NBA Position Battles: Who Should Be the Starting Point Guard for the Chicago Bulls?

Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, and Jerian Grant have all started at point guard for the Bulls this year. Which player is the best fit for the job?

The point guard position has been a source of controversy for the Chicago Bulls this season.

Rajon Rondo was one of the team's big offseason signings, but it didn't take long for him to fall out of favor with head coach Fred Hoiberg. He was the team's starting point guard at the beginning of the year, but since getting a suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team" in early December, his playing time has decreased significantly, and he had lost his starting gig to Michael Carter-Williams by the end of the month.

Rondo even fell behind Jerian Grant on the depth chart for a while and now Carter-Williams has done the same. Grant has moved into the starting lineup for the Bulls over their last two games, while Rondo has moved up behind him on the depth chart and MCW has received back-to-back DNP-CDs.

Put simply, the point guard position in Chicago is an absolute mess.

Let's see if the numbers indicate which of the three should be the rightful starter going forward.

Rondo, MCW, and Grant have averaged 27.3, 21.8, and 15.0 minutes per game, respectively, this season, so raw averages are not a good point of comparison. Instead, let's see how their per-36-minute numbers stack up:

Player PTS/36 FG% 3P% FT% REB/36 AST/36 STL/36 BLK/36 TOV/36
Rajon Rondo 8.5 36.4% 30.2% 53.8% 7.2 8.6 1.7 0.2 3.2
Michael Carter-Williams 12.2 35.0% 21.9% 80.0% 7.6 3.9 1.5 0.7 3.0
Jerian Grant 12.4 38.2% 31.3% 95.2% 3.6 3.6 1.9 0.2 1.7

Well, there's no clear winner there.

Rondo has always been a stat sheet stuffer when it comes to the popcorn numbers like points, rebounds, assists, and steals, but his putrid shooting percentages and sky-high turnovers negate any positivity you could draw from the decent counting stats.

Carter-Williams is like a poor man's Rondo in a way, bordering on a triple-double in points, rebounds, and assists whenever given enough minutes (see his days with the Philadelphia 76ers), but also with Rondo-esque awful shooting and bad ball control.

Grant's numbers are similar to both Rondo's and Carter-Williams' (minus the rebounding), but again with a mediocre shooting split. At the very least, though, he commits fewer turnovers than the other two.

Considering Grant leads the trio in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage while committing the fewest turnovers, we'll give him a reluctant nod based on per-36 numbers.

When it comes to the advanced stats, however, Grant gets a slightly more definitive edge.

Category Rajon Rondo Michael Carter-Williams Jerian Grant
nERD -3.4 -1.9 -0.4
Offensive rating 91 87 105
Defensive rating 106 105 107
Player efficiency rating 11.0 8.7 11.1
Win shares 0.4 -0.1 0.9
Win shares per 48 minutes .020 -0.006 .082
Box plus/minus -1.5 -3.3 -1.9
Value over replacement player 0.1 -0.1 0.0

Looking at our proprietary metric, nERD -- a player ranking that measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on efficiency -- Grant is an obvious standout over the other two, despite having a negative rating. At -3.4, Rondo ranks 443rd of 456 players in our NBA Player Power Rankings, while MCW's -1.9 ranks 388th. Grant's -0.4 at least puts him near the mean of the NBA, as he's ranked 250th.

As for things like offensive rating and win shares per 48 minutes, Grant is the only one that comes out not looking like a black hole of efficiency.

In the end, however, basketball is a team sport and how each player fits in should be a big factor in deciding who the rightful starter should be. While the starting point guard position has been a revolving door for the Bulls so far this season, the remaining starters -- Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and Robin Lopez -- have been pretty well etched in stone.

Here's how the Bulls have fared with each of the three point guard options combined with the remaining starters so far this season.

5-Man Lineup MIN Off Rtg Def Rtg Net Rtg AST/TO Ratio REB% eFG%
Rondo, Wade, Butler, Gibson, Lopez 390 106.3 105.5 0.8 1.82 54.3% 49.3%
Carter-Williams, Wade, Butler, Gibson, Lopez 96 94.9 101.3 -6.4 2.24 49.2% 42.7%
Grant, Wade, Butler, Gibson, Lopez 93 110.2 92.7 17.5 1.78 52.1% 50.3%

The five-man lineup with Rondo has easily gotten the biggest sample size, but the iterations with Carter-Williams and Grant have received enough minutes for comparison's sake.

Yet again, Grant stands out above Rondo and Carter-Williams. The Grant-led five-man combo has the clear edge in offensive rating, defensive rating, net rating, and effective field goal percentage, while not giving up too much in the rebounding department. The assist-to-turnover ratio is a bit low for Grant's lineup, but that's a minor gripe.

When looking at the numbers, Hoiberg's decision to put Grant in the Bulls' starting five over Rondo and Carter-Williams was the right move.

Grant does have pretty unassuming averages in his seven games as a starter (8.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals in 23.8 minutes per contest and a shooting split of 33.3% from the field, 36.4% from deep, and 94.1% from the line). However, he does have a slightly better shooting split than the other two on the season as a whole, can mostly keep up in the raw box score numbers, scores better in most advanced metrics, and is by far the best fit with Chicago's four other starters.

Let's see if this move sticks.