Who Is The Second Best Guard In The ACC?Posted by KCarpenter on January 30th, 2013
There’s no doubt that Erick Green has been the best guard in the ACC this season. He scores and makes plays at a hyper-efficient rate while playing a ton of minutes at a very fast pace. No other guard in the conference has performed as consistently and as well. He’s miles ahead of the competition, but it’s not because of a lack of quality guards in the league. In fact, the ACC has a plethora of talented guards, playing well for a lot of different teams. Let’s get down to the big question though: If Erick Green is the best guard in the ACC, who is the second best?
If you had asked this question not all that long ago, the answer might have been an easy one: Seth Curry. The Duke shooting guard is enjoying a strong year as a perfect complementary piece on this Duke team. Is Curry really the second best guard in the conference? What about undefeated Miami’s Durand Scott or the lead guard of another team that beat the Blue Devils in NC State’s Lorenzo Brown? What about some of the conference’s other great shooting guards like C.J. Harris or Joe Harris? None of these are crazy choices. Does Curry stack up?
Curry’s elite skill is scoring. He’s fourth in the conference in points per game and he is the second best guard in this measure after Erick Green. He’s not a volume scorer, but rather very efficient, posting an offensive efficiency mark of 114.2 this season with a usage rate of 22.1%. This is very good. However, from an efficiency standpoint, Curry is nowhere close to Reggie Bullock‘s silly numbers. Averaging a 129.1 offensive efficiency on 19.1% usage rate, Bullock is shooting better than Curry from every part of the floor: three-pointers, two-pointers, and from the free throw line. Bullock is a better play-maker, a better rebounder on both ends, has more steals and blocks, and by just about every account is a better defender. Curry has a slight edge in turnovers, and a serious advantage at getting to the line. Still, it would be difficult to argue that Curry is playing better basketball than Bullock.
The truth is that context matters. Curry plays a bigger role on a better team than Bullock, though. Duke has two losses on the year while North Carolina has six. Curry is the (relatively) clear number two on his team, while Bullock has a lower usage percentage than about five other players on his team. If the two were in comparable situations, Bullock is the clear winner, but in the context of their respective teams, Curry has a significant edge.
The context factor is the one that makes this argument so tricky. C.J. Harris is quite comparable to Curry, for example. Harris is a slightly better shooter from everywhere and more accomplished at getting to the free throw line, as well as dishing assists. His propensity for turnovers, however, brings his overall offensive efficiency down to a mark that is slightly below Curry. Still, a strong case could be made for Harris over Curry except for the whole context thing. Wake Forest is 10-9 heading into today’s game against Duke and Curry. Given that context, most folks would have no problem breaking the tie by picking the guy on the better team (perhaps while crediting the team’s success to this player’s leadership or intangibles rather than the less glamorous explanation of better teammates).
This whole context issue runs into problems when considering the cases of Lorenzo Brown and Durand Scott. While it’s hard to absolutely claim that NC State and Miami are better teams than Duke, these two teams walked away with wins against the Blue Devils. So given that context, do we give these two that special edge over Curry? It’s hard to say. Curry has been better than Scott in most categories, though, unsurprisingly Scott makes more assists (and more turnovers) than Curry and Scott has played better on the defensive end. Does better play-making and a win over Curry’s team offset Scott’s worse offensive abilities? It’s a tough call. It gets even tougher with North Carolina State’s Brown. Brown has been the best true point guard in the ACC this year. His play-making and on-ball defense have been excellent, yet his shooting has been uneven and his turnovers are often problematic. His team beat Duke, yet also managed to lose three times in the conference already. Has he, on the whole, been better than Curry?
The truth is I can’t say. After Green, the race for second best guard is a mess. Brown is the best point guard, but Curry scores the most points. Harris and Bullock have been great offensive weapons, but they play on mediocre (to put it kindly) teams. Scott has been kind of okay in all of these categories, but on a very good team. Right now there is no clear-cut second best guard in the ACC. We barely even discussed Joe Harris, but he’s right in the mix too. Any of these candidates could pull away from the rest down the stretch, but until then, the case is definitely up for debate.