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64Assist Anomaly of 1956-57

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  • msg_53@hotmail.com
    Apr 10, 2001
      Something I have noticed in the compiling of stats: the NBA
      experienced a sharp reduction in assisted field goals between the '56
      and '57 seasons. My question is, did the league feel they had been
      awarding assists too liberally, and suddenly tighten the
      interpretation of what constitutes an assist? or, did teams suddenly
      begin playing different styles of offense, or with radically
      different personnel?
      In just one year, while total League FG increased 3.3%, the # of
      assists dropped 20%. Thus, the % of FG which were assisted went from
      a whopping 68.7% in 1956, to 53.4% in 1957, a decrease of 23%.
      A casual look at the assist leaders for these 2 years indicates
      something about personnel changes; a closer evaluation confirms this.
      From the least-affected Syracuse Nationals (down 17%) to the most-
      affected Lakers (-30%), here is the rundown on the point guard
      changes:
      1956 1957
      TEAM GUARDS GM AST GM AST PERSONNEL CHANGE
      Lakers Martin 72 442 72 169 :Leonard; Martin to Hawks
      Skoog 72 255 23 76 back injury
      Mencel 69 132 72 201 minutes up
      Garmaker 68 104 72 190 becomes starting pg

      Royals Wanzer 72 225 72 107 :McCarthy; Wanzer retires
      Regan 72 222 71 222
      Fleming 71 197 51 81
      Twyman 72 171 72 123

      Pistons Phillip 70 410 72 238 :Shue; Phillip to Celts
      Noble 72 282 54 180 injury
      Devlin 69 138 71 141
      Brian 37 74 71 172 :Kenville; Brian retires

      Celtics Cousy 72 642 64 478
      Sharman 72 339 67 236
      Barrett 72 174 67 168 :Phillip; Barrett retires
      Ramsey military 35 67

      Warriors George 72 457 67 307
      Gola 68 404 72 236 :Seymour; Gola in military
      Dempsey 72 205 71 136
      Hennessy 53 46 72 190 :Beck; Hennessy 3rd string

      Knicks McGuire 62 362 72 222 down to 17 minutes
      Braun 72 298 72 256
      Shue 72 179 72 182 :Guerin; Shue to Pistons
      Baechtold 70 163 71 129 :Sobie; Baechtold 3rd str.

      Hawks Harrison 72 277 66 269 :Martin; Harrison to Nats
      McMahon 70 222 72 367
      Stephens 72 207 66 94 :Park; Stephens in military
      Ferrari 68 163 62 46 :Bemoras; Ferrari in military

      Nats King 72 410 71 205 :Conlin; King retired
      Seymour 57 276 65 193 down to 19 min.
      Kenville 72 159 66 161 :Harrison; Kenville to Det.
      Farley 72 151 68 106 :Bianchi; Farley in military

      This seems to indicate a staggering amount of disruption to the
      league's backcourts, quantitatvely:
      Positions 32
      Retired 4 George King, Bobby Wanzer, Frankie Brian, Ernie Barrett
      Military 3 Tom Gola, Jack Stephens, Al Ferrari
      Aging 6 Dick McGuire, Andy Phillip, Paul Seymour, Jack George,..
      Traded 5 Slater Martin, Bob Harrison, Ed Conlin, Billy Kenville..
      Total is 18 of 32 guard positions seriously affected; an influx of
      new players: Johnny McCarthy, Richie Guerin, Al Bianchi, Bobby
      Leonard, does not offset these diminishing effects in ballhandling
      skill.
      Guards who remained with their teams without serious loss of
      minutes were noticably reduced as well: Cousy and Sharman, Carl
      Braun, Jack McMahon (whose minutes almost tripled) lost about half
      the league average of 23% fewer assists.
      Players at positions other than guard can also be seen to
      uniformly have gotten fewer assists, per minute, from one year to the
      next.
      Consequently, I ascribe about half of the 56/57 assist anomaly to
      personnel disruption, and the other half to some reinterpretation of
      the rules.
      The league-wide % of Ast/FG was as high as 79% in 1952, sagged to
      69% in '56, plunged to 53%, bottomed out at 49% in '65-'67, climbed
      steadily to 59% in 1980, and has there hovered around 60% ever since.
      I use a year-by-year assist conversion which uses half the
      difference between a given year's variation from the historical
      average of 58%. So, for example a player's assist rating for 1965 is
      factored by 1+(.580/.493-1)/2 , that is, by 1.088. Hoping to account
      for fluctuations in a rule so open to interpretation as "assisting".
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