The 2017 Effy Awards, Part II: Celebrating the best offensive players and teams
- UCLA and its star point guard are featured prominently in part two of The Effys, which celebrate the best offensive players and teams of the season.
SI presents The Effys: the least ambiguous and least prestigious postseason awards in college basketball. Every award is based on efficiency or other advanced metrics. No voting—just analytics. Part I of The Effys covered coaching awards. Part II, below, covers offensive awards. Part III, coming Friday, will cover defense.
1. Offensive Team of the Regular Season: UCLA
I don't think the average fan realizes how rare it is for a team to play fast and be highly efficient. These Bruins were the first team to rank in the top five in adjusted offensive efficiency on kenpom.com (they were No. 2) and the top 20 in tempo (they were No. 20) since 2008-09 North Carolina—and the first non-Roy Williams-coached team to do it since 2004-05 Washington.
UCLA's other rare feat was becoming just the fifth major-conference team in the past decade to score better than 1.20 raw points per possession; its 1.21 PPP joined '11-12 Missouri, '13-14 Creighton, and '14-15 Notre Dame and Wisconsin. The Bruins pulled this off by eschewing ball screens—according to Synergy, they ran the second-lowest volume of pick-and-roll possessions of any major-conference team, at just 12.3%—and relying on off-ball movement and deadly jump-shooting. Their coach, Steve Alford, warrants praise for bucking schematic convention and adapting his offense to fit an unconventional genius of a point guard, Lonzo Ball. (More on Ball later.)
2. Offensive Team of the NCAA Tournament (minimum four games played): Kansas
This award is certain to console any Jayhawks fans still depressed about losing an Elite Eight game on a semi-home court to Oregon. Even with that dud against the Ducks factored in, Kansas had the tourney’s best offense, averaging an adjusted 1.33 PPP. That's a phenomenal degree of efficiency, although it doesn't come close to what Villanova did in 2016, when it ran through the NCAAs scoring an adjusted 1.41 PPP, for the greatest offensive title run of the analytics era (2002-present).
3. Offensive Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, 5'11" senior PG, Kansas
Mason was the country's most efficient, high-usage guard by a good margin, finishing with an offensive rating of 125.2 while using 25.7% of the Jayhawks' possessions. Considering that he did this against the nation's eighth-toughest defensive schedule, and that some of his best performances came in Kansas’s biggest games, Mason is an easy choice for offensive POY. As the Jayhawks' point guard, his drive-and-kick prowess led to a high volume of of three-point assists—89 on the season, or roughly 2.5 per game—and helped their small-ball offense rank No. 5 in adjusted efficiency. Mason was quite the off-the-ball sniper, too, as his catch-and-shoot efficiency of 1.55 PPP, per Synergy, ranked third among major-conference players with at least 50 attempts.
4. Offensive POY, Outside the Major Conferences: Mike Daum, 6'9" sophomore PF, South Dakota State
Just two Division I players used at least 30% of their team's possessions with an Offensive Rating above 120: Daum (33.1%/121.0) and Saint Mary's star Jock Landale (30.2%/121.1). I'm giving Daum the nod because he played far more minutes than Landale and was more versatile, scoring inside and out. As the Jackrabbits' offense evolved to get Daum more perimeter touches, his three-point production surged; he took 36.3% of his shots from deep and made 41.9% of them. The farm boy from Western Nebraska already has 1,396 points after two seasons and could conceivably become the ninth D-I member of the 3,000 Club by the end of his college career.
5. Efficiency Influencer: Lonzo Ball, 6'6" freshman PG, UCLA
Kansas' Mason won offensive POY because he shouldered such a heavy scoring and distributing load, but there's a reasonable argument to be made that no player made a bigger efficiency impact on his team than Ball did. The Bruins finished 51st in adjusted offensive efficiency in '15-16 before jumping to 2nd—as well as ranking No. 1 overall in effective field goal percentage—with Ball running the point. And while Ball's individual efficiency was off the charts—his 129.4 Offensive Rating was the best of any point guard with at least a 20% usage rate (his was 20.1)—Ball helped transform his teammates into elite scorers. Former point guard Bryce Alford was converted into an elite, off-ball weapon, and his jump-shot efficiency, per Synergy, rose from 1.03 PPP as a junior to 1.34 PPP as a senior. Center Thomas Welsh's mid-range skills were utilized so effectively that he finished as the most efficient frontcourt role player in the nation. And freshman power forward T.J. Leaf had such an incredible, Lonzo-assisted scoring season that he was able to go one-and-done in the NBA Draft.
6. Workhorse: Andrew White III, 6'7" senior SG, Syracuse
White was a nomad—he started his career at Kansas, then moved to Nebraska, then to Syracuse as a grad transfer—who carved out a huge role for a tourney team in his final season. As the Orange's starting wing guard, he rarely ever left the court, playing an absurd 98.4% of available minutes in ACC games. He took 26.2% of Syracuse's shots during conference play, the highest rate of any starter, and had a streak of seven straight, 20-plus point games in January and February.
7. Whistle King: Erik Mika, 6'10" sophomore C, BYU
The Mormon Ivan Drago was the main reason Gonzaga's undefeated run stopped at 29 games, on Feb. 25: He scored 29 points, and was 9-of-13 from the free-throw line, in that upset in Spokane. That type of free-throw production was the norm for Mika, who averaged a nation-high 9.2 points per 40 minutes from the stripe. His physical, low-post game drew constant whistles in West Coast Conference play, and he was not your typical, brick-laying center from the line, making 76.3% of his attempts.
8. Transition King: Dexter McClanahan, 6'5" sophomore SG, Savannah State
Never heard of (or seen) McClanahan before? That's fine. Here's an introduction, from the Tigers' Jan. 21 win over Morgan State:
Savannah State ran like crazy last season, with a nation-high 33.8% of its offensive possessions ending in transition. And McClanahan, an explosive finisher and solid long-range shooter, was the Tigers' best fastbreak weapon, averaging a nation-high 9.3 transition points per 40 minutes. This is a home-cooked metric that combines Synergy data with playing-time data, and McClanahan and UT Rio Grande Valley's Nick Dixon (9.0) were the only D-I players who averaged better than 9.0 transition points per 40. The major-conference leader was a name you will recognize: Kentucky point guard/speed demon De'Aaron Fox, at 8.0 TP/40. And the runner-up was his teammate, fellow Wildcats freshman Malik Monk, at 7.4.
9. Extreme Specialist: Austin Loop, 6'4" senior guard, Marshall
Loop, a biomechanics major who's been conducting a shooting study on his teammates, is an interesting case in his own right: 254 of the 265 shots he attempted as a senior were threes, giving him the highest three-point rate (95.8%) of any player with at least 150 tries this season. He connected on 44.1% of them, too, making him an essential piece of coach Dan D'Antoni's three-point happy offense. (I changed the name of this award from "Ultimate" to "Extreme" because no one could match what Oakland's Max Hooper did last season, taking all 257 of his field-goal attempts from outside the arc.)