Aram’s Analytical Analysis: The Most Efficient Passers In The NBA



The Passing Game is a segment by our very own Martin Soaries who highlights some of the best passes of the night. Those passes are pure excellence and are a beauty to watch. Passing is one of the most important facets of one’s game in the league, especially for point guards. Getting others involved is their job and the ones to do it the most efficiently are the best at that craft.

When talking about the best passers in the league, we often point to the leaders in assists per game. Here are those players:

assists per game leaders

You can see the full list of assists per game leaders here.

The obvious inference you can make from the leaders is that the higher the assists per game, the more times they are able to get their teammates shots they can make. Obvious, right?

But, what the assists per game statistic does not supply you with is how many times they attempted to get that player the ball and how effective they were in their attempts.

Today, I simply want to find out who, out of the assists per game leaders, are the most efficient at passing. So, how do you begin with determining that?

First, I took the total passes made per game from Rajon Rondo leads in that category with 75.6 made passes per game. Here’s the full list for the top 10 assist per game leaders:

total passes made per game

Rajon Rondo and John Wall seem to have a head up on the rest of them in terms of passes made per game, but for the most part, all of them seem to be around that 55-65 range for passes per game.

Now, after taking the number of passes made by each player, I took a look at the bad pass turnovers per game calculated by NBA Miner.

Here’s that chart for the top 10 passers:

total bad pass turnovers per game

If you don’t understand why I used the bad pass turnovers statistic, let me explain why. So often do we here of the assist to turnover ratio. While that is a nice stat, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with passing considering that the turnover numbers include lost ball, offensive foul, and traveling turnovers. The bad pass turnovers number gets rid of those and strictly deals with passing.

So now that we have the total passes made and the turnovers produced from their passes, we can see who passes the ball most efficiently. The formula for EPR, which is what I’m calling this ratio, is simple:

EPR (Efficient Passing Rating)= Total Completed Passes Made/Bad Pass Turnovers

The EPR gives you a number that says, Player A can pass the ball X amount of times before he turns over the ball from a bad pass. Essentially it tells you how efficiently a player is at passing the ball to his teammates without turning over the ball.

Here’s the EPR of the top 10 assist leaders:

efficient passing rating

To clearly see the leaders in that group here’s the exact ratio for each of those players:

Isaiah Thomas56.33028
Chris Paul47.95276
Ish Smith47.41379
Draymond Green47.0229
Ricky Rubio43.54167
Rajon Rondo35
Damian Lillard34.57143
John Wall28.90688
Russell Westbrook24.93333
James Harden22.55605

Isaiah Thomas is head and shoulders above the rest. What this means is that IT will pass the ball 56 times before turning over the ball off a pass. That’s quite exceptional. Sure, it doesn’t account for how tough his passes are, but it’s still a good way to analyze who the most efficient passers are. Chris Paul comes in right around the top, as expected.

The three bottom players (Wall, Westbrook, and Harden) are pretty low on the list, but that shouldn’t be too shocking. They hold the ball the majority of the time for their teams and have an extremely high usage rating. But, even with that being said, Isaiah Thomas only has a 0.1 less usage rating than John Wall.

So, does this stat tell you that Isaiah Thomas is a better point guard than Russell Westbrook or John Wall? Of course not. But, what this shows you is that IT, Chris Paul, and even Ish Smith are 3 of the best in the NBA at moving around the ball in the offense without turning it over.


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