Sunday, March 4, 2012

Otto Porter

Image from here
The Big East All-Rookie team was announced yesterday and despite listing seven freshmen, Otto Porter was not on it.

The Big East All-Rookie Team consists of:
D'Angelo Harrison and Moe Harkless of St. John's
LaDontae Henton of Providence
Andre Drummond of Connecticut
Chane Benahan of Louisville
Anthony Collins from USF...
...and Notre Dame's Jerian Grant, who is really a red-shirt sophomore.

Let's ignore the ridiculousness of Jerian Grant being considered a freshman and accept him on the team because he was very good this year.  As were D'Angelo Harrison and LaDontae Henton.  It's not that Porter was worse than these players this year, but each clearly deserved to be on the All-Rookie Team along with Porter.

So instead we'll compare Otto to the four remaining players:  Harkless; Drummond; Benahan and Collins.  

Let's look at a decent chunk of stats:
Player        Min%   ORating  Poss%  OReb%   ARate   TO%   DReb%   Blk+Stl%  DRating
Porter         70      116     17       9      12     14     19        6        89
Benahan        62      101     22      13       8     21     20        4        89
Drummond       71      100     21      15       4     17     16       12        95
Harkless       90       98     24       8      10     17     19        7       101
Collins        67       96     20       1      37     34      6        4        97
Player stats from KenPom, except Def. Rating from SR/College Basketball

Offensively, one of these things is not like the others, and it's Otto Porter.  Porter not only has clearly the highest offensive efficiency amongst the freshmen listed above, he has the highest offensive efficiency of any freshman in the conference.

The counterargument would be that Otto Porter used many fewer possessions and was relied upon much less than players like Moe Harkless.  If Porter had been forced to create as much as Harkless, the argument goes, he would have been much less efficient.

Here's one problem with that argument:  a Big East player with an offensive efficiency around 100 tends to be a sub-par offensive high major player, once you account for the creampuffs on the schedule.  Which means every player on our list not named Otto Porter is at best average, and more accurately scoring at a sub-par rate.  Is there that much value in being a larger focus of the offense if you don't convert at a better than average rate?   Who wants a sub-par player jacking up shots or running their offense?

Otto Porter played within the needs of his team and was wildly efficient.  That adds real value.  While several of these players needed to create more offense for their teams than Otto, doing so at mediocre or worse levels simply isn't enough to state that they are better offensive players than Porter.

*Stats-geeky argument:  One can never tell how Otto Porter would have performed taking as many shots as Harkless, or how Harkless would have performed in a complementary role, but we do have a rule of thumb:  in the NBA, for every one point of possession percent increased, the average player loses 1.25 points of efficiency.  Which means if Otto Porter raised his usage to 24%, his Offensive Rating would have likely dropped to somewhere around 109.  Which is still clearly more than any player on this list.

Then there's that whole defense thing.  It's half the game, but voters tend to ignore it completely.  The few who do pay attention generally focus on the counting stats:  rebounding, blocks and steals.  These stats make for a poor evaluation when compared to how they can illuminate on offense.

Drummond and Harkless have both the best traditional defensive stats - rebounding, blocks and steals - and the most pro potential (and these two things tend to go hand in hand), but their teams were terrible on defense.  From watching, neither was a particularly good defender (as shown by their defensive rating), and Drummond was part of a team that gave up on numerous occasions.  

Collins and Benahan played on better defensive teams.  I haven't watched either enough to know how good they are, but Porter has the advantage to my mind [