists. That pales in comparison to the percentage Jae Crowder has gotten from Cadougan (44.9%) or Bryce Cotton (43.8%) has received from Council.

Another player that does a good job spreading the ball around is Texas’ Kabongo and he’s a freshman. While J’Covan Brown gets 31.1% of the Canadian’s assists, six other players have also received at least eight percent.

Then there’s the fascinating case of Napier. The Connecticut point guard is 18th in the nation in assists at 6.2 per game. The best part is a whopping 32.1% of those have gone for dunks. Consider that no other player has had more than 16.7% of their assists go for dunks (Marshall, mostly thanks to John Henson) and it’s even more stunning. That’s the benefit of playing with Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi and Jeremy Lamb.

Siva though tops Napier’s close basket percentage. This is a product of the Louisville system and the finishers he plays with. If it’s not a three or something near the rim Rick Pitino doesn’t want it. And really, who on the Cardinals is going to be dunking on a regular basis? That means Siva has the highest layup percentage amongst his peers at 43.5%. Interestingly enough he doesn’t have the lowest jumper percentage.  That belongs to Theodore at a miniscule 6.1%. The Seton Hall point guard is putting his teammates in great positions to make plays with the basketball.

Because Marshall is relying so much on jump shots from his teammates, it’ll be interesting to see if he can sustain a double-digit assist total throughout the season. At some point the shooters are bound to go cold. Then the UNC point guard will have to rely on the pace at which the Tar Heels play and the elite finishing talent he has around him, like Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes, to get easy assists. He’s got enough talent to sustain it.

What about the players like Frazier, Theodore and Council that don’t have the elite talent around them? Well, Theodore (37.9% to Herb Pope) and Council (Cotton) have done a good job of identifying the elite scoring talent around them and getting the ball to those guys. Frazier doesn’t have that luxury and whether or not he can sustain the ridiculous do-everything pace he’s on going into Big Ten play remains to be seen. Still, he’s certainly a special talent that is doing more with less.

This post is going to be cross posted on College Hoops Journal.