Who are the best overall players this season?
Basketball season is almost among us. With so many teams having new coaches and new players, hopes are running high. Anyone could win the conference this year.
Except, not really. Basketball is a team sport, but the team with the best player is usually the team that wins. So to see which team is most likely to win, we need to look at who has the best players.
It’s not a 1 to 1 comparison. Having the 7th best player in the conference doesn’t make that team the 7th best team. At the top of the order though, it can be pretty telling.
Honorable Mentions: Mike Nuga (UNLV), Jemarl Baker (Fresno State), Brock Miller (Utah State), Hunter Maldonado (Wyoming), Chad Baker (SDSU).
10. AJ Bramah, Nevada – 21 pts, 10.3 rebs, 1.6 asts
An argument can be made that Bramah is either too low or too high on this list. His numbers are great. He averaged a double-double last season and is close to averaging a double-double for his career. He has great size and athleticism at 6’7″, 210 lbs. He is active on defense and draws a lot of contact on his shots, then he converts at the line (80% last season, career 71.6%). He has all the tools to continue producing at a high level. He’ll also benefit from not having to be “the guy” anymore. He’ll be able to focus on defense and take much more efficient shots while Grant Sherfield runs the show.
On the other hand, the stats Bramah collected were all empty. His team finished 3-15 against D-1 competition and ranked 303rd in KenPom out of 357 teams. His team’s SOS was -5.53. Nevada’s SOS last year was 2.12. That is a huge jump. Bramah will be facing a level of competition he’s not used to, and that will likely affect his style of play and effectiveness.
Only time will tell how effective Bramah is in the Mountain West. By the end of the season #10 will look foolish, but whether it’s because Bramah should be higher or lower remains to be seen.
I will cheer for the bull @ajbramah wherever he goes. My man was a beast for #RMCMB. I wish he was sticking around, but I hope he finds what he’s looking for. This play will live in my mind for a LONG time. 😤 pic.twitter.com/O64Ucvl6qe
— Travis🎙 (@pghTRAV) February 12, 2021
9. Orlando Robinson, Fresno State – 14.6 pts, 9.2 rebs, 2.1 asts
Robinson was a second team all conference player last season, and returns to the Bulldogs after flirting with the NBA draft. His return is huge for a Fresno St. program that is looking to make a jump up the standings this season. Robinson nearly averaged a double-double last season and finished with eleven double-doubles on the season. He’s the type of big offensively that most teams want. He can score with his back to the basket, he can faceup and drive to the rim, and his range is extending out to the 3 point line where he shot 33.3% last season.
He can also pass out of double teams and is a good rebounder on both sides of the floor. His defense is improving as well. The addition of Jemarl Baker should help take some of the defensive attention off of him as well, helping to make him more efficient. Robinson definitely has pro potential and will be a centerpiece for any success Fresno St has this season.
Orlando Robinson w/ 33pts-13rebs-2blk-2stl in a win vs Wyoming. 12-16 FGA, 8-11 FTA. Showcased his footwork, touch, fluidity & coordination + feel flashes to overwhelm & force doubles. Intriguing mix of tools and skills at 7 feet
18.5ppg 10.7rpg 1.7apg 3-6 3PA through 6 G pic.twitter.com/anEv4Oipt2
— Jam Hines (@jamontheboards) January 5, 2021
8. Bryce Hamilton, UNLV – 17.9 pts, 6 rebs, 3 asts
Bryce Hamilton has improved a lot over the years. It’s not apparent right away. He was a first team all conference player two seasons ago, and only a second-team all-conference player this last season, but that’s not indicative of his performance. He scores points in bunches, finishing third in points per game in the conference. He also led the conference in usage rate. Out of every player in the nation, Hamilton took more of his team’s shots than all but two of them. His efficiency takes a dip in part due to that high usage.
He ranked 72nd out of 91 qualified players (50+ shots) in the conference in TS%. There’s still value in putting up points in bunches though. If Hamilton gets a better supporting cast around him (which he may get with all the transfers coming this season), it will afford him the freedom to take better shots and help his efficiency.
To his credit, he became a much better passer as a Junior, and collects a lot of rebounds for a 6’4” guard. The metrics also suggest he’s improved defensively. In the past he was simply a volume scorer, and he’s become more versatile than that. He’s not at the level where he can be the best player on a championship level team, but he is a good player capable of winning a couple games for UNLV by himself.
UNLV is up 13-0 over UNC after this and-one slam by Bryce Hamilton 😳 pic.twitter.com/ef0nNlD2KI
— ESPN (@espn) December 1, 2020
7. Desmond Cambridge, Nevada – 16.3 pts, 4.5 rebs, 2.4 asts
Cambridge is an excellent second option for Nevada. He finished 5th in the conference in points per game. He’s not super efficient, but he’s efficient enough to not hurt his team. He’s exceptional at the free throw line, where he finished 17th in the nation in free throw percentage according to KenPom. He finished 11th in the conference in PIPM, and 7th on the offensive side. His three point percentage of 34.8% is slightly above the national average, but it hopefully improves considering Cambridge takes more than half of his shots from behind the arc. Even more important to Nevada’s title hopes is Cambridge’s defense. He’s an average player defensively, and it works because he provides so much offensive value. He has the size and athleticism to make a difference defensively though. The offense wasn’t the issue for Nevada last season, improving the defense will help them make the leap into title contention.
Desmond Cambridge Jr……. 🤯🤯🤯
— Nevada Sports Net (@NevadaSportsNet) February 7, 2021