Instead of putting together our Player of the Year Power Rankings in a post every week, we will be counting them down on the CBT FaceBook page each and every Tuesday.
Well, for starters, it looks pretty cool.
But it also helps promote the page, and we’re going to be doing more things on the FaceBook page throughout the season. So like the page, follow the page and comment away, because it’s that much easier for us to interact with you all over there.
And we love all you.
Even you, Big Blue Nation.
Anyway, to the rankings …
Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s Frank Kaminsky’s award to win
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: It’s getting to the point in the year where the question on every NBA fan’s mind is the comparison: Who will Player X be in the NBA? The comparison du jour for Kaminsky these days is Brad Miller, which isn’t that bad. He did average around 15 points, nine boards and four assists for a good six or seven seasons in his prime, although I’m not sure that Kaminsky can pull off the tattoos or facial hair quite like Mr. Miller.
Anyway, Kaminsky had some thoughts of his own on this comparison:
“@dandakich: OSU’s Russell is James Harden..Frank Kaminsky is Brad Miller..” No I’m pretty sure I’m still Frank…
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: The biggest reason why Jahlil Okafor has been replaced by Frank Kaminsky as the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award is that Okafor really struggles on the defensive end, and it’s those defensive issues that limit Duke’s upside as a national title contender. The issue is two-fold, as I explained here. Okafor is not great at defending screen-and-roll actions, which is something that will come with time, and he’s not a natural rim protector, which may actually be the bigger problem. Duke’s defense is built around extended man-to-man pressure, which encourages offensive players to penetrate. The Blue Devils don’t have great perimeter defenders, which means that they really need a security blanket around the rim if they get beaten. Okafor, as good as he is, is not that:
3. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: The Wildcats are no longer on pace to be the historically great defensive group we all thought they could end up being this season, but it doesn’t change the fact that this team has a chance to become the first team to ever go undefeated, that they’ll do so because of their defense and that Cauley-Stein is the anchor for everything they do on that end of the floor. He’s as important to UK’s defense as Okafor, Kaminsky and anyone else on this list is to their team’s offense.
4. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: If there is a red flag for Notre Dame this season, it’s Grant’s penchant for having off-nights shooting the ball. He can be inconsistent at times. In lasy week’s loss to Syracuse, he was 2-for-9 from the floor and 0-for-6 from three. In last month’s loss at Duke, he was 3-for-10 from the floor and 1-for-7 from the line. That doesn’t change just how good he’s been this season, but it certainly puts that much added pressure on him heading into March.
5. D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State: Russell snapped out of his slump by going for 28 points, seven boards and a pair of assists in a key win over Purdue on Sunday. How anyone can watch this kid play and not see the second coming of James Harden boggles my mind:
6. Delon Wright, Utah: Before I say anything about Wright’s play this season, just do me a favor and watch this pass:
Wright’s being double-teamed after coming off of a ball-screen. He’s dribbling to his left, away from the rim, and somehow manages to not only spot Chris Reyes but throw a pass across his body from 40-feet away to Reyes, who is open at the rim. I’m not sure there are three other players in the country that can make that pass. It’s criminal that he didn’t get an assist for that. The Utes have slid back in the Pac-12 standings of late thanks to a pair of losses in the last 10 days, but that shouldn’t change your opinion of just how good Wright has been this season.
7. T.J. McConnell, Arizona: Someone that shall remain nameless tweeted over the weekend that McConnell was an Aaron Craft clone, and while their appearance and their numbers might match up well, they aren’t the same player. At all. For starters, Craft could only go right and never developed a reliable perimeter jumper. He wasn’t a guy you wanted creating offense as much as you wanted him to run your offense. McConnell, on the other hand, has become one of the best pick-and-roll guards in the country. According to Synergy’s logs, only two players in the country — Jerian Grant and DePaul’s Billy Garrett — have been as efficient in pick-and-roll actions while running more than 300 of them this season. His ability to create scoring opportunities for a team that can go through severe scoring droughts is far more important than he gets credit for. For example:
Defensively, they’re quite similar. Craft was as good as any on-ball defender as you’ll ever find. McConnell isn’t quite on his level, but he does do a terrific job of chasing players around screens.
8. Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa: Tuttle was given the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award on Tuesday, an award he won despite losing in the MVC regular season title game on Saturday to a Wichita State team that includes preseason all-americans Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet. And here’s the most impressive part: He 100 percent deserved the award.
9. Cameron Payne, Murray State: The trendy cinderella pick this March is going to be Murray State and their star guard Cameron Payne, who is averaging 20.2 points and 5.7 assists on the season. Payne is nothing like the most recent Racer star, Isaiah Canaan. Payne is bigger and longer, and while Canaan was a pure-bred bulldog of a scorer on the wing, Payne is a smooth lead guard that’s excellent at getting into the lane and finishing around the rim.
