Whenever people discuss who the most valuable player on a team (or in a league) is, there is often wide-ranging disagreement about how you define such an award. Do you give it to the player who is the best overall player? The one who scores the most or has the best overall statistics? The one the team relies on the most for leadership, or perhaps the +/- statistics when they are on the floor? What about what impact having that player gone with an injury would have on the ability of the team to win games?
When Jerome Randle beat out Quincy Pondexter in 2010 (a record 5-time Pac-10 Player of the Week winner), people asked what exactly is the definition of such an award, if the weekly winner doesn’t win it for the year. Obviously the NBA didn’t see it that way since Pondexter was an NBA 1st round draft pick, while Randle went undrafted. Pondexter was a better scorer and rebounder. But, Randle was the point guard, and if he went missing, the impact on the Golden Bears would have arguably been a bigger loss than to the Huskies. People also rationalized it by saying, well, it goes to the “best player on the best team”. But, if that is the criterion, then why didn’t Jon Brockman win it in 2009 when the Huskies won their first outright conference championship in 54 years?
Then, last year, Terrence Ross averaged 16 ppg on the conference champion Huskies and they ended up giving the Player of the Year award to California’s Jorge Gutierrez instead despite the fact that he didn’t even rank in the Top 6 in any statistical category. If anyone needs to ask who the NBA thinks is the best player, then just look at Ross being drafted #8 in the NBA Draft and Guitierrez going completely undrafted (like Randle). So, apparently that best team saying only applies when the Huskies don’t win the title.
The problem with this kind of analysis is that even in basketball, with its small number of players, the differences in the size and abilities of players makes it difficult to compare them to each other. How do you compare the contributions of a 5’9″ point guard and a 6’6″ small forward? How about a 7’0″ center? Some shoot from long distance while others score from inside. Some play great defense, while others are rebounders.
You could analyze it by looking at the +/- data. The plus/minus analyzes simply how many points the team scores versus gives up when each player is on the floor and when they are on the bench. Some players who are perceived to be very important can often have a net minus (the team is outscored when they are on the floor), while other players who may not put up tremendous statistics have a net positive. The reasons may have to do with these player’s contribution to defense or their role in helping others score on offense. It can also include the intangibles such as saving loose balls or setting great screens. It could be issues of leadership and chemistry. But, since that data does not appear to be available (although rumors have it that Romar keeps it internally), we have to use a slightly different and more subjective level of analysis.
So, perhaps we need to look at it from another angle, one that is more subjective, but still important. Perhaps the MVP is not the player who is “the best”, or who scores the most, or who has the best NBA potential, but rather which player when missing has the greatest impact on the team’s ability to win games. Thus, in my countdown of ranking the 2012-13 Husky men’s basketball roster, I am going to use this as my question; If a player were to suffer a season ending injury prior to the beginning of the season, what impact would their loss have on the win/loss record at the end of the season.
Today I am looking at players ranked #14 to #8 on the roster, while in my next post, I’ll examine players ranked #7 to #1 in terms of their significance to the team.
#14 Gilles Dierickx (C)- This 7’0″ center the transfer from Florida International will have to sit out this year. The Belgian did not put up impressive stats as a freshman (2.6 ppg). He is not a traditional banger, opting instead to play more of a finesse game, with a decent mid-range jumper. He’ll likely benefit from a redshirt year to work on his game, learn Romar’s system, and beef up a bit. He will still be a valuable practice player though. He could be the long-term replacement for Aziz when he graduates.
#13 Jernard Jarreau (SF)- The 6’10” small forward redshirted last year. As a guard early in high school who simply outgrew that position, there is much for him to learn about how to play under the hoop. He is said to be a decent outside shooter, but he definitely needs to bulk up to be effective rebounding and playing defense. We really are not sure what to expect from him because we have not really seen a player like Jarreau before. While this ranking may end up being dead wrong come February (and I hope I am ), if he were to go out with an injury the Huskies would not be affected from the stand point of their normal style of play.
#12 Hikeem Stewart (PG)- As the third backup point guard behind Gaddy and Andrews, I just do not see Stewart getting a lot of minutes. In his rare opportunities last year on the floor, he seemed very uncomfortable. Gaddy will average more than 30 minutes per game again and Andrews is said to be the kind of player you can not keep off the floor. There are many people who are very high on Stewart and say he will surprise some people. Perhaps that is true, but when you look at a team with as much depth in the guard position as the Huskies have, it is hard to imagine there being enough minutes for Stewart to play a major role. In fact, it might not even hurt him to redshirt this year.
#11 Perris Blackwell (PF)- Wait a minute. How can a player who is redshirting be ranked ahead of two players who will actually be playing? When that player is a 6’9″ power forward with three years of previous experience playing the likes of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, that’s when. Perris Blackwell has a chance to come right in as a leader on this team in practice, as well as, to be an effective teacher and practice player for Aziz, Bruenig, and Kemp to learn from and get better going again.
#10 Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (PF)- ASJ was a much needed addition when he arrived on the team in late January. Romar was desperately trying to find someone to help Aziz N’Diaye up front and neither Martin Bruenig or Shawn Kemp Jr. could seem to do the job. But, he was raw, often confused on the offensive side of the ball, and made some critical defensive errors from time to time. But, we completely accepted that because he made up for it with his brute strength and desire to win. What we can not count on for next year is having him back. He seems like a sure-fire NFL tight end and Steve Sarkisian may advise him to focus solely on football for his own good at the end of the season. If he returns, awesome for Husky fans. If not, we’ll all understand and hope that the other forwards have improved enough to make up for it.
#9 Martin Bruenig (SF)- The German combo forward had a pretty disappointing season last year. While he has the size and skills to be a very good weapon for Romar next year, he seemed confused on defense and uncomfortable on offense. If Bruenig can get the hang of the defense and offer Romar some depth up front, especially from a rebounding stand point, he could go a long way toward taking the Huskies to the NCAA tournament. A break out season for him could mean very big things for the Huskies. But, if he repeats what we saw last year, the Huskies will more or less be where they were at last year. No big loss. So, it seems there can only be upside here.
#8 Mark McLaughlin (SG)- I know this will be a controversial ranking, given that McLaughlin was the nation’s leading JC scorer last year at TCC and some say he may end up being good enough to enter the NBA draft next year. There are those who say he’ll be a starter by the end of the season. But, the reason I placed him here was a big-picture kind of thing. Remember, this is a ranking of who would have the biggest impact on the win/loss column if they were lost to injury in the pre-season. The Huskies have two shooting guards (CJ Wilcox and Scott Suggs) who are experienced upperclassmen who have started for Lorenzo Romar and know his system quite well. They are extremely good outside shooters, have length and athleticism, play solid defense, and can together take up all of the minutes in this position if necessary. At the point guard position, we know Gaddy can play 35+ minutes per game if need be and they seem to have an effective backup in Andrew Andrews. McLaughlin has jumped around quite a bit in his career, so honestly we do not know what to expect from him. Will he be the kind of player Romar simply can not keep off the court? Or, will he be a role player trying to find his minutes? Only time will tell on this one. But, we’ve seen what this team looks like with Gaddy, Wilcox, and Suggs and what it looks like when they go missing due to injury. We don’t have that answer with McLaughlin yet…