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NBA 2005-06 Player to Player Passing Stats

Last season one of the more popular articles was the 2004-05 Player to Player Passing stats that show how many baskets are coming via assist from a specific teammate, and likewise which passers are piling up 'dimes' thanks to the finishes of their 'mates.

Now assists are a statistic we hope to make obsolete in the not too distant future since there are clear weaknesses -- 1) assists come with a wide range of degree of difficulty for the scorer: an uncontested dunk versus a contested long jumper should raise differences in the split credit between passer and shooter, 2) don't take into account the missed shots that would have been assists, 3) don't count passes that lead to free throws, and 4) don't examine the number of turnovers arising from the attempted "assist worthy" passes. All in all, NBA passing stats are in need of some fixing!

We have alluded to what we will be doing via the game charting efforts (see The value of a Good Pass). That just touches the surface on what we'll show for individuals -- where a genuine passing efficiency in terms of points per possession can be calculated.

However, for the purists, let's see which NBA players were the leaders on an assist basis:

1) Top Passer-Scorer Combos
An easy place to begin when looking at these numbers is to ask simply which players have combined for the most assisted Field Goals this season? (All Data includes the full 2005-06 regular season).
Total Assisted Field Goals
Ast'd FG
DET  Billups  Hamilton 268
PHO  Nash  Marion 234
WAS  Arenas  Jamison 202
NJN  Kidd  Jefferson 196
DEN  Miller  Anthony 190
PHI  Iverson  Webber 187
NJN  Kidd  Carter 181
LAC  Cassell  Brand 177
NOK  Paul  West 171
PHO  Nash  Bell 162
DET  Billups  R.Wallace 157
ATL  Johnson  Harrington 153
PHO  Diaw  Marion 153
GSW  Davis  Richardson 147
SEA  Ridnour  Allen 142
SEA  Ridnour  Lewis 139
NJN  Kidd  Krstic 136
DAL  Terry  Nowitzki 130
PHO  Nash  Diaw 127
LAL  Odom  Bryant 125

The Pistons are collecting lots of team awards, but here's a nice player factoid: Billups-to-Hamilton has been the number one passing combination this season in terms of made baskets.

Last season it was Nash-to-Stoudemire, edging Nash-to-Marion, which winds up as the #2 ranked duo this year.

Then it's another big gap back to the pack. Nash's dominance still reigns overall though, as he collects four of the top twenty places in a passing role.

As can be seen though, you only have a handful of player-to-player passing combos that even average two per game, so there aren't a lot of pure "go to the well" plays being run over and over seemingly. Of course adding in free throws might tilt it up some to where certain players are deriving a pretty high percent of points from a specific teammate.

2) Leading Combined Assisted FG Combos
Why only focus on one way passing though? What about the players who can truly make offense a two man game when on the floor together? Here are the leaders when we count both directions of assisted field goals...
2-1 FGM
1-2 FGM
Total FGM
DET  Billups  Hamilton 28 268 296
WAS  Arenas  Jamison 68 202 270
PHO  Nash  Marion 29 234 263
NJN  Kidd  Jefferson 57 196 253
PHI  Iverson  Webber 61 187 248
NJN  Kidd  Carter 66 181 247
LAC  Cassell  Brand 50 177 227
SAC  Bibby  Miller 109 112 221
ATL  Johnson  Harrington 66 153 219
LAL  Parker  Bryant 92 121 213
DEN  Miller  Anthony 22 190 212
DAL  Terry  Nowitzki 64 130 194
LAL  Odom  Bryant 67 125 192
DET  Billups  R.Wallace 33 157 190
NOK  Paul  West 16 171 187
SEA  Ridnour  Lewis 45 139 184
PHO  Nash  Bell 21 162 183
SAS  Parker  Duncan 79 102 181
SEA  Ridnour  Allen 33 142 175
GSW  Davis  Richardson 24 147 171

Billups-Hamilton hold on for top duo overall, although as with most of the leading pairs, it's a very one-sided relationships (eg one player is the passer the other is the scorer) as the following league wide numbers show:

21 duos with 50+ assists each way
10 duos with 60+ assists each way
 3 duos with 70+ assists each way the Spurs Parker-Duncan, the Lakers Parker-Bryant, and the Kings Bibby-Miller are the true partnerships where they feed one another regularly.

