Brittany Boyd: Point guard Swiss army knife

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Diving into the numbers to explain the many ways in which Brittany Boyd is amazing.

If you were to ask the average women's college basketball fan who the best point guard in the nation is, you would probably hear the typical answers: Duke's Chelsea Gray, Baylor's Odyssey Sims, UConn's Bria Hartley. Maybe somebody might add Oklahoma State's Tiffany Bias or Iowa's Samantha Logic. And none of those answers are wrong. Those players are all great, and it's pretty much impossible compare what they do for their individual teams.

I'm going to make the argument for Brittany Boyd. Why? Because I like talking about great Cal basketball players. But mostly because she does a little bit of everything, and what she does makes Cal tick. And I think, oddly, that she's under-appreciated, maybe even by myself and other Cal fans.

Why would Boyd be under-appreciated? Because the one obvious weakness in her game is particularly obvious. She's not a great shooter. For her career she's 22.7% from behind the arc, and she's not a ton better shooting 2 point jumpers. It's obvious and frustrating for fans to watch teams sag off of her, and it's frustrating when Boyd is forced to shoot jumpers because the shot clock is running out.

But it's the ONLY aspect of her game that isn't elite. Let's explore the three biggest reasons that BB is awesome, each more impressive than the previous reason:

1: She's a scorer

Not being a great jump shooter can be a liability for some players. Not Boyd. Why? She scores points anyway. Firstly, Boyd's 2 point shooting is solidly average, and she's a great finisher for her size. More importantly, she draws a ton of fouls and gets to the line plenty.

I wouldn't say her scoring ability is amazing or anything, but it's very good for a pure point guard. Amongst major conference point guards that average more than 5 assists/game, only a handful score as much or more than Boyd.

2: She's a passer

Boyd is 13th in the country in assist rate at 39.53%. What that means is that when Boyd is on the floor, 39% of Cal's baskets are assisted by her. I don't really know how to contextualize that other than to say it's a huge number. Only two major conference players have a higher rate - Mississippi State's Katia May and Arkansas's Calli Berna. Neither of those players are double digit scorers.

Essentially, almost no major conference point guards combine Boyd's distribution and scoring responsibilities. Sure, maybe Chelsea Gray could score and assist as much, but she doesn't have to because her veteran teammates are so elite. But Boyd is taking on this level of burden at the moment, and that's remarkable.

When Boyd is on the court and Cal scores, I would estimate that Boyd is directly involved roughly 65% of the time, either as the scorer or the passer.

3: She's a thief

Here's the skill that really makes Boyd unique, and the skill that we almost certainly take for granted:

Brittany Boyd might be the best ball hawk in the nation.

Her hand speed is insane. Everybody knows what's coming. It's not some sort of secret. And yet teams are helpless. Boyd doesn't play in a defense designed to create huge steal numbers most of the time. Cal doesn't run a bunch of weird trapping zones often, and they don't press as much as you'd think. Boyd gets her steals by simply picking pockets.

In terms of pure counting stats, she's tied with three other players at 3.5 steals/game despite playing fewer minutes than the other players. In terms of steal rate (again, the percentage of opponent's possessions that end with Brittany Boyd stealing the ball) she's 12th in the nation overall and first amongst major conference players. And that's ALL players, not just point guard.

This skill sets her apart as a defensive player, and as an offensive player. About three times a game Brittany Boyd will end a possession for the opponent, and she turns those steals into baskets at a very high rate. They act as huge swings in games, and it's a key factor in how Cal closes out games.

She's a scorer, she's a passer, she's a thief. Plenty of players are one of those things. Some are two of those things. How many are all three? Very few. Let's start with standard counting stats.

How many players average more than 10 points, 5 assists and 2.5 steals/game? Here's the list:

Brittany Boyd, Cal: 13.1, 5.5, 3.5
Christassia Walter, Louisiana Tech: 13.2, 5.8, 3.2
Andola Dortch, Toledo: 11.1, 5.1, 2.9
Jamierra Faulkner, Southern Miss: 14.4, 9.0, 2.9
Chelsea Gray, Duke: 10.8, 7.2, 2.9
Torry Hill, Montana: 11.5, 5.5, 2.8

Six players, four of them from smaller conferences that just don't have the strength of schedule to compare to what Brittany Boyd has faced. That and Chelsea Gray, widely regarded to be perhaps the best pure point guard in the country. As an aside - Boyd averages 6.2 rebounds/game, more than every player on this list, so you can add great rebounding for her size and position to the list.

So, is Brittany Boyd the best point guard in the nation? Probably not yet. There's plenty of stiff competition. It's tough to compare players when they're asked to do different things under different coaching schemes. She should surely be in the conversation.

I do feel confident saying that there's no point guard more critical to the success of her team than Boyd.

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