Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Second Annual Rumblin' Awards

Yesterday, the Pac-12 released their seasonal awards (congrats to Josh Scott, by the way, for being deservedly named to the first team). Never satisfied with the musing of coaches and professional pundits, I'm going to delve into who I believe should have been honored by the conference this year.

After the jump, find my choices for the All-Pac-12 1st and 2nd teams, along with my Player, Coach, Newcomer, and Defender of the Year.

Please remember that the Rumblin' Awards are a strictly black tie affair.

All Pac-12 First Team -
(presented in alphabetical order)

- Jordan Adams - G - UCLA - 17.5 ppg,  5.3 rpg,  2.4 apg, 121.6 Ortg,  5.3 Stl%

A fantastic player that can generate offense on both ends, Adams continues to be one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the conference.  A pure shooter, efficient attacker, and smart player, he's capable of beating a team in multiple ways.  On the defensive end, he also happens to lead the league in every steal category, and post respectable rebounding rates (for a guard).

- Kyle Anderson - G - UCLA - 14.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.6 apg, 111.6 Ortg, 25 DR%, 35.2 Arate
There is no more unique talent in the league than Kyle Anderson.  A point guard trapped in a power forward's frame, he came very close to leading the league in both assists and rebounds this year (finished fourth in rebounding).  I'm still not convinced that he can be guarded effectively, standing 6-9 with his handle and vision, and the mid-range jumper he added is decidedly unfair.  Sure, he's slower than molasses in December, but he makes it work for him.  If he comes back for another year, there's a chance he could average a triple-double.

- Jahii Carson - G - Arizona State - 18.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.5 apg, 99.9 Ortg, 31.7 %Pos 
Carson is the most electric talent in the conference, blazingly fast, and, with the new hand-check rules, extremely difficult to guard.  He also developed into a good three point shooter this season, hitting just under 40% of his attempts from deep.  There's no player more interesting to watch when he's hot.

- Aaron Gordon - F - Arizona - 12.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 104.5 Ortg, 2.6 DWS 
On the nation's best defensive team, Gordon was, arguably, their best individual defender.  Extremely athletic, he can rebound, block, or man an attacker up.  He posted the country's 10th-best defensive win share, the best from a freshman; drive on him at your peril.  Needs to work on his free throws, though.

- Josh Huestis - F - Stanford - 11.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 108.2 Ortg, 87.1 %min, 1.9 bpg
I'm a sucker for Josh Huestis.  He does a lot of good things on the court, and, given the choice, I'd rather take the Montana native over his more physically gifted front-court partner, Dwight Powell.  He didn't disappoint in his one game against the Buffs, grabbing nine offensive rebounds against one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the nation.  One of the premier defenders in the league.

- Nick Johnson - G - Arizona - 16.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 113.8 Ortg
Johnson doesn't stand out in any one particular area, but this jack-of-all-trades is the engine that powers the mighty Arizona juggernaut.  When the 'Cats need a big play, this is the guy who they turn to, and he normally responds with a spectacular performance.  You need a big bucket?  There's Nick.  You need a big stop?There's Nick.  One of the timeliest players I've ever seen.

- Chasson Randle - G - Stanford - 18.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 114.3 Ortg
Randle became a complete offensive force this season, finishing third in the Pac-12 for scoring, and notching nearly 19 per game in conference play.  Silky smooth, he was more aggressive and efficient this season than he was before, and, coincidentally, the Cardinal will head to the Tournament.  Stanford is only at their best when this guy is providing his quotient.

- Josh Scott - F/C - Colorado - 14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 124.8 Ortg, 71.1 FTrate
The argument I would make is that Josh is the most improved player in the conference, and that's after a pretty damn good freshman campaign.  There's not a forward in the Pac-12 that can guard him one-on-one now (19th nationally in Ortg), and he utilized an increase in size to become a defensive and rebounding force.  As Jeremy Adams said, he turned off his humanity this year, and CU was better off for it. If he makes a similar leap next season, we're talking conference player of the year, national All-American ceiling. Good God he's fun to watch.

- Richard Solomon - F - Cal - 11.2, 10.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 104.4 Ortg, 28.3 DR%
Solomon was a revelation this season, completely turning around every knock I had against him in previous seasons.  One of only 15 players in the country to average a double-double, he was the only player to do so in the Pac-12.  He's 6th nationally in defensive rebounding rate, posting 'Dre-like numbers in his senior campaign.

- Delon Wright - G - Utah - 16.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.6 spg, 1.3 bpg, 122 Ortg
Remember how Utah is now worth a damn? Look no further than JuCo transfer Delon Wright for the reason.  He has come out of nowhere to turn the Utes into a contender, stuffing the sheet like no other player in the conference along his way.  Oh, and by the way, Wright leads the nation in defensive and combined win shares.  Utah only won five conference games last season; by my eye, he was worth the full four games of improvement the Utes saw in 2014.  Just a fantastic player who means absolutely everything to his club.  If he learns how to make a jump shot consistently... look the fuck out!

All Pac-12 Second Team -
(presented in alphabetical order)

- Jordan Bachynski - C - Arizona State - 11.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 4.2 bpg, 111.3 Ortg, 12.8 Blk%
Lurch had nearly the twice the block totals of his closest competitor (USC's Omar Oraby), and finishes his career as the league's all-time shot blocker.  However, I think teams figured out that if you punch the bully in the mouth, he'll run home to momma, as he struggled a bit down the stretch when confronted with teams willing to battle him.

- Askia Booker - G - Colorado - 13.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 99.6 Ortg, 26 Arate
When Spencer went down, almost the entirety of the weight of Colorado's season was placed on the shoulders of Askia Booker.  To his credit, he handled the change in responsibility and role about as well as could be expected from anyone.  I know the Ortg is under 100, but that's more of a recent development, as he has struggled shooting down the stretch.  Still, he deserves a lot of credit for re-defining #SkiBall.

