Well, I did it. It took me nearly a week of my life to do, but I did it. I figured out the best free agent point guard for the Bulls to target this offseason.
I started this long and arduous project last weekend. It came to me in the shower, like so many of my best ideas do, it was my Derrick Rose moment. Why couldn’t I be the somebody that finds the Bulls the perfect free agent point guard this summer? And when the news broke a couple days ago, that Coby White injured his shoulder and could be out up to 6 months, it felt vital that I be that person to do the impossible. But how exactly does one go about finding the best possible free agent point guard for the Bulls? Simple, and I’m surprised GarPax never hit on this, you make a spreadsheet.
My wife is the queen of spreadsheets. She uses them to keep track of nearly every detail of our lives. So, I thought, if a spreadsheet is capable of boiling down the complexities of our life to a series of rows and columns, couldn’t I do the same with all the complexities of the free agent point guard market this summer? Of course I could! And so began my epic quest to weed out the perfect point guard.
My plan, while admittedly spartan in detail, was elegant, genius even, in it’s simplicity. It only required 4 steps, one of which was optional: Step one, create a spreadsheet. Step two, populate the spreadsheet with all the data. Step three, find the Bulls next point guard. Step four, bask in the inevitable accolades thrown at me by my countless readers and fans.
The spreadsheet was easily acquired. I decided to use Google Sheets because it was the only spreadsheet app I knew about, and after several minutes of my wife showing me how to use the damn thing, step one was completed.
The rows and columns of my new spreadsheet aligned to form tiny empty boxes that whispered to be filled with all the data. I moved quickly to comply. The first row would be designated for Identifiers, things like “Player,” “AST,” and “NET Rtg”. My first column would have the name of every free agent point guard, one stacked on top of the other, in the most orderly of stacks, and the corresponding rows would hold all their most important stats. I went on the interwebs and pulled up a list of all the free agent point guards and boldly started adding their names to sheet. I got to about free agent point guard number 20 when I realized I had made a critical mistake! This spreadsheet shouldn’t just be about point guards, it should be about lead ball handlers!
I went back to the interwebs and started adding non-point guard ball handlers to my spreadsheet. I was soon approaching 35 names on the sheet. Everything was going swimmingly. What a glorious idea this was. What a hero I was going to be!
And then I had another alarming thought.
Surely if there were non-point guard ball handlers, there could very well be non-ball handling point guards! Eegads! The latent hero in me subconsciously raised the alarm bell, saving my spreadsheet from potential disastrous! I poured through the names of all the free agent point guards I had already entered, eliminating any I suspected of not being capable of leading a team.
By the time the culling process was complete I was left with 24 names:
Alex Caruso, Austin Rivers, Cam Payne, Chris Paul, DeMar DeRozan, Dennis Schroder, Dennis Smith Jr, Derrick Rose, Devonte’ Graham, Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Goran Dragic, Ish Smith, Jeff Teague, Josh Hart, Kyle Lowry, Lonzo Ball, Mike Conley, Patty Mills, Raul Neto, Reggie Jackson, Spencer Dinwiddie, TJ McConnell, and Victor Oladipo.
Did I eliminate names I probably shouldn’t have? Probably. Did I leave names on the sheet that should have been culled? Again, probably. But by the time I had finished hemming and hawing about who should and shouldn’t be included, it was well past my bed time. Being a reasonable man, I shelved the issue for the next day.
“Rest, and the fresh perspective that only a new dawn can bring will surely clear up the matter,” I thought.
Alas, no rest would come that night, for thoughts of the spreadsheet consumed me (that, and my 1 year old woke up in the middle of the night and needed me to walk her back to sleep).
So the next morning dawned without much rest, and I decided on the way to dropping the 1 year old off at day care, that the list of names was “fine.” I mean, sure, maybe I could go back through all the free agents and double check that I hadn’t glossed over a rising star, or forgotten an obvious name, but that would take the entire morning and I had a video conference for work I needed to attend. In the end, I decided it would be Okay; The sheet had a great mix of young, promising talent, and grizzled, veteran leadership. Undoubtedly, the perfect Bulls point guard was somewhere in that mix.
With my pool of free agents settled, I needed to put all their important stats up on the spreadsheet, and to do that I had to ask myself, what makes a point guard great? A great point guard drives the lane and sets up his teammates, naturally I added a bunch of assist stats to the spreadsheet. A great point guard spreads the floor with their shooting, I included some 3 point stats. In the case of the Bulls, a great point guard needs to be a decent defender as a compliment to Zach LaVine, that means stats like steals and blocks and defensive rating should be included on the spreadsheet. But point guards don’t really get a lot of blocks, so maybe not blocks. And if I was including defensive rating, I may as well add offensive rating, and net rating to the sheet.
Picking the important stats was coming along nicely, but I felt I was missing a key ingredient or three, that would really reflect what the Bulls needed not just in their point guard, but from their roster as a whole. I needed some inspiration, so I went back to the source.
Arturas Karnisovas, in his end of season presser, said that the Bulls needed to get better in three areas, drawing fouls, limiting turnovers, and reducing the number of fouls they committed. Et Voila! The three most important stats fell into place: Free throw attempts, turnovers, and personal fouls.