What's the most extreme "take and no give" relationship in the league? Jamal Crawford has doled out 44 assists to Eddy "no pass" Curry without the favor being returned even once. Then Baron Davis has an eerily similar 43 assists to Adonal Foyle with just one assist going the other way.

The Iverson-Webber pairing has shown results in terms of them playing off one another to a degree -- ranking fifth in the league in most combined "feeds" -- but obviously the fact that Philadelphia didn't even qualify for the playoffs with both relatively healthy suggests a shakeup needs to happen. Likewise Johnson-Harrington in Atlanta may not be an option next season!

3) Players most reliant on one teammate for assisted FGM's
Another query of interest might be to see which players are heavily dependent on one teammate for getting the ball in the right spots...
(Minimum 100 total Assisted FGM)
Ast'd FG
% of AFG's
PHO  K.Thomas  Nash 104 62.2%
PHO  Diaw  Nash 127 55.7%
NJN  Carter  Kidd 181 55.5%
DET  Hamilton  Billups 268 54.4%
NJN  Jefferson  Kidd 196 51.8%
ATL  Harrington  Johnson 153 50.4%
NOK  West  Paul 171 50.4%
CHA  Wallace  Knight 83 49.1%
CLE  Snow  James 54 49.0%
PHI  Webber  Iverson 187 48.1%

Both Kurt Thomas and Boris Diaw have relied heavily on Nash setting them up, with last year's top "dependency" of Carter taking a pass from Kidd coming in third.

Other than the usual Steve Nash domination of the top ten, this list really gets us thinking it would be best to tally assisted FG by one passer divided by total fields goal made, regardless of whether they were assisted or not.

4) Players most reliant on one teammate for feeds, part II
So this sort is by the percentage of a player's total field goals made coming from assists from one passer. This allows for players who can create their own shots (eg a Vince Carter) to get a more fair shake perhaps in the measurement of dependency.
(Minimum 100 total FGM)
Ast'd FG
% of FG's
PHO  Thomas  Nash 104 54.4%
DET  Hamilton  Billups 268 41.2%
CHA  Okafor  Knight 52 39.6%
NJN  Jefferson  Kidd 196 39.5%
PHO  Bell  Nash 162 38.1%
MIA  Haslem  Wade 114 37.8%
SAS  Bowen  Parker 87 37.5%
CLE  Marshall  James 99 37.3%
NOK  Brown  Paul 98 36.4%
DEN  Martin  Miller 104 35.0%

...and we have a runaway leader for "most dependent" as Kurt Thomas has seen a whopping 54% of his total field goals come via Steve Nash. That is a huge number in light of last year's leaders being Cato (from Francis) and Bruce Bowen (from Tony Parker) at 40%.

Of course there's nothing really wrong with doing your job, and in Phoenix Kurt is looked on not for inspiring creative play on offense, but knocking down the open shot and moving to the open space. A lot of catch and shoot types here.

5) Passers most reliant on one scorer
Turning it around, this time we will look at which passers get the highest percentage of their assists from one shooter. Again we can't speak to the overall effectiveness of the passer-scorer relationship. In some cases no doubt there is good reason to keep looking in one direction!
(Minimum 100 total Assists)
Ast'd FG
Assist %
DEN  Camby  Anthony 50 43.4%
WAS  Jamison  Arenas 68 43.0%
DAL  Terry  Nowitzki 130 42.4%
WAS  Arenas  Jamison 202 41.7%
MIL  Bogut  Redd 78 40.6%
LAL  Parker  Bryant 121 40.0%
MIN  Szczerbiak  Garnett 44 39.2%
DET  Billups  Hamilton 268 38.3%
BOS  LaFrentz  Pierce 43 37.3%
WAS  Daniels  Jamison 105 36.9%

Washington is the team to note here, with three of the top ten "highest assist percentage to one player" combos.

The only repeat appearance in the top ten this year from last year is Szczerbiak to Garnett which is of course not a pairing we'll see here next season!

Antonio Daniels got off to a slow start in Washington, as he adjusted to the new team, but he's become increasingly important and looks to be a big part of the Wizards' future.

6) What the future holds...
We'll start publishing some "serious" passing stats for your perusal during the playoffs, which hopefully will make the whole notion of assists a quaint idea back in the days when all you measured was success -- how would people react today to the idea of only tracking Field Goals Made and not Field Goals Attempted!

Again, for further reading we'd point you to The value of a Good Pass

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