This article is part of our Rebound & Rant series.
Is the assist becoming a ridiculous NBA statistic? It shouldn't be. In my opinion, if a shooter scores off the dribble, the earlier passer shouldn't receive an assist. But that is not the official definition.
My concern was peaked by Giri Nathan over at Deadspin. Check out these ridiculous "assist" videos and answer Giri's question. I'd say the answer is easy. Those are not assists. The Frank Ntilikina "assist" is the worst. Go check it out, I'll wait.
Hey, thanks for coming back (I really can't afford to lose any readers). Thanks, Giri, your article has inspired the Assists Edition of the R&R, where like those statistician calls, many of these observations will be questionable.
Player A: 10.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 3.2 TO's, 40% FG%
Player B: 9.3 points, 7.1 assists, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 2.6 TO's, 40% FG%
I guess my headline took away some of the mystery. Player A is Ricky Rubio's rookie season stats from his first year in Minnesota (he played 41 games). Player B is Lonzo Ball's stats through 28 games with the Lakes. Unless I'm desperate for rebounds, I've got to give the nod to Rubio.
Many, many people have compared Ball's game to Rubio, because frankly neither guy can shoot. And before you say "wait, Rubio was older", that's not true. Rubio was only one year older than Lonzo during his first NBA season. I'll give Ball credit for one thing, though: he's shot over 46% over his last five games. That's a big improvement after shooting only 31% over his first 23 games.
Magic and Isiah Reunion
It's always tough to watch grown men cry. If you missed it, two of the all-time great point guards had a reunion on NBA TV last night. Here's where the tears really started flowing:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) December 20, 2017
Lots of rumors swirling about why those two fought with each other. For those of you caught up in the recent political stuff regarding Jemele Hill, remember that she's a darn good reporter, as demonstrated by her 2009 piece on Magic and Isiah, which explains the diva guard feud rather well. For any readers who have wept over the R&R, I apologize.
Quick Question: Who Leads the Celtics in Assists?
Don't lie, you think its Kyrie Irving. Well, that's wrong. Al Horford leads with 5.5 dimes per game, a career high pace that's in improvement over last year's career-high 5.0 pace. Big Al is blossoming during his second year in Coach Stevens' system. And Horford clearly enjoys playing with fellow star Kyrie Irving. The two have an obvious on-court chemistry.
OK, so Irving is second, right? Wrong. Marcus Smart is second with 5.2 assists per game. Irving is third with 4.9 dishes per contest. And I think Stevens is fine with this. He wants the entire team to move the ball, not just the point guard. With Irving being Boston's best scorer, the other Celtics should get him the damn ball. It's working out well.
Oh, and notice that Horford has also gathered 7.9 rebounds per game this season, halting a three year decline in boards. Big Al is quietly having a great season.
Is Ben Simmons Magic Johnson?
Compare these per game stats:
Player A: 18.0 points, 7.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 4.0 TO's, 53% FG%
Player B: 17.2 points, 7.9 assists, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 3.9 TO's, 51% FG%
Player A is Magic Johnson's rookie season (1979-80). Player B is Ben Simmons through 29 games. Holy smokes, forget about Ball and Rubio! Unfortunately, the two rookies have one very large difference. Rookie Magic drained 81% of his free throws. Simmons is a charity stripe disaster, making only 51% of his free throws. Ugh. I'm not a huge fan of this Sixers squad, and one reason is who should handle the ball during crunch time? Not Simmons – I'd go "Hack-a-Simmons" if I'm the opposing coach.
If you've got some spare time (and clearly you do if you've made it this far), here are the NBA's best assists from last month:
Well, that's it for my assists edition. This fantasy train wreck has hit the END OF THE LINE! CHOO-CHOO!
(BTW, if you enjoy this little column, give our Friday NBA podcast a try, where I usually join Shannon McKeown and D.J. Trainor for some epic NBA conversations.)