- Justin Cobbs - Cal - G - 15.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 112.4 Ortg, 33.7 Arate
Cobbs finished second in assists, while playing as the primary scorer on his roster, and creating the single-best moment of conference play.  The only reason he's not first team is that I couldn't justify taking him over either of the other two point guards on the list.

- David Kravish - Cal - F - 11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 109.2 Ortg
Kravish was another improved player on Cal's front line, showing off a series of strong offensive moves, while holding his own defensively against players who used to push him around.  He made a believer out of me when he put up 16/9 against Bachynski and ASU in late January.

- TJ McConnell - G - Arizona - 8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 5.5 apg, 110.9 Ortg, 31.7 Arate
If Nick Johnson is the engine in Tucson, then McConnell is the highly-tuned transmission.  The knock on Arizona all of last season was that they were missing a true point guard - no longer, as the gritty transfer solved that problem the minute he stepped on the court.  Having him on the roster takes the 'Cats to a whole new level.

- Mike Moser - F - Oregon - 13.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.8 apg, 112.2 Ortg, 24.9 DR%
Back when Oregon was struggling I all but forgot Moser, but the kid was massive down the stretch as the Ducks pushed for a come-from-behind Tournament bid, averaging 17.5 and 11.8 over the final three weeks of the season.

- Roberto Nelson - G - Oregon St - 20.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 111.3 Ortg, 32.3 %Pos
I wasn't really all that sold on Roberto, but I felt that the conference's leading scorer deserved a nod. Finished with 20 or more points in 10 of 18 conference games, and scored an adjusted 25.1 points per 40 minutes.  4th all-time on OSU's scoring list.

- Dwight Powell - F - Stanford - 14.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 100.1 Ortg
To my eye, Powell is the most physically gifted player in the conference.  With the handle of a guard, and the size of a forward, he's an impossible matchup with a silky smooth series of offensive moves.  Given a different role this year (more of a distributor with his 3.4 assists per), however, his overall numbers took a step backwards, and he isn't nearly the defender he gets credit for being.

- CJ Wilcox - G - Washington - 18.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg, 120.2 Ortg, 60.4 TS%

By far, the best pure shooter in the West, Wilcox now sits sixth all-time in Pac-12 three pointers made.  The only problem is that he was stuck on a disaster of a roster that wasn't constructed to help him out in any meaningful way (freshman point, no interior size to collapse the defense).  It's unfair, but I'm resigning him to the second team.

- Joe Young - G - Oregon - 18.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.0 apg, 126.8 Ortg, 9.5 TORate

Young can fill it up against anyone in the country, posting a top-20 national offensive rating, while finishing fifth in the conference's scoring race.  The only problem is he's almost entirely an offensive piece, and isn't the kind of all-around talent that should receive 1st team recognition.


USC and WSU didn't place any players on either of my lists.  In a conference clogged with one great team, one really good team, and eight above-average teams, the Trojans and Cougars were abysmal, and clearly behind the pack.  Accordingly, none of their individual players proved to me that they were heads and shoulders above those honored in my 1st and 2nd teams.  This isn't the MLB All-Star game, there are no guaranteed slots.

I will point out that Byron Wesley and DaVonte Lacy had some big games, respectively.  If I had to pick from the Trojans and Cougars, they'd be it.


Individual Awards

Player of the Year - Kyle Anderson
Runner-up - Delon Wright

In a little bit of an upset, Nick Johnson is not in my top-two for this award.  He's the best player on the best team, but that's not always who should get these things.  For me, Anderson was a difference maker, and an impossible talent to guard. The dude's a freak; a step above the ability of most to counter.

As for runner-up, Wright was a stat-stuffing machine who carried Utah out of the doldrums.  For single-handedly making the Utes relevant, I'm giving him the nod over Johnson.

Coach of the Year - Sean Miller
Runner-up - Larry Krystkowiak

Coach Miller massaged a short bench made even shorter by a season-ending injury to one of his starters into a death machine of defensive brilliance.  Were his individual set pieces better than anyone else's?  Sure, but that doesn't undermine the fact that he, in my estimation, got more out of them than anyone else in the Pac-12 could've.  He had a near-perfect year, and rightly deserves any and all accolades awarded for his efforts.

Krystkowiak gets the nod over Boyle and Altman for runner-up, as the Utes had to come from nowhere to become a fringe contender. Boyle had to overcome the devastating loss to Dinwiddie, and Altman similarly had to re-build his team mid-season (without the injury excuse), but both were working with far more than the other Coach K.

Defensive Player of the Year - Aaron Gordon
Runner-up - Delon Wright

This one came down to the eye test for me.  When watching, Gordon dominates the proceedings more on the defensive side, even if Wright may have slightly better numbers overall.  In my mind, with the game on the line, Gordon is the last person I'd want to be going after, so he gets the nod.  If that's not enough, I decided to give the award to the best defensive player on the best defensive team I've ever seen live.

Newcomer of the Year - Delon Wright
Runner-up - Aaron Gordon

No one comes close.  Not even Gordon.  Wright alone was the difference maker for the Utes this year, putting that downtrodden program on the far fringes of Tournament contention.  If not for their garbage non-conference schedule, he might have even managed to drag them, kicking and screaming, into the Dance. After that, he'd be only two miracles short of sainthood.

As it is, when a player comes in on his first year of D1 ball and winds up leading the nation in win shares, it's impossible not to sit up and take notice.  If you don't think this award should go to Wright, you're just plain wrong.

Congrats to the winners!  Your trophies are in the mail, I promise.

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