10. Kris Dunn, Providence: I’m still on the Kris Dunn bandwagon, but I think there’s a valid argument to be made that St. John’s forward Sir’Dominic Pointer has surpassed him as the Big East Player of the Year.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Tyler Haws (BYU), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Derrick Marks (Boise State), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Sir’Dominic Pointer (St. John’s), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Joseph Young (Oregon)
Player of the Year Power Rankings: Why Jerian Grant, Kyle Wiltjer need more attention
1. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin: A quick update on Kaminsky’s potentially historic season. Wisconsin has slid back a bit in recent weeks and is now on pace to be just the fourth most efficient offense in the KenPom era (2002-2015). Kaminsky is still putting up ridiculous numbers, however, with an offensive rating of 126.3 while using 27.5 percent of Wisconsin’s possessions when he’s on the floor.
2. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: I’ve said numerous times in this space that Okafor has the offensive skill set to one day become an all-time great big man. Here are three reasons why:
That’s a 6-foot-11, 270 pound 19-year old making those moves. Are you kidding me?
3. Jerian Grant, Notre Dame: The Irish are 24-4 on the season and are going to finish the season as a top four team in the ACC despite having a defense ranked 165th in adjusted efficiency, according to KenPom, and playing almost half of every game with a lineup that uses 6-foot-5 Bonzie Colson as the center. It’s incredible how much better Grant makes everyone on that team. He’s still not getting enough attenion, so I’m just going to leave this right here.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: Josh Richardson is Tennessee’s best player this season. A 6-foot-6 wing, he is averaging 15.7 points and 3.6 assists while shooting 36.5 percent from three. He also runs the point for the Vols from time-to-time. On Tuesday night, when Kentucky played at Tennessee, Cauley-Stein — Kentucky’s 7-foot-1 center — drew the assignment of covering Richardson, who finished 4-for-14 from the floor:
He also drew the assignment of covering Auburn’s K.T. Harrell. Cauley-Stein might be the best defensive center in the country. He might also be the best perimeter defender in the country. He can single-handily take any advantage an opposing team has when they run a screen-and-roll by his ability to switch out onto ball-handlers.
6. Delon Wright, Utah: The Utes fell at Oregon over the weekend, putting their Pac-12 title hopes in jeopardy, but that shouldn’t take any of the luster off of the season that Wright is having. We’ve discussed this before, but one of the things that makes Wright so efficient offensively despite the fact that he doesn’t make many threes is that he’s incredible at getting to the rim and finishing over bigger players. If you didn’t believe me, here’s some visual proof:
7. Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn had 21 points, four boards, four assists and four steals in last week’s win over DePaul, a relatively mediocre win for the guy that should be in everyone’s college basketball FanDuel lineups whenever he is suiting up. But he also had six turnovers in that game, which is not all that surprising considering that he is averaging 4.2 turnovers on the season. Is that the reason that he doesn’t show up on more Player of the Year listings?
8. T.J. McConnell, Arizona: This isn’t necessarily going to be about T.J. McConnell, but I wanted to take the chance to highlight a brilliant coaching move from Sean Miller over the weekend. With Arizona locked in a tight game at home against UCLA, Miller noticed that the Bruins had switched to a 3-2 zone late in the second half. Kevon Looney, who was killing the Wildcats in the second half, was playing at the top of the zone. He also had four fouls, so Miller called for a set play — one he likely implemented that week while prepping for the game — where Stanley Johnson and Gabe York set in-screens on the two wings, leaving Looney to guard McConnell 1-on-1. McConnell goes by him and draws Looney’s fifth foul, getting the potential lottery pick out of the game:
9. Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa: As long as the Panthers and Wichita State can get past their midweek games, they’ll head into Saturday — the final game of the regular season — tied for first place in the Missouri Valley. On a Saturday with some unreal matchups, that might end up being the best of the day.
10. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: The only reason Justin Anderson isn’t listed here is because he’s dealing with that broken finger, but don’t let that take away from the season that Wiltjer has had. He’s 17.4 points and 5.8 boards he’s averaging while shooting 46.9 percent from three is impressive in and of itself, but when you look at his efficiency numbers is when it goes from good to great. Wiltjer’s offensive rating, according to KenPom, is 132.1, an insanely high number before you even consider the fact that he’s using 26.3 percent of Gonzaga’s possessions. Only one other player since 2004, when KenPom started keeping track of these numbers, has had an offensive rating above 130 while using at least 24 percent of his team’s possessions.
If Wiltjer wasn’t such a question mark on the defensive end, he’d be much higher on this list.
OTHERS THAT WERE CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Ron Baker (Wichita State), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse), Kyle Collinsworth (BYU), Tyler Haws (BYU), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Jarell Martin (LSU), Jordan Mickey (LSU), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Bobby Portis (Arkansas), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Melo Trimble (Maryland), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Brad Waldow (St. Mary’s), Joseph Young (Oregon)