Who Has Been The Best Mountain West Player So far?
It is early but let’s look at everything.
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Top player after (most of) non-league play
The conference season is approaching. With that, I was curious who in the Mountain West has performed at the highest level so far over the non-conference season. This will give us a midseason look at who the best players have been, and then we can run the exercise again at the end of the season during awards time.
How does one even go about determining who has been the best though?
Watching every game might work, but who has time for that?
Many people like to look at the box scores and use stats like Points per Game to determine who has been the best, but those stats are very flawed for a number of reasons and don’t give enough context.
To do my research, I looked at 3 advanced analytics for every player in the conference, took the Z-Scores of each statistic, and then averaged it out.
The three analytics are: Points over Expectation, Player Impact Plus Minus, and WIns Added. All three of these stats measure specific things, and count contributions on both sides of the ball, as opposed to just counting offense or defense. Let’s quickly go over what each statistic does.
Points Over Expectation – Also known as POE, this is an efficiency stat. It takes into account the number and type of shots a player takes (or defends) and compares the outcome to what an average player would’ve done with the same number and type of shots. A score of zero is the equivalent of an average player. Since POE takes into account the number of shots, than the higher usage a player has, the more likely they are to be farther from 0. So players that are really efficient on large volume are the ones that get good scores here. Since basketball is about scoring more points than your opponent, someone who can score, and defend, at an efficient level is a valuable player. For more on POE click here.
Player Impact Plus Minus – Also known as PIPM, this is an impact stat. Basically, it measures how well a player has performed in the role they’re in. A player being used in the way that best suits their skill set will have a higher score than a player who is talented in certain areas but not able to show that talent off. As an example, if Nico Caravacho was asked to shoot 3 pointers all game he would hurt his team, as that’s not his skill set. This statistic is important because no matter how purely talented a player may be, if the player doesn’t use the talents correctly it will hurt the team and prevent winning. PIPM also makes adjustments for the quality of opponents, which POE does not. I think that is an important factor when determining who has been the best so far. For more on PIPM click here.
Wins Added – This score is directly related to PIPM. One of PIPM’s flaws is that is does not make adjustments for playing time. So a player that has only played 5 minutes can have a better score than a star who plays 30 minutes a game. WIns added is an estimation of how many wins a player has provided for their team based on their PIPM score and how many minutes they have played.
As you can see, these stats measure different things, but they are all relevant in the conversation of “who has been the best player so far” and they help cover up each others weaknesses. With that, let’s look at the top 10 players so far. For reference, when using Z-Scores, the maximum score is basically 3, while 0 is average, and the worst possible is -3.
10. Diogo Brito, Utah State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.336
Diogo Brito comes in at 12th in PIPM, 10th in Wins added, and 23rd in POE. THe efficiency is what is holding him back so far. That’s not to say he isn’t efficient, as he has above average scores on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, it’s just not up to par with his overall impact.
9. Carlton Bragg Jr., New Mexico. Averaged Z-Score: 1.346
Carlton Bragg comes in at 7th in both PIPM and WIns Added. His POE score is all the way down at 34 however. His offense has been solid, as he scores about a point more per game than an average player would have given his opportunities, but his defensive efficiency has been pretty average so far. If he can force his man into more stops his ranking will improve.
8. Cheikh Mbacke Diong, UNLV. Averaged Z-Score: 1.539.
Cheikh Mbacke Diong comes in at 15th in PIPM, which is still solid. He ranks second in Wins Added, meaning he is carrying his team and playing a lot of minutes, which is crazy because he’s only 4th on his team in minutes played. He is simply having a greater impact than his teammates are in the time he gets. His POE rank is 27th. His biggest problem is offensively, where he only scores 0.333 more points per game than an average player would with his opportunity.