The issue of Ben being too "inconsistent" came up again in a thread the other day, and this time I decided I wanted to know how he compares consistency-wise to other top SGs in the league. IMO, it's not consistency itself that people are after, but consistent greatness - that is, they want Ben to have the occasional 40 point outburst, even though that is as inconsistent to his scoring average as a big goose egg is. What they don't want is the occasional single digit game. However, any player is going to have an off night once in a while, so the big question is whether this happens more often to Ben than to other top SGs.
For my purposes here, I just used points scored. One, as people often point out, points on the board are ultimately the thing that determines the outcome. Admittedly, a guy can have a big scoring night while in chuck mode that at the same time royally screws the team by disrupting the offensive flow for everyone else. However, this shouldn't be much of an issue for the comparison group because all are efficient as well as volume scorers. Also, at least for those who aren't labeled as inconsistent, being able to "get theirs" when their shot isn't falling is considered one of the marks of a scorer, so I didn't bother to control for fg%, 3-pointers, etc.
The top 7 shooting guards in the league this year with respect to scoring average consists of:
- Dwyane Wade - 30.2 ppg, .574 ts%
- Kobe Bryant - 26.84 ppg, .561 ts%
- Brandon Roy - 22.63 ppg, .573 ts%
- Joe Johnson - 21.37 ppg, .534 ts%
- Vince Carter - 20.78 ppg, .545 ts%
- Ben Gordon - 20.72 ppg, .573 ts%
- Andre Iguodala - 18.79 ppg, .560 ts%
Each was the top points guy for their team this season, and except for Iguodala at 19.27%, each accounted for at least 20% of their team's scoring output.
I would expect that on the sole criteria of scoring, even BG haters will concede he is one of the top SGs in the league. However, average doesn't tell us anything about his consistency from game to game - he'd average 20 ppg whether scoring 15 one night and 25 the next or scoring 5 one night and 35 the next. For consistency, I used each player's standard deviation for points per game, which shows how spread out their per game points were around the average. Generally speaking, the bigger a player's standard deviation, the more variation in points scored from game to game. The SDs for this group (as well as the SD as a percentage of scoring average, to control for the range in averages):
- Dwyane Wade - 8.87 sd, sd 29.4% of avg
- Kobe Bryant - 8.55 sd, sd 31.9% of avg
- Brandon Roy - 7.62 sd, sd 33.8% of avg
- Joe Johnson - 7.1 sd, sd 33.2% of avg
- Vince Carter - 9.02 sd, sd 43.4% of avg
- Ben Gordon - 7.65 sd, sd 36.9% of avg
- Andre Iguodala - 6.33 sd, sd 33.7% of avg
So, in comparison to other top SGs, Ben is roughly in range with the others. At worst, Ben is slightly less consistent, although the difference is pretty darn slight and I suspect can be placed on the whole new-coach-new-rookie-PG-lineup-changes-midseason-trade as much as on Ben's individual performance.
Of course, what people really want to be able to do is "pencil in" a guy for a certain number of points each night. Realistically, guys are going to have a certain number of truly bad nights, whether from matchup, foul trouble, injury, MJ flu, or whatever. But the majority of the time we want an idea of the minimum level to expect from a guy. I'm not aware of some industry standard for this, so I just picked 80% - that is, in 80% of the games this guy plays, fans can realistically expect he'll put up at least this many points. To further standardize this, I then calculated the percentage of the player's average ppg that can be "penciled in." So, 80% of games this season each guy scored at least this many points, followed by the %of average that represents, and finally the number of single digit points games for the season:
- Dwyane Wade - 23 pts, 76.2% of scoring average, no single digit pts nights
- Kobe Bryant - 20 pts, 74.5% of average, no single digit pts nights
- Brandon Roy - 17 pts, 75.1% of average, 5 single digit pts nights
- Joe Johnson - 15 pts, 70.2% of average, 3 single digit pts nights
- Vince Carter - 14 pts, 67.4% of average, 9 single digit pts nights
- Ben Gordon - 15 pts, 72.4% of average, 4 single digit pts nights
- Andre Iguodala -14 pts, 74.5% of average, 7 single digit pts nights
So once again, Ben falls right in line with the other top SGs. D-Wade and Kobe look pretty darn good, but most people acknowledge that Ben is not at their level. At the same time, neither D-Wade nor Kobe is substantially more consistent than Ben relative to average performance; their average performance is simply better.
To the extent Ben is inconsistent, they're all inconsistent.