A few days ago, I commented at d3boards.com that Chris Barnes (F, Texas-Dallas) should not have won the ASC East Division Player of the Year award (hereafter, East POY) and that Jeremy LaGarde (G, ETBU) or possibly Kyle Schleigh (F, Texas-Dallas) should have gotten it instead. Today, I am making that case. First, I want to point out that this is a statistical case only. I have not watched any of the three players named, and my case will not touch on intangibles such as leadership or on-ball defense. I do not mean to denigrate such skills and attributes, and in fact Barnes may possess them in sufficient amounts to overcome what I consider to be a middling statistical performance. However, being a numbers-oriented kind of guy, I tend to lean toward the quantifiable over the non-quantifiable when possible. So then, I present to you…
The Case for Jeremy LaGarde
A 6-3 guard from East Texas Baptist, LaGarde led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points per game, whereas Barnes (a 6-6 forward) finished in essentially a dead heat with Schleigh (another 6-6 forward, but more on him later) for the Comets’ scoring title. That, however, does not cover the entirety of LaGarde’s scoring skill. LaGarde took 32.5% of ETBU’s shots while he was on the floor, an impressive rate which indicates his importance to the Tiger offense, while making 54.6% of his twos and 34.8% of his frequent threes; in comparison, Barnes only took 26.4% of the Comets’ shots while posting marks of 50.4% and 34.7%, respectively. These numbers translate to an advantage in effective field-goal percentage of 0.537 to 0.511 for LaGarde, indicating that he was the better shooter from the floor even though he had to carry a heavier load. LaGarde was the better free-throw shooter as well (0.762 to 0.689), resulting in an even greater advantage in true shooting percentage of 0.575 to 0.540. However, since scoring is not the only basketball skill (though it may be the most celebrated), let us now look at LaGarde’s secondary skills.
Barnes rebounded 4.9% of UTD’s misses and 14.8% of their opponents’, very respectable marks for a 6-6 player. LaGarde, on the other hand, posted marks of 3.5% and 13.3% despite being three inches shorter. In addition to his scoring load noted above, LaGarde assisted on 26.0% of his teammates made shots during his minutes while maintaining a turnover rate of only 15.0% of his possessions. Barnes, on the other hand, only assisted on 8.4% of his teammates makes but turned the ball over more often (18.1% of his possessions). Defensively, LaGarde blocked shots almost as frequently as Barnes (1.4% of opponents’ field goals to 2.0%), but racked up steals on a stellar 3.4% of opponents’ possessions while Barnes only managed a mark of 1.3%. LaGarde even fouled slightly less often, earning a whistle on 4.3% of ETBU’s possessions as opposed to Barnes’ 4.9% mark.
All in all, in almost every measurable, Jeremy LaGarde improved on the marks belonging to Chris Barnes, suggesting that even though ETBU did not have a better record than UTD, they might have had the better player. However, there is a general trend to name the best player on the best team as MVP or POY, but even so that leads us to…
The Case for Kyle Schleigh
The comparison between Schleigh and Barnes is somewhat simpler than comparing Barnes to LaGarde, since both players are the same height (6-6) and played against the same opponents. Schleigh shot somewhat less often than Barnes (23.8% of shots to 26.4%), but made an impressive 62.5% of his twos and even more impressive 46.0% of his also-frequent threes. This gives him an effective field goal percentage of 0.652 against Barnes’ 0.511 mark, and when combined with his free-throw shooting Schleigh owns a 0.672-0.540 advantage in true shooting percentage. This means that while Barnes shot a little more often, Schleigh shot significantly better.
Schleigh sweeps the secondary skills when compared to Barnes. He had rebounding rates of 6.8% on offense and 21.0% on defense against Barnes’ 4.9% and 14.8% marks, and he did it while only fouling on 3.3% of team possessions while Barnes earned a whistle 4.9% of the time. Though both players are 6-6 forwards, Schleigh tallied assists over twice as often as Barnes (17.7% to 8.4%) and turned the ball over less often (15.3% to 18.1%). Defensively, Schleigh boasted 3.0% marks in both block and steal rates, against Barnes’ rates of 2.0% and 1.3%, respectively.
All this suggests that Kyle Schleigh, rather than Barnes, powered Texas-Dallas’ run to the East title this season and made him deserving of the nod as East POY. Again, none of this is to degrade Chris Barnes, as he is a fine basketball player and may possess excellent immeasurables. Rather, this exercise has been to show that the best player in a league may not be on the best team, and even if he is, then it may not be who you expect.