I jumped on nba.com and started adding stats from the 2020-21 regular season for each player to the spreadsheet. I was halfway through when another brilliant idea popped into my noggin: Not every player played the same number of minutes per game, or same number of games in the season, these straight stats were going to be lopsided! I decided using an all encompassing set of numbers, one that can be applied to all players equally would be the solution to my problem. I conveniently selected the “Per 36 Minutes” set of stats to right this wrong, mostly because I happened to see it just below the traditional “Per Game” stats. With my new direction plotted, I erased all the stats I had previously input into the spreadsheet and looked up each players “Per 36 Minutes” stats and began, once again, adding the new numbers into the spreadsheet.
By now I was well into day 3 of the project. Who would have believed that transferring stat lines from a website to a spreadsheet would be so time consuming? Every few hours my wife would check in on me and tell me how proud she was of me for using a spreadsheet. “Not now woman! Can’t you see your husband is trying to save the Chicago Bulls franchise??!!!”
Whenever a genius threatens to upend the very fabric of how we perceive reality, they meet resistance from the forces that benefit the most from maintaining the status quo, I believe Immanuel Kant said that just before he cut Martin Heidegger’s right hand off with a lightsaber. In my case, this proved even truer than Kant’s descent to the Dark Side.
Several times over the course of several days, nba.com’s stats pages refused to display the very data I needed to complete the spreadsheet. It was as if the powers that be DID NOT WANT me to succeed in my quest to find the perfect free agent point guard for the Chicago Bulls. I suspect the NBA, and maybe Basketball at large, had figured out what I was up to and couldn’t allow me to upset their very profitable little apple cart.
The work stoppages and whirling Spirals of Perpetually Loading stats became so frequent and vexing that I was forced to find an alternate source for my data.
Enter basketball-reference.com, the peoples website for basketball stats.
Basketball-reference had nearly the same data as nba.com, with nary a whirling Spiral of Perpetual Loading in sight. But the change in data source also allowed me an opportunity to rethink how I could view each player. Wouldn’t a “Per 100 Possessions” set of stats be a better way of evaluating each player than a “Per 36 Minutes” set? I erased all the data I had collected based on the per 36 minutes projections, and began entering in a new set of statistics based on per 100 possessions.
It was now day 4 of my quest and the end was tantalizingly nigh. All I had to do was come up with some way of quantifying each players stats into a single number that would both define who they were as a lead ball handler and rank them when compared to each other. To do this I assigned a number value for each stat in the top 5 or bottom 5 of the spreadsheet. For example, if a player had the best 3 point % out of the list of free agents he would receive 10 points. If a player had the second and/or third best 3 point %, they would receive 5 points. And if a player had the fourth and/or fifth best 3 point % then they would receive 1 point. The opposite was true for the bottom of the stat sheet. If a player was the worst in any statistic, they were penalized with -10 points, and -5 for the second and third worst stats, and, of course, -1 point for the fourth and fifth worst stats.
Then I remembered that the Bulls needed players that would get to the foul line, not turn the ball over, and not commit fouls. How could I demonstrate the importance of those characteristics? Easily enough. I added 20 points for the best Free Throw Attempts, Turnovers, Turnover %, and Personal Foul stats. 10 for the second and third best stats in those categories, and 5 points for the fourth and fifth best stats. On the opposite side, I awarded -20, -10, and -5 points for the worst stats in those categories. It was a brilliant strategy, and the perfect way to find the Bulls free agent point guard.
Column by column I figured out which player had the best and worst numbers. I color coded each set of point getters, and filled the appropriate box with that color. A red box meant that stat was the best in the column. An orange box meant these were the 2nd and 3rd best stats, while a yellow box meant 4th and 5th best. On the opposite end of things, I assigned blue, purple, and pink for worst, 2nd and 3rd worst, 4th and 5th worst stats respectively.
All that was left to do was tally the points.
After a few tense minutes of adding and subtracting, and then double and triple checking my work, I had done it! I found the perfect free agent point guard for the Chicago Bulls to target this summer. And that man was none other than…
WHO THE HELL IS RAUL NETO?????????!!!!!!!!!!!!
That can’t be right. Give me a minute, let me recheck my math…
The math checks out.
Some guy named Raul Neto (???) is the perfect free agent point guard acquisition for the Chicago Bulls this summer???!!!!
You know what? That can’t be right. I haven’t even heard of this guy before! I must have made a mistake somewhere. Ope! Yep, here it is. I should have added a column asking if the players were starters or bench players, and then take 5 points away from everyone who didn’t start the majority of there games last season. Okay, give me a couple minutes to run the numbers again…
Yeah, yeah, that should do it. Now where were we, oh, right…
… I had done it! I found the perfect free agent point guard for the Chicago Bulls to target this summer. And that man was none other than…
Future Hall of Famer, CHRIS PAUL!!!!
Job well done, if I do say so myself.
Feel free to send me all the congratulations!
I guess that does it for this addition of the RokDeez Bulls Blog, a harrowing experience as always. Thank you for coming on this adventure with me, and I’m sure we can all agree that I’m the hero that saved the Chicago Bulls. And when AK and Marc Eversley sign
Raul Neto Chris Paul this summer, you’ll know who to thank.
Until the accolades roll in, thank YOU for reading and GO BULLS!