Player of the Year Power Rankings: It’s Frank Kaminsky’s award to win

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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:

He also made his own:

#gotem

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 Jahlil Okafor, Duke: The biggest reason why Jahlil Okafor has been replaced by Frank Kaminsky as the favorite to win the National Player of the Year award is that Okafor really struggles on the defensive end, and it’s those defensive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)