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Markelle Fultz in Context

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How does Markelle Fultz’ performance stack up against those of his peers?

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Brooklyn Nets Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

I like putting player performances and statistics in context of other players. Hearing that a player has a certain PER or BPM or whatever metric you choose can be meaningless if you do not know the distribution/context of that particular piece of information. I also believe in pairing the eye test with analytics so that when the two agree I can say that I am confident in a certain assertion. When they disagree, I can then determine if my eyes are bad (likely) or if the particular application of the statistics was wrong. I find this to be most interesting in the case of Markelle Fultz.

Here are my main eyeball test takes from this season in no particular order. I doubt they will be very controversial (through the most recent Clippers game).

  1. He seems to have a knack for rebounding, especially on the offensive glass
  2. Shot still needs serious work, although the finishing around rim seems a plus
  3. More yamming in faces than I anticipated
  4. Despite a few turnovers when he gets in too deep without a plan, he both sees creative passes and is able to execute them
  5. Defense is inconsistent, although recently better, and seems to be something that could be between fine and great as he gets older
  6. Free throws appear to be a major pain point

We will be focusing on assists, rebounding, and shooting for now. In order to pair my impressions with the data, we can rely first on a nice positional point — Fultz is a guard in the most classic sense. Whether he is a point/shooting/combo, he is definitely not a wing or forward. Therefore, I think we should compare Fultz against the first seasons of two non-overlapping groups: 1) recent first round draft picks that were labeled guards and 2) recent All-Star guards. Fultz’s data will be both this season and last season. All other players in the set had their first seasons only, whether they played one game or 82. For your reference, the All-Star guards were Victor Oladipo, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, John Wall, James Harden, Isaiah Thomas, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, and Chris Paul. The first round guards were chosen from 2005-2013 drafts, which was the range of drafts represented by the All-Stars.

Assists

The assist metric we will be using for this broad look will be %AST, defined by NBA.com as “The percentage of a team’s assists that a player has while on the court”. The other percentage metrics are defined similarly.

Markelle Comparison Groups and Statistics (Rookie Years 2005-2013)

Player Avg. %AST SD %AST
Player Avg. %AST SD %AST
Markelle Fultz 0.271 0.182
First Rnd G 0.199 0.148
Recent All-Star G 0.238 0.145

Rebounds

Markelle Comparison Groups and Statistics

Player Avg. %OREB SD %OREB
Player Avg. %OREB SD %OREB
Markelle Fultz 0.046 0.076
First Rnd G 0.023 0.032
Recent All-Star G 0.026 0.034

Markelle Comparison Groups and Statistics (Rookie Years 2005-2013)

Player Avg. %DREB SD %DREB
Player Avg. %DREB SD %DREB
Markelle Fultz 0.101 0.075
First Rnd G 0.085 0.059
Recent All-Star G 0.097 0.058

Markell Comparison Groups and Statistics (2005-2013)

Player Avg. %TREB SD %TREB
Player Avg. %TREB SD %TREB
Markelle Fultz 0.074 0.046
First Rnd G 0.055 0.033
Recent All-Star G 0.06 0.031

Shooting

True Shooting: “A shooting percentage that factors in the value of three-point field goals and free throws in addition to conventional two-point field goals”

Markelle Comparison Groups and Statistics (Rookie Years 2005-2013)

Player Avg. TS SD TS
Player Avg. TS SD TS
Markelle Fultz 0.417 0.127
First Rnd G 0.504 0.218
Recent All-Star G 0.531 0.175

Authors note: ouch

Impact

Player Impact Estimate Definition: “PIE measures a player’s overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in. PIE yields results which are comparable to other advanced statistics (e.g. PER) using a simple formula.”

Markelle Comparison Groups and Statistics (Rookie Years 2005-2013)

Player Avg. PIE SD PIE
Player Avg. PIE SD PIE
Markelle Fultz 0.08 0.07
First Rnd G 0.086 0.095
Recent All-Star G 0.103 0.079

Player Comparisons

Now that we have seen the distributions of the data, let’s take a look at individual player comparisons. For this next part, the comparison group will always be the mean of the all-star guard group for that specific statistic.

Assists: Markelle’s %AST is greater than that of the recent All-Star mean. The following players also had an %AST greater than the All-Star mean.

%AST Greater Than All-Star Rookie Mean

Name Player
Name Player
Chris Paul Recent All-Star G
Raymond Felton First Rnd G
Deron Williams First Rnd G
Jarrett Jack First Rnd G
Rajon Rondo First Rnd G
Marcus Williams First Rnd G
Kyle Lowry Recent All-Star G
Sergio Rodriguez First Rnd G
Rodney Stuckey First Rnd G
Aaron Brooks First Rnd G
Derrick Rose First Rnd G
Russell Westbrook Recent All-Star G
Tyreke Evans First Rnd G
Jonny Flynn First Rnd G
Brandon Jennings First Rnd G
Jrue Holiday First Rnd G
Ty Lawson First Rnd G
Jeff Teague First Rnd G
Eric Maynor First Rnd G
Darren Collison First Rnd G
John Wall Recent All-Star G
Kyrie Irving Recent All-Star G
Isaiah Thomas Recent All-Star G
Damian Lillard Recent All-Star G
Markelle Fultz Markelle Fultz

Rebounds: Markelle had a %OREB, %DREB, and %TREB each greater than the All-Star mean, and so did the following players.

%DREB, %OREB, and %TREB Greater Than Rookie All-Star Mean

Name Player
Name Player
Rudy Gay First Rnd G
Thabo Sefolosha First Rnd G
Rajon Rondo First Rnd G
Mardy Collins First Rnd G
Marco Belinelli First Rnd G
Javaris Crittenton First Rnd G
James Harden Recent All-Star G
Eric Maynor First Rnd G
Kyrie Irving Recent All-Star G
Markelle Fultz Markelle Fultz

Shooting: Markelle (unsurprisingly) had a TS less than that of the All-Star group mean. THe following players were also below the All--Star mean.

TS Less Than Rookie All-Star Mean

Name Player
Name Player
Raymond Felton First Rnd G
Deron Williams First Rnd G
Nate Robinson First Rnd G
Jarrett Jack First Rnd G
Luther Head First Rnd G
Rudy Gay First Rnd G
Thabo Sefolosha First Rnd G
Rajon Rondo First Rnd G
Marcus Williams First Rnd G
Shannon Brown First Rnd G
Jordan Farmar First Rnd G
Sergio Rodriguez First Rnd G
Maurice Ager First Rnd G
Mardy Collins First Rnd G
Kevin Durant First Rnd G
Mike Conley First Rnd G
Acie Law First Rnd G
Rodney Stuckey First Rnd G
Nick Young First Rnd G
Javaris Crittenton First Rnd G
Daequan Cook First Rnd G
Arron Afflalo First Rnd G
O.J. Mayo First Rnd G
Derrick Rose First Rnd G
Russell Westbrook Recent All-Star G
Jerryd Bayless First Rnd G
Brandon Rush First Rnd G
George Hill First Rnd G
Jonny Flynn First Rnd G
DeMar DeRozan Recent All-Star G
Brandon Jennings First Rnd G
Jrue Holiday First Rnd G
Jeff Teague First Rnd G
Eric Maynor First Rnd G
Wayne Ellington First Rnd G
John Wall Recent All-Star G
Klay Thompson Recent All-Star G
Victor Oladipo Recent All-Star G
Markelle Fultz Markelle Fultz

Overall: The following players had an above average %AST, below average TS, and at least two above average of %DREB, %OREB, and %TREB — essentially the most similar profiles to Markelle.

Markelle Similarity Comparisons

Name Player
Name Player
Jarrett Jack First Rnd G
Rajon Rondo First Rnd G
Sergio Rodriguez First Rnd G
Rodney Stuckey First Rnd G
Russell Westbrook Recent All-Star G
Eric Maynor First Rnd G
Markelle Fultz Markelle Fultz

Conclusion

Any time you use a simple yes/no filter (like the second half of the article), and choose slightly arbitrary cutoffs, you are bound to lose some nuance. Further, this is not a predictive exercise, especially due to the strange circumstances surrounding his shot loss and rebuild. However, I do think that there are some interesting comparisons produced. I personally like the half Rondo half Westbrook as positive outcome. Not quite the nuclear athleticism (or lack of conscience) as Russ, and not quite the passing virtuoso (or total asshole) as Rondo. I do think though if you squint a little when he pushes the break hard and gets to the rack and also rebounds with his length you can see that sort of player in there somewhere.