Patrick Beverley is probably a below average starting point guard in the NBA. If you’ve heard Seth Payne and I talk about Beverley on the air, that statement may come as a bit of a surprise.
Looking at John Hollinger’s PER stats, Beverley sits 53rd at his position, among the likes of CJ Watson, Kendall Marshall, and Mo Williams. In fairness, player efficiency rating doesn’t incorporate defense. More on that in a moment. For comparison’s sake, Jeremy Lin ranks 36th.
Offensively, Beverley doesn’t bring as much to the table as the vast majority of NBA point guards. He’s averaging under 10 points a game, with only 2.7 assists per game in over 31 minutes of action. I actually think those numbers may surprise some people, given Beverley’s fan popularity. One key positive for him is that he’s hitting 3s at around the league average, 35.7% of the time. That’s important for this pick-and-roll spacing offense.
The thing about player value, though, is you can’t judge it in a vacuum. Ever since he stepped onto the floor last season, Beverley has been one of the more valuable players on the Rockets. Before Beverley started getting consistent minutes in 2012-13, the team ranked 21st on defense in points per possession. After, the Rockets were 12th on D.
Checking the player lineup data on NBA.com, the 2 most common Rockets lineups are the starters (Howard, Jones, Parsons, Harden) with Beverley or Lin at PG. Simply put, Houston is better with Lin on offense (111.5 PPP to 109.9) but also clearly better on defense with Beverley (allowing 103.8 PPP to 105.9).
Looking at the roster, there are only 3 players I would consider to be above-average defensive players: Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, and Patrick Beverley. The defensive resumes of the first two speak for themselves, and they are the lynchpins inside. Beverley is the only good perimeter defender on the Rockets, as Harden, Parsons, Lin, Canaan, Hamilton etc. don’t really add much to that side of the ball.
Beverley is the only player the Rockets can reliably put on the likes of Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, and actually expect those stars to work for their shots and points.
So far we have one data point (extremely small sample size) after Beverley’s injury. In the Rockets’ 118-107 loss to the Clippers, Kevin McHale put Parsons on Paul, implying that he felt Lin was the inferior defender. Paul sliced and diced Houston for 30 points and 12 assists. More worrisome is how easily he was able to get his shots and dictate tempo. The Rockets seemingly just had no chance of even containing the Clippers’ best player.
It’s only one game, but Saturday’s defeat illustrates how Beverley’s absence has already put the Rockets’ defense on tilt. A big week of games against the Nets, Raptors, and Thunder looms. Let’s hope for good news out of the Beverley second opinion on Monday.
Mike Meltser can be heard on MaD Radio from 10am-2pm