A Real Statistical Comparison for Jonny Flynn

A few weeks back, after the game with the Mavericks, I wrote a quick Fanpost noting the statistical similarities between Jonny Flynn's rookie year and Jason Terry's rookie year. However, I wanted to do a bit more analysis before anointing Flynn the next Jason Terry.

Finding a Flynn Comparison

Using Basketball-Reference's season finder, I grabbed every player 6'2" or shorter in their rookie season having played more than 615 minutes played (15mp/g over at least 41 games) since the three point line was put in (1979-1980). I then divided their statistics (MP/G, PER, TS%, eFG%, AST%, STL%, TOV%, USG%, ORtg and DRtg) by Flynn's statistics, giving a percentage result that was, essentially, "closeness to Flynn". I then squared those results and averaged the squares in order to find a comparison to Flynn.

Why Squared?

Pretend that there are only two statistics that matter: TS% and 3P%. Pretend that Flynn has a 50% TS% and 35% 3P%. Player A, has 55% TS% and 31.5% 3P%. Player B, on the other hand, has an 82% TS% and a 12.25% 3P% (impossible, but bear with me). If you do the math, Player A is 10% better at TS%, 10% worse at 3P%. Player B is 65% better and worse at the same statistics. Average them out, and you get 1.00; both are equal in comparison to Flynn. But Player A is obviously the closer comparison. By squaring the results (110% and 90% versus 165% and 35%) and averaging them out, Player A is now a 1.01 in comparison to Flynn's 1.00, while Player B is 1.42. Outliers are made much more significant when squaring.

Weaknesses of This Analysis

First of all, a player with two extreme outliers, even due to squaring, will statistically be closer to Flynn despite the outliers. The raw average (which, BTW, has Mario Chalmers as the closest comparison) is not to be taken at Face value. Chalmers, for instance, was far better at collecting steals, far worse at using possessions and within .2 on just about everything else. Averaging them out mitigates the outliers.

Some statistics are probably more important than others. I'd personally rather have a guy who never steals the ball but shoots 65% from the field. Giving equal weight to everything doesn't make sense in the real world, nor does it make sense statistically. It also makes much more sense to use actual statistical software. When I get a minute, I'll pop in my old SPSS and see if I can't work some more magic.

The biggest problem of all is, strangely, with Flynn. He uses so many possessions, it's astounding. There are SIX short rookies since 1979-1980 who used the ball as much as Flynn - Allen Iverson, Isiah Thomas, Brandon Jennings, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Chucky Atkins and Kelvin Ransey. Jennings is probably the best comparison, and it's not a good one; plus, we don't know what will happen to Jennings in the future.

After the Jump - The Comparisons

Keep in mind, the comparisons are probably optimistic, because rarely do players get minutes like Flynn does without being either pretty good players or projected to be pretty good players.


Player Ht Age G MP MP/G PER AST% TOV% STL% USG% ORtg DRtg TS% eFG% FG% 3P% FT%
Jonny Flynn 5'11" 20 69 1996 28.9 13.0 24.7 17.5 1.8 24.3 97 113 0.502 0.450 0.412 0.346 0.823
Jameer Nelson 5'11" 22 79 1612 20.4 14.5 24.8 14.8 2.5 21.4 103 108 0.510 0.490 0.455 0.312 0.682
Raymond Felton 6'1" 21 80 2406 30.1 14.2 30.9 15.7 2.2 21.4 100 109 0.483 0.446 0.391 0.358 0.725
Bobby Jackson 6'1" 24 68 2042 30.0 13.6 29.5 17.4 2.8 23.5 92 111 0.453 0.405 0.392 0.259 0.814
Nick Van Exel 6'1" 22 81 2700 33.3 13.6 25.4 11.3 1.6 19.9 106 113 0.485 0.452 0.394 0.338 0.781
Travis Mays 6'2" 22 64 2145 33.5 12.3 18.3 15.5 1.9 21.0 102 112 0.526 0.456 0.406 0.365 0.770
Tony Parker 6'2" 19 77 2267 29.4 11.7 23.9 17.5 2.1 17.7 99 103 0.497 0.467 0.419 0.323 0.675
Jonny Flynn 5'11" 20 69 1996 28.9 13.0 24.7 17.5 1.8 24.3 97 113 0.502 0.450 0.412 0.346 0.823



Out of all the guys up there, Jameer Nelson is probably the worst comparison.  Didn't play as many minutes, shot better from 2P, way worse from the FT Line and was pretty different overall. His AST% is dead on though and he definitely improved from his rookie year to now. He's up and down, but if Flynn is Nelson, I approve.

Raymond Felton is also not a superb comparison. He did shoot worse than Flynn is currently shooting, but he was (and still is) a much better facilitator. Not that great of a player though. His shooting stroke has not improved that much and it remains to be seen whether he's an NBA starter.

Bobby Jackson is probably the only player on the list who might have had a worse rookie year than Flynn. Awful shooting, just awful. He improved dramatically during his career though (but has primarily been a 6th man). And he passes better too. He's also a great rebounder, which I left out of this analysis, but certainly makes him more valuable.

Nick Van Exel is a pretty solid comparison - wasn't a big passer, shot similarly, played a lot of minutes, wasn't great on defense. Turned the ball over less, but pretty similar all around. He turned into a real PG though, with 5 years in the top 10 for assists/game. Certainly promising.

Travis Mays is probably the worst case scenario out of all the players up there. He played for a year, ruptured both Achilles Tendons in his second season and only played one more year. Played in Europe for quite a few years though. Not very useful as a comparison, but he had a pretty similar first year.

And the best case scenario: Tony Parker. Parker as a rookie was not good.  Didn't shoot well, didn't score much, turned the ball over too much, etc... He was 19 though, and adjusting to his first year in America. Plus, he was pretty good on defense (though he did have Tim Duncan and David Robinson behind him). He's improved tremendously and might be one of the top five point guards in the league right now. Flynn looks pretty similar to him, and it's not out of the question that he turns it around like Parker did.

For the record, I left off Jason Terry because of my earlier analysis. He's actually still a good comparison; very similar shooting and similarly offensively and defensively. Terry is a better distributor though. Which is pretty sad.


Patience is a virtue. While Flynn looks like a lost cause sometimes, there are plenty of other point guards who turned it around. Van Exel and Parker became excellent starters, Nelson is solid, Jackson was great as a 6th man, Felton is about average, and could be good in a PG rotation and Mays, while unsuccessful, probably wasn't in control of his tendons tearing. These point guards did start to show their true colors with more experience; virtually all of them who did take a step forward did it pretty early. We could have something good on our hands. Lets relax and see it through to next season.

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