Unsung Floor General: Derek Raivio

While other college basketball point guards throughout the nation receive more acclaim and press hype, Gonzaga's starting point guard Derek Raivio shows how such evaluations too often fail to take statistical evidence into account. (Photos courtesy of Zagslug and Zagirl2k)


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When you hear college basketball analysts spout off about the best returning point guards in the nation, you often hear them recite names such as Texas' Daniel Gibson, Connecticut's Marcus Williams, and Oregon's Aaron Brooks. You almost never hear about Gonzaga's own Derek Raivio.

One likely reason for this is that unlike many of the more celebrated names, Raivio was the 3rd or 4th scoring option on last season's Gonzaga team. This is certainly understandable, given the talents of Ronny Turiaf, J.P. Batista and especially Adam Morrison. It is also understandable considering the severe complexity of the GU offense, and the fact that last season was Derek's first full season of running it as a starter.

There are no doubt other reasons for the lack of national respect accorded to Raivio - some of them being highly speculative. One thing that is very clear is that analysts too often fail to take into account statistical evidence when evaluating point guards. It is much easier to hype a point guard if he was a McDonald's All American, or if his name is spotted on future NBA mock draft lists. This is not to say that the floor generals who receive more publicity than Derek aren't really, really good in their own right, but that when it comes to certain players, you need to dig deeper to understand their value.

Below is a statistical comparison between Raivio and the following returning point guards: Mardy Collins (Temple), Darius Washington (Memphis), Chris Hernandez (Stanford), Jordan Farmar (UCLA), Ronald Steele (Alabama), Aaron Brooks (Oregon), Daniel Gibson (Texas), Marcus Williams (Connecticut), and Mustafa Shakur (Arizona). Please note that a few point guards such as Kentucky's Rajon Rondo were left out of this due to statistical abnormalities (such as minutes played, injuries, etc.) which would skew the statistical comparison to a degree. Comments have been included underneath each statistical category, and all stats come the Espn.com web site:


MINUTES PER GAME:

Collins 37.6
Raivio 36.4
Washington 35.1
Hernandez 34.7
Farmar 34.4
Steele 34.3
Brooks 33.1
Gibson 32.8
Williams 31.0
Shakur 28.9

Comment: While it is true that if a point guard plays more, he has more of a chance to score, accumulate assists, etc., it is also true that he has more of a chance to accumulate negative stats, such as turnovers. Also, playing more minutes as a point guard is usually an indication of there being more pressure on that point guard to perform due to a lack of depth and other factors.

POINTS PER GAME:

Collins 17.5
Washington 15.4
Hernandez 15.2
Brooks 14.7
Gibson 14.2
Farmar 13.2
Raivio 13.0
Williams 9.6
Shakur 8.1
Steele 7.9

Comment = Raivio was the 3rd or 4th scoring option for the Zags. Several of the point guards listed above were higher up in the chain, and in fact, a few guys like Collins were the primary scoring option for their team. There is little dispute about Raivio's offensive capabilities. As was seen in his brilliant 32-point performance at Santa Clara this past season (which rescued GU from a near-loss), Derek has the ability to drop in big time points if he needs to. He was a scoring machine coming out of high school, and his offensive stats will likely go up this season as he assumes more scoring responsibility.

FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE:

Steele 47%
Washington 46%
Brooks 43%
Hernandez 43%
Raivio 43%
Collins 42%
Gibson 42%
Shakur 42%
Farmar 41%
Williams 40%

Comment = FG% is always a difficult thing for point guards because they are almost always operating a good distance away from the basket. Nonetheless, Raivio ranks in the upper half in this area.


3-POINT FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE:

Raivio 46%
Steele 43%
Gibson 40%
Hernandez 40%
Washington 40%
Williams 40%
Shakur 38%
Brooks 37%
Farmar 33%
Collins 28%

Comment = Despite being at the top of this list, Raivio's upside as a long distance shooter is actually much greater than the 46% he shot from 3 point land last season. Look for this percentage to go up next season as Derek will no longer be the only legitimate 3 point shooting option that GU has (he will be hounded less by opposing defenses). He's the best pure shooter on this list.

FREE THROW PERCENTAGE:

Raivio 90%
Brooks 86%
Hernandez 81%
Steele 81%
Farmar 80%
Gibson 75%
Shakur 74%
Washington 73%
Williams 72%
Collins 64%

Comment = At the end of a tight ball game, the ball is usually in the hands of the point guard. Raivio is the best foul shooter on this list. In fact, he was 6th best in the nation last season and tied Geoff Goss' consecutive free throws made mark at GU before finally missing one.

ASSISTS PER GAME:

Williams 7.8
Farmar 5.3
Steele 5.0
Raivio 4.8
Brooks 4.6
Shakur 4.5
Hernandez 4.0
Gibson 3.9
Washington 3.8
Collins 3.6

Comment = A point guard is the key ball distributor in an offense. Once again, Derek is in the upper half of this list.

TOTAL TURNOVERS IN 04-05:

Steele 65
Raivio 66
Collins 75
Hernandez 83
Brooks 87
Gibson 95
Shakur 101
Williams 101
Farmar 113
Washington 134

Comment = Perhaps Raivio's greatest skill – even more than his long-range shot – are his ballhandling skills. He can speed through any press that's thrown at him, and he keeps ill-advised passes to a minimum. To only commit 66 turnovers while playing 36.4 MPG is a remarkable accomplishment.


ASSIST TO TURNOVER RATIO:

Steele 2.5 to 1
Williams 2.4 to 1
Raivio 2.3 to 1
Shakur 1.6 to 1
Collins 1.5 to 1
Brooks 1.4 to 1
Farmar 1.4 to 1
Hernandez 1.4 to 1
Gibson 1.3 to 1
Washington 1.1 to 1

Comment = Assist to turnover ratio is the most important statistic for a point guard. Raivio's 2.3 to 1 ratio speaks for itself. This is superb for any floor general.

STEALS PER GAME:

Collins 2.8
Gibson 1.8
Hernandez 1.7
Washington 1.7
Raivio 1.6
Farmar 1.4
Shakur 1.2
Steele 1.1
Williams 1.1
Brooks 1.0

Comment = Raivio has quick reactions and quick hands. Despite not being a well known thief on the basketball floor, he managed to finish in the upper half of this list. Keep in mind GU often played in zone defenses which aren't conducive for stealing.

TEAM POINTS PER GAME AVERAGE:

Arizona (Shakur) 79.7
Gonzaga (Raivio) 79.7
Connecticut (Williams) 78.0
Alabama (Steele) 75.8
UCLA (Farmar) 73.7
Memphis (Washington) 71.4
Oregon (Brooks) 70.9
Stanford (Hernandez) 70.1
Collins (Temple) 63.8

Comment = While team scoring offense is partially a function of what system you run and the speed at which you run it (i.e. the Temple system will never allow Collins to lead this list), the fact that GU tops this list (along with Arizona) indicates that the guy starting the offense, the point guard, is performing at a very high level.

WON-LOSS RECORD:

Gonzaga (Raivio) 25-4 (.862)
Arizona (Shakur) 30-7 (.818)
Connecticut (Williams) 23-8 (.759)
Alabama (Steele) 24-7 (.774)
Texas (Gibson) 20-10 (.667)
UCLA (Farmar) 18-11 (.643)
Stanford (Hernandez) 18-13 (.600)
Memphis (Washington) 19-15 (.559)
Temple (Collins) 16-13 (.552)
Oregon (Brooks) 14-13 (.519)

Comment = While the debate will forever go on as to the merits of Gonzaga's winning percentage in relation to major conference teams, the fact of the matter is that Gonzaga played one of absolute toughest non-league schedules in the country last season, and the WCC finished with a league RPI of 7 (according to Kenpom.com). It must also be said that throughout the season, Raivio most often had to go up against opposing point guards with much more college basketball experience than he had. Derek faced enough tough competition and challenges last season to certainly be worthy of the statistics he accumulated, including outplaying the likes of Jarrett Jack, Nate Robinson and John Lucas in head-to-head contests.

In 9 of the 10 statistical categories above (not including MPG), Raivio finished in the top half. That's more than any other player. This is by no means an argument that Raivio is the best returning point guard in the country, but it is an indication of just how underrated he is on the national scene. Given how hard Derek works during the offseason, and given that next season's Gonzaga team might be its most talented ever, one can only hope that D-Rav – as Zag fans affectionately refer to him - will finally get the recognition he deserves on a national level.


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