The only frustration of following college hoops is that it’s impossible to follow everything. And I don’t like trusting The Man to tell me what I’ve missed, because The Man is missing stuff, too. That premise is the basis for this site, and it’s also the basis for America’s newest player of the year award.
In the effort to produce something more objective than currently exists, I’m introducing the first annual kenpom Player of the Year. Of course, it’s not completely objective – nothing is – but my intentions are pure. I’ve taken the work that I did to produce pre-season ratings and applied it here.
To refresh: In order to determine the impact of departing players, a player’s minutes were weighted by the amount of value they provided to the team. On offense, I used a combination a player’s offensive rating and his possessions used, which was valued relative to his team’s offensive rating. On defense, I used the proportion of his team’s Dean Oliver-formulated stops that he was responsible for.
The beauty of this method is that both the offensive and defensive value of a player are captured in a way that correlates with team improvement. The drawback is that it’s difficult to measure defensive value. But the work on the preseason ratings indicates that the “stops method” is better than ignoring defense altogether, and that’s a start.
Valuing minutes in this way accounts for a player’s value relative to his teammates, but this isn’t exactly what we’d like to know. It’s also important that the player is contributing to some sort of team success. This where the more subjective part comes into play, and I have thrown in a dash of team strength based on my ratings. OK, more than a dash. We don’t want Vlad Moldoveanu winning this thing! There’s enough team influence such that it’s hard to win the award if your team is not in the top ten and nearly impossible if it’s not in the top 20.
I will also admit I got a bit of inspiration from the Heisman Trophy. The thing I like most about the Heisman has nothing to do with the award itself, but that after the trophy has been awarded, a list of the top ten vote-getters is released which provides a who’s who for the sport. I don’t know of a college player of the year award that does that. I suppose you could say the all-American teams accomplish that, but to me it’s not the same. So in the kPOY, the top ten players will be revealed.
The kPOY is not meant to predict who will win the Naismith or Wooden awards. This is a standalone honor designed to identify the most valuable player in the game, free of reputation, future potential, or amount of times the player appears on Big Monday. I’ll track the candidates every week until tourney time, and then we’ll have a season-ending awards ceremony two days after the title game. (Yes, the kPOY will be the one award that includes NCAA tournament play. About time.)
Standings based on data through 12/12/10
1. Terrence Jones, Kentucky. (Rating of .510) One of two freshmen on this list, Jones has solid offensive numbers, but has also posted high marks in blocks, steals, and defensive rebounding.
2. Jon Leuer, Wisconsin. (.504) Leuer’s position here may be temporary due to his 48% clip from three-point range which one might guess will drop. Nonetheless, this is a good demonstration that unlike the national media, the kPOY does not discriminate against players on ridiculously slow-paced teams.
3. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State. (.481) Sullinger dropped a 40 on IUPUI, but it was only IUPUI. And a good chunk of that occurred with the Jaguars’ only big man on the bench with foul trouble. Nonetheless, the early money is on Sullinger to win this.
4. Jimmer Fredette, BYU. (.464) Fredette makes a high number of twos and is a deadly high-volume shooter from three. Even if you trash his defense, there’s still a lot value there. Of note is that Fredette is getting to the free-throw line significantly less than last season, when he would have finished third had the kPOY existed.
5. Kemba Walker, UConn. (.444) Walker has the stats to match up with anybody, but right now the wide gulf between the kenpom rating and the perception of the mainstream media is keeping him this low.
6. Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State. (.430) This doesn’t count Monday’s narrow win of Cal Poly (although it wasn’t that narrow) in which Leonard didn’t play. That’s significant because playing time is accounted for and thus time missed hurts a player in the kPOY, despite the fact that in this case it merely affirmed Leonard’s value to the Aztecs.
7. Derrick Williams, Arizona. (.427) Williams’ stock took a hit with an invisible second half against BYU. Not only did Williams’ stats suffer, but the beating by the Cougars dealt a blow to Arizona’s team rating.
8. E’Twaun Moore, Purdue. (.401) Nothing seems to be pretty about the Purdue offense, but Moore is continuing to put up fantastic numbers even without Robbie Hummel to distract defenses.
9. Nolan Smith, Duke. (.384) There’s no Kyrie Irving on this list, partly because Irving’s first two DNP’s are factored in, but also because he was getting some of the John Wall treatment. He’s a fast point guard that’s on TV a lot who will be a great pro. But like DeMarcus Cousins at Kentucky, Smith has been more productive than his flashier teammate.
10. Brad Wanamaker, Pitt. (.381) This is what the kPOY is all about. Wanamaker’s not going to win it, but his spot here allows me to note his impressive journey from a freshman who barely played (and when he did was rather awful) to a senior who is quietly having a very productive season. Yay for four-year players! If he wins, I’ll name the trophy after him.