I recently added an MVP feature to the box scores on the site, whereby the best player in each game is chosen using John Hollinger’s Game Score with a three-point bonus for being on the winning team. You could probably just choose the MVP yourself, but it means more when a computer does it.
One way to get a feel for which player is most valuable to his team is to look at who has earned the most MVP honors so far. Two players have earned 15 MVP’s each: Drexel’s Damion Lee and Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. Drexel is 10-15, so Lee’s story is not going to be told here. But you should take a minute to visit Drexel’s page and check out the player stats, because Lee is having nice season without much help from his teammates.
Tuttle on the other hand is playing for a team that is on track for a fairly high seed in the NCAA tournament. Certainly the competition UNI has faced this season is not the same as Frank Kaminsky or Jahlil Okafor is facing, but among tournament teams, no player is more valuable to his squad than Tuttle.
And no player is carving up his conference like him, either. At this moment, Tuttle is leading the MVC in both offensive rating and usage rate simultaneously. That’s Damian Lillard-type stuff. He’s the most efficient player while having the largest role in his team’s offense.
This is partly due to an assist rate that many point guards would admire. The 6-8 Tuttle has assisted on just under 30 percent of his teammates’ made baskets when he’s on the floor, the highest mark on the team. (And he’s on the bleeding edge of breaking my position algorithm for UNI.)
This is not a plea for Seth Tuttle to be considered for player of the year. The kPOY will take care of that decision in a cool, objective way. This piece is merely to alert you that Tuttle is playing some of the best individual ball of the season right now, earning the MVP distinction for seven games running, which included a 29 points in a 59 possession game against Wichita State.
Tuttle was left off the Wooden Award’s 20-player mid-season watch list. That doesn’t really mean much because after the four or five guys with a shot at the award, voters may not put much effort into filling out the ballot. But is in an indication that Tuttle’s outstanding season for a very good team has been lost when acknowledging the nation’s best players. We could come up with some contributing factors for this, but undoubtedly part of it is that most observers prefer counting stats over rate stats.
And that’s the problem for Tuttle. He plays on a team that averages 57 possessions per game, the second lowest figure (in raw terms) in all the land. He’s averaging 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, which are respectable numbers on their own. But given the possession handicap that Tuttle faces, his work has been much more impressive than the counting stats say. Someday the basketball public will overcome its bias against slow-paced teams, and we’ve made some progress, but there’s still a ways to go. Tuttle is doing more within his team’s offense than anyone in the country.