In the NBA, the guy who makes the pass to set up a shooter gets an assist. But often you will see a point guard drive and draw the defense, kick out to a guy at the arc, who will then see the defense rotate and make a pass to a second open shooter who knocks down the shot.
In that case the point guard doesn’t get any credit even though he created the play. They’re called “hockey assists” because the NHL gives out a second assist on goals.
So who gets the most of those in the NBA? Well, we don’t know for sure, but Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated worked with the guys at STATS — the company with special cameras in 10 NBA arenas that track every last moment of players (creating a mountain of stats for teams in those buildings) — to try and answer that question.
It’s important to note the caveats here: The STATS cameras are in only 10 of 30 arenas, and in order to filter out random noise, the STATS study supplied to SI.com tracked only players who have appeared in front of the cameras in at least eight games this season. That rules out some pretty darn good passers, including Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
1. Derrick Rose, 1.9 per game (10 games)
2. Steve Nash, 1.6 per game (8 games)
2. Raymond Felton, 1.6 per game (11 games)
4. Mike Conley, 1.4 per game (8 games)
4. Tony Parker, 1.4 per game (31 games)
Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo were next on the list. After that (all tied at 1.1) are Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Manu Ginobili and Jose Calderon. Seeing two Spurs mentioned seems logical considering how that team moves the ball. Same with Rondo, running pick-and-rolls with mobile Boston bigs.
As Lowe said, it’s easy to picture why Rose is on top of the list.
You can picture those hockey assists in your head right away, can’t you? Rose sets up for a pick-and-roll with Joakim Noah, and Noah’s man decides to trap Rose above the three-point arc. Rose threads a bounce pass to Noah at the foul line, and Noah, seeing Carlos Boozer’s man rotating his way, slips a quick-hitter to Boozer for a layup. The sequence happens so often, both because Rose demands so much attention and because Noah and Boozer are clever passers capable of playing either role in the above scenario.
Go read the whole post, this is interesting stuff.