Whatever Happened to the 10-Assist Game?

Where's Brevin Knight?

(Originally published on 10/22/18)

Like other aging fantasy general managers, I tend to romantiscize the past. On many occasions, Primetime PlayasClub  and I have reminisced about the glory days of the NBA when passing and assist numbers were valued more than isolations and routine pick-and-rolls. We truly believe that the ball used to move more, move in different directions, at angles exclusive to the vision of the point guard. A great point guard could tilt the court in his team's favor. We miss being bedazzled by assist specialists like Jamaal Tinsley and Brevin Knight. Now, we're stuck with whatever the hell game James Harden is playing every night. In 2017-18, only one player avaraged more than 10 assists-per-game -- Russell Westbrook (10.3). Over the last decade, only a few players have achieved this statistical feat. 

Players Averaging 10+ Assists/Game
2017-18: Russell Westbrook (10.3)
2016-17: James Harden (11.2), John Wall (10.7), Russell Westbrook (10.4)
2015- 16: Rajon Rondo (11.7), Westbrook (10.4), Wall (10.2), Chris Paul (10.0)
2014-15: Paul (10.2), Wall (10.0)
2013-14: Chris Paul (10.7)
2012-13: Rondo (11.1)
2011-12: Rondo (11.7), Steve Nash (10.7)
2010-11: Nash (11.4), Rondo (11.2), Deron Williams (10.3)
2009-10: Nash (11.0), Paul (10.7), Williams (10.5)
2008-09: Paul (11.0), Williams (10.7), GILBERT ARENAS (10.0)
2007-08: Paul (11.6), Nash (11.1), Williams (10.5), Jason Kidd (10.1)

Overall, the number of 10-assist games have dropped from 557 in 2007-08 to 465 in 2017-18. These numbers are not adjusted for pace but anecdotally, the game has gotten faster. If I knew how to calculate for pace, I would. But I don't. So we'll settle for raw numbers for now. 

There are multiple potential reasons for the drop in 10-assist games leaguewide. Teams employ game-managers at the point (George Hill, Malcolm Brodgdon, Darren Collison) while the majority of playmaking duties are assigned to their wing counterparts (LeBron, Giannis, Oladipo). Teams (Golden State, Utah, Denver) are shifting to more of an equal opportunity offense where each player is expected to make plays off the dribble. There's an increase in isolation offense. Stars and point guards aren't playing as many minutes. These are all anecdotal explanations for the drop in 10-assist events. 

A couple years ago, we added double-doubles as a category in our league with the hope that the point-assist double-double would play a factor in the scoring each week. Last year, there were 393 point-assist double-doubles which is down from 461 in 2007-08. It's important to monitor the decline of the point-assist double-double as we evaluate the scoring categories in our league. If current trends continue, it's possible that our scoring system is becoming too heavily weighted in favor of rebounding. Maybe it's always been this way and I'm only now noticing. Either way, eventually, we'll have to adjust. But until then, thank goodness we still have Rajon Rondo.