Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo stated before the Illinois @ Michigan State contest that Deron Williams is the best player on the Fighting Illini this season, and the best player in the Big Ten. Luther Head is leading the Illini in scoring and is tied for the team lead in steals with Dee Brown. So, which of these three players should be the Big Ten Player of the Year?
I think I can cross Deron Williams off the list before I even get started. That does not mean that Deron is not an All Big Ten First Team performer, nor that the seven assists per game that he has gotten in conference play is not impressive, it just means that he has not had the standout season that was expected of him after being named the Big Ten Pre-Season Player of the Year by the media. That lofty billing built up the expectations for the junior point guard, and while he has met most of them, he has not exceeded what people were expecting while his backcourt teammates have, so my decision is between Luther Head and Dee Brown.
Before I do any analysis of the two players based on the numbers they have put up in the Big Ten season, I would like to state my initial leaning. I think if push came to shove, I would say Luther Head should be the Big Ten Player of the Year. Now, to the analysis of each player:
I think these numbers pretty much put to rest my initial belief that Luther Head should be named the Big Ten Player of the Year. The only statistical categories in which Luther is out ahead of his teammate are free throw shooting, points, rebounds, and blocks (with three blocks all Big Ten season versus none for Dee), while they are tied at two steals per game each. The one thing that these statistics cannot measure is the defensive ability of the respective player. Personally, I think Luther Head is a better on the ball defender than Dee Brown, and he is a more versatile defender because he can either guard a shooting guard or a wing forward thanks to his size at 6'3".
For those of you that read the table of statistics above and were wondering what they meant, I will explain them in a little more detail.
PPSA is something that I have been using on the board and in articles for a while to show how effective a player is when he shoots the basketball. The PPSA stands for Points per Shot Attempt (Adjusted) and it reflects how many points a players scores per shot attempt, while also factoring in how often they get to the free throw line. Both Dee's and Luther's PPSA are very impressive for a guard, but Dee's of 1.40 points per shot attempt is flat out amazing.
EFG% stands for Effective Field Goal Percentage. The effective field goal percentage of a shooter takes into account how many three point shots they make in their percentage, thus increasing the effective field goal percentage of a three point shooter for every three pointer that they made. Both Dee Brown and Luther Head have effective field goal percentages above 60%, but Dee Brown's at 68.36% is just amazing. For comparison, James Augustine is shooting 63.5% from the floor, but since he has not made, or attempted a three point shot all season, his EFG% is the exact same as his normal field goal percentage.
TS% stands for True Shooting Percentage. The true shooting percentage of a player takes into account not only their three point shooting ability, but the amount of free throws they have attempted, and it is sort of a catch all for how effective a shooter is on every shot attempt they make. Both Dee Brown and Luther Head have great TS%, but Dee's is still six percentage points better.
When you combine the numbers and the game changing plays Dee Brown has made for Illinois (see the Michigan game in Ann Arbor), you have a significant reason to vote Dee Brown ahead of Luther Head for the Big Ten's Player of the Year.