Pac 10 Freshman of the Year debate (w/Poll)

There are many storylines and subplots to consider as we head into the final regular season game.  One of the most interesting is the upcoming “Battle in Seattle” of two strong Pac 10 Freshman of the Year candidates.  I wanted to look at their cases, along with several other contenders for the award.  I am also interested in how fans of other teams vote, so I will put this FanPost on each site.

My first criterion is the Name Test.  Have I heard of you? I know this is the least statistically sound way to evaluate somebody, but it is necessary to cut down the field of freshmen to the at least occasional impact players. I have "heard" of some other freshmen than listed here, by the way, but I can't include everyone.  Here is the initial list (I did have to pore over rosters to remember some of the players):

Kyle Fogg (Arizona)

Jorge Gutierrez (Cal)

Garrett Sim (Oregon)

Michael Dunigan (Oregon)

Josh Crittle (Oregon)

Jeremy Green (Stanford)

Malcolm Lee (UCLA)

Jrue Holiday (UCLA)

J'mison Morgan (UCLA)

DeMar DeRozan (USC)

Leonard Washington (USC)

Isaiah Thomas (UW)

Klay Thompson (WSU)


Second, I think it is fair to eliminate any player who does not contribute at least fifteen minutes per game.  Obviously the top contenders will play much more, but this is more of an initial step:

Jorge Gutierrez

Garrett Sim

Michael Dunigan

Josh Crittle

Jeremy Green

Malcolm Lee

Jrue Holiday

J’mison Morgan

DeMar DeRozan

Leonard Washington

Isaiah Thomas

Klay Thompson


I think it would be fair to say that this list contains the only people who will receive any votes this year.  Next let’s look at some per-game statistics.  Before stat geeks sets their hair on fire, I didn’t want to sort through Ken Pomeroy’s tempo-free stats for 10 different players, but I will use his stats in narrowing the field eventually.  Let’s start with saying the players must average at least 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. I kind of decided those arbitrarily, so I will include people which are much higher in one but lower in another (this also helps account for different positions).  Before I completely eliminate someone, I will double check things like defensive stats and efficiency (in this case, points per shot).

Kyle Fogg (slightly lower than cutoff in each category but very efficient)

Jorge Gutierrez

Garrett Sim

Michael Dunigan (lower assists, but good overall stats)

Jeremy Green

Jrue Holiday (more assists, fewer rebounds)

DeMar DeRozan (more points, fewer assists)

Leonard Washington

Isaiah Thomas (more points, fewer rebounds)

Klay Thompson (more points, fewer assists)


So we are down to six.  Now let’s start looking at tempo-free stats. I’ll list some relevant KenPom stats for each player. Unfortunately at this point I have to switch from conference-only statistics to against all competition.  Ken often uses stats that are adjusted for the level of competition, though not all of them are, but hopefully we’ll still get an accurate picture of how good the players are.  Red text is national rank for all college players. (Click on picture for larger version)



Offensively, Fogg appears to be the best, but note that he is rarely involved in possessions.  He doesn’t shoot much, though when he does shoot he makes them, doesn’t do a lot of rebounding or assisting, but gives up a lot of turnovers.  Less than great defensive numbers just add to the arguments against him, so I’m saying he goes. 

Dunigan is more the opposite, with the best defensive numbers of the remaining players.  Note that he is the lowest in minutes, probably because he is the highest in fouls committed.  He also draws a lot of fouls, but judging by his TS% I would guess he doesn’t make too many free throws.  Great rebounder but a turnover machine.  Pretty much everything about his profile screams "talented but makes typical freshman mistakes." I say he goes as well.

Thomas and Thompson both take the most scoring opportunities on their teams and do pretty well with those chances.  DeRozan is close behind and Holiday shoots better but less often.  Thomas is the outlier (in a bad way) in rebounding.  Thomas and Holiday both have essentially the same assist and turnover rates, both high, while DeRozan turns over far more often, and Klay is better but not quite as good as the first two.  Defensively, it looks to be about a wash between Klay and Holiday, with Thomas a little behind and DeRozan bringing up the rear.  I think we can eliminate DeRozan now.

To pick a winner from the last three players is definitely subjective.  Just by the stats, I think you’d have to go with Holiday.  He is the best shooter, rebounder, assister and defender.  His only real downside is that he also has the most turnovers.  Considering more than stats, however, you have to note that he is probably the 3rd or 4th option on his team offensively, UCLA’s man to man defense is so good that Holiday can play the passing lanes to get a good steal rate, and he’s probably playing on the team with the most talent in the starting 5. 

Thomas’s main arguments statistically are that he plays more minutes than Holiday, uses far more possessions (thus is more important to his team), and draws a ridiculous 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes.  He constantly gets the other team in foul trouble, which is incredibly important against teams with limited depth.  Subjectively, he was "the missing piece" to the UW puzzle, leading them from 8th last year to 1st this year.  He has allowed Dentmon to slide over to his more natural shooting guard position, and consistently draws weak side help defenders, providing plenty of opportunities for Brockman down low.  Much of the support for Thomas comes from evidence that does not always show up in statistics.

Thompson is the best of the three in only four categories – minutes, committing fouls, blocking, and not turning the ball over.  Please note that each of these categories is a rate, meaning that his avoidance of fouling and turnovers is not directly related to WSU’s slow pace.  On statistics alone, he is close or ahead of Thomas in everything except assists and drawing fouls, and I think you could argue that Klay wins the statistical battle here and is only slightly behind Holiday. Judging from the minutes played, Klay is the most important to his team in terms of depth, as the dropoff after him on the bench is significant. 

So how would YOU vote? By the stats, Holiday is the winner.  By "importance to team," you could go with Klay or Thomas.  Thomas is the key to the UW offense, and UW is first in the league, but he also has a lot more talent around him than WSU provides (though less than UCLA).  Vote now!


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