In ‘The Book Of Basketball’, Bill Simmons claims that Boston Celtics' Hall of Famer Bob Cousy got ‘screwed historically’ in terms of the way his assists were counted:
“Cousy averaged 8.9 assists for a ’59 Celtics team that averaged 116.4 points per game; John Stockton averaged 12.4 assists for a ’94 Jazz team that averaged 101.9 points per game. How am I supposed to make sense of that? How do we know Cousy wasn’t averaging 15-16 assists per game if we applied the current criteria? … [Cousy had] eight straight [assists] titles and four times where he finished with at least 30 percent more dimes than the number two guy.” (p. 493)
Essentially, Simmons’ argument is that Cousy’s assists numbers don’t stack up to those of other top assist men because assists were much harder to get during the era in which he played. Is this true? Er … not really. The table below takes each of the best assists guys during one of their peak seasons, and compares his average assists per game to the average assists of all teams per game during that season. As you can see, Cousy is a long way behind the other guys, even though the average assists per team per game in his era were not particularly low.
Average Assists Per Game – Player
Average Assists Per Game - All Teams
And yet, Cousy won eight assist titles, and was often well ahead of the next man. I guess what this means is that assists were shared around more evenly in Cousy’s era. Either way, it doesn’t look like Bob-boosters should push the ‘Cousy was screwed’ argument too hard.