Fact or Fiction: Ben Gordon plays too much one on one.

For those of you who've been to bullspodcasters.com, this is a reprint of my article there, but this will serve as the first article in a series of articles discussing perception vs reality on a variety of Bulls players, with Ben Gordon being the first.

Does Ben Gordon go one on one too much?   This is a common complaint put forth by Gordon detractors.   Since I have the means, the time, and the intense desire to find out the truth I decided to research this topic by the numbers.
First, let's look at the Bulls perimeter players themselves, here's a
list of the percentage of times each guy goes 1 on 1 followed by the
NBA percentile in their effectiveness of doing so.

Bulls players isolation usage and effectiveness:
John Salmons 25.65% / 51%
Ben Gordon 20.34% / 69%
Derrick Rose 14.24% / 47%
Luol Deng 9.09% / 6%
Kirk Hinrich 9.02% / 52%

What does this mean?   Well first, it means supporting John Salmons to
take over for Ben Gordon because Gordon goes one on one too much is
ridiculous.   Salmons goes one on one more and is a lot worse at it.  
It also means those who feel Rose is the best scorer in an isolation
appear to be wrong.  His 47th percentile in the league makes him an
average scorer one on one.  

Luol Deng should never have isolation opportunities as his numbers are
scary bad, and Kirk Hinrich looks like he does a decent job for the
limited chances he has.    This also backs up my assertion that the
Bulls were better off giving the ball to Gordon at the end of a game
than Rose as Gordon was a substantially better scorer in an isolation

Now, looking at these numbers you could certainly argue that Gordon
stops the ball more than Hinrich, so those who feel Hinrich would
facilitate better ball movement than Gordon would appear to be
correct.   Whether that ball movement facilitates more scoring than
Gordon is certainly debatable given how successful Gordon was in the
isolation role though.

Looking at the Bulls players is fine and dandy, we can learn something
about how the Bulls operated as a team, however, I don't want to stop
there.   Let's take a look at how Gordon matches up with the rest of
the league.   

The following is a list of every team's best perimeter
scorer except for teams which have no real perimeter threats and only
have guys who just shoot kick outs. The list contains 37 different
players.   Of that group, Pierce, Martin, and Redd didn't have a
percentile.  I believe in the case of Redd/Martin it was due to not
enough games played with Pierce it appeared his possessions weren't
logged correctly.   The list is ordered in terms of how frequently the
players used isolation in their game.

Usage and effectiveness of isolation around the league:
Kobe Bryant: 32.45% / 84%
Joe Johnson: 30.66% / 72%
Carmelo Anthony 30.28% / 47%
Brandon Roy: 29.33% / 87%
Caron Butler: 28.68% / 58%
Corey Maggette: 28.52% / 83%
Tracy McGrady: 28.12% / 35%
Stephen Jackson: 27.55% / 73%
John Salmons: 25.65% / 51%
Baron Davis: 25.07% / 38%
Allen Iverson: 24.52% / 41%
Jamal Crawford: 23.6% / 43%
LeBron James: 22.78% / 69%
Paul Pierce: 22.22% / NA
Deron Williams: 22.2% / 88%
Dwyane Wade: 20.59% / 91%
Vince Carter: 20.45% / 73%
Ben Gordon : 20.34% / 69%
Kevin Martin: 19.38% / NA
JR Smith: 19.16% / 74%
Michael Redd: 19.08% / NA
Kevin Durant: 18.49% / 42%
Andre Iguodala: 17.58% / 40%
Randy Foye: 16.49% / 54%
Josh Howard: 16.45% / 43%
Russell Westbrook: 16.16% / 37%
Eric Gordon: 15.69 / 46%
Gerald Wallace: 15.17% / 46%
Manu Ginobili: 15.13% / 88%
Nate Robinson: 14.72% / 68%
OJ Mayo: 14.48% / 62%
Chris Paul: 13.17% / 62%
Danny Granger: 12.04% / 79%
Steve Nash: 10.61% / 94%
Rip Hamilton: 10.51% / 34%
Jason Terry: 7.77% / 55%
Ray Allen: 4.56% / 86%

In terms of how often the players used isolation play Gordon ranked 18
out of 37 which is basically right in the middle of the list.   In
terms of effectiveness he ranked 14 out of 34 which is in the upper
middle portion of the list.   In terms of overall scoring rate he
ranked 14 out of 34 on this list.  

So is Gordon selfish?   It would not appear so.    His scoring rate and
effectiveness both were greater than his use of isolation relative to
his peers even if all three of the NA players were to have greater
efficiency than Gordon as isolation players.    

It would appear that Gordon uses an appropriate amount of isolation
plays for a big time scorer and for the effectiveness in which he
performs in those situations relative to his peers and that complaints
about Gordon using too much one-on-one are simply out of line with what
the rest of the good scorers in the league use.

It's also worth noting the majority of two guards whom most people
would agree are clearly better than Gordon (Roy, Wade, Kobe, Joe
Johnson) all use more isolation than Gordon, with only Wade being close
to Gordon's rate while the other three far exceed his isolation
usage.   Of the players most frequently compared to Gordon Ray Allen
has almost no isolation usage (gets most of his shots as a spot up
shooter or coming off screens) while Redd has a very similar rate of
isolation usage.

What to take from these numbers is up to the individual.   They show me
that Gordon definitely uses isolation plays quite a bit.   There is no
denying that fact, and the complaints about Gordon using too much
isolation clearly stem from the fact that he does go to the iso quite a

However, the numbers also bear out that his usage of isolation
is well within the bounds of what other quality shooting guards use
especially given his effectiveness as an isolation player.   What is
scariest is the amount of people clamoring for John Salmons to start
at shooting guard who claim Ben Gordon is a ball stopper given that
Salmons use a significantly higher percentage of isolation plays at a
significantly lower rate of effectiveness.



Leave a comment
  • Thank's for the numbers, Doug, they pretty much backup my sentiment on the matter. What's your take on the defensive side? I always have trouble gauging defense on wing players, but the pre-trade talk was that Salmons is a pretty good defender. On the other hand, despite his size causing him to get pushed around, Gordon always tries.

    I'd love to see a comparison of Deng to other slashers, and players who are generally best without the ball. I'm thinking Shawn Marion and even Grant Hill. Not that he'll ever be Grant Hill in his prime, but I still think Deng's ceiling is Marion as a Sun, which is definitely a good thing.

    Speaking of the Suns, Hinrich and Deng for Amare and Alando Tucker! The Suns seem to like Deng, and their longtime search for a Nash backup must be developing into a need for a Nash replacement by now.

Leave a comment