Halfway through the season, who has been the best player in the Mountain West?
A month later, let’s see how the numbers have changed.
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Top player halfway through the season.
Earlier this season I took a look at who have been the best performers in the Mountain West this basketball season. Without of conference play officially over, and most teams having played about half of their games, it is time to revist the topic.
I used the same exact methodology as before, just with up to date numbers. If you remember the stats and what they represent, skip ahead to the rankings. The explanations are below if you’d like a refresher, or missed the first article.
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 possessions. A score of zero is the equivalent of an average player.
POE takes into account the number of shots, therefore 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. The number given is points per game relative to an average 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 might 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. Quality of opponents is an important factor when determining who has been the best so far. The number represents points per 100 possessions relative to an average player. For more on PIPM click here.
Wins Added – Wins added is an estimation of how many wins a player has provided for their team. It takes the contributions a player has made and compares them to the other players on the team, the opponents faced, and the amount of wins the team has, and gives out a number for how many wins can be attributed to that player. It is similar in concept to Win Shares, which can be found on sports-reference.com, it just uses a better methodology.
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 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. (Technically, with this sample size, the maximum is 6.72. With Bell Curves however, it is rare to find a score greater than 3.)
20. Caleb Morris, Air Force. Averaged Z-Score: 1.056. 10.2 Pts. 2.8 Rebs. 1.8 Ast.
19. Jazz Johnson, Nevada. Averaged Z-Score: 1.073. 16.4 Pts. 3.4 Rebs. 1.8 Ast.
18. Alphonso Anderson, Utah State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.095. 11.5 Pts. 4.8 Rebs. 1.3 Ast.
17. Ryan Swan-Ford, Air Force. Averaged Z-Score: 1.118. 13.1 Pts. 3.2 Rebs. 1.8 Ast.
16. K.J. Feagin, San Diego State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.128. 7.3 Pts. 3.1 Rebs. 3.6 Ast.
15. Nate Grimes, Fresno State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.200. 12.8 Pts. 9.6 Rebs. 0.7 Ast.
14. Diogo Brito, Utah State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.263. 8.9 Pts. 4.3 Rebs. 2.7 Ast.
13. Abel Porter, Utah State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.340. 7.1 Pts. 2.4 Rebs. 3.8 Ast.
12. Lindsey Drew, Nevada. Averaged Z-Score: 1.348. 12.6 Pts. 5.8 Rebs. 4.1 Ast.
11. Matt Mitchell. San Diego State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.474. 11.1 Pts. 4.4 Rebs. 1.5 Ast.
10. Roderick Williams, Boise State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.486. 11.9 Pts. 8.3 Rebs. 0.6 Ast.
Roderick Williams comes in at 8th in PIPM, and 14th in POE. He can’t stretch the floor, or hit free throws at a consistent rate, but he helps control the glass (8th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, 69th in offensive) and is an efficient scorer despite his shooting limitations. In addition, Williams is currently 8th in the nation at drawing fouls, which would be more impressive with a better free throw percentage, but can still help a team win games by taking the opponents’ bigs off the floor. Even though other players get all the hype, the Broncos’ offense is 13 points better per 100 possessions when Williams is on the court.
9. Carlton Bragg Jr., New Mexico. Averaged Z-Score: 1.493. 13.5 Pts. 10.8 Rebs. 0.8 Ast.
Since the last post Carlton Bragg has dropped down to 10th in PIPM, no doubt in relation to his suspension. He also checks in at 18th in POE. New Mexico was off to a good start, with wins against Wisconsin and New Mexico State, before Bragg was suspended along with J.J. Caldwell. Bragg is one of the best rebounders in the country, ranking 20th and 16th in defensive and offensive rebounding, respectively. There is no doubt that if New Mexico can get Bragg back it will help their chances at making the tournament. At the time I’m writing this there has been no information released as to why Bragg was suspended.
8. Yanni Wetzell, San Diego State. Averaged Z-Score: 1.674. 10.7 Pts. 6.2 Rebs. 1.1 Ast.
Yanni Wetzell is probably the player who was mentioned as being a snub the most after the first time I did this exercise a few weeks ago. He has quickly become a fan favorite in San Diego with his beautiful post moves and his smooth New Zealand accent. Yanni comes in at 5th in PIPM and 39th in POE. He only shoots 59% on free throws, and he hasn’t been the shooter from deep that Aztec fans expected. He is a really good back to the basket scorer however and is comfortable passing out of double teams. He has been a great glue guy for the Aztecs, doing everything they need him to do during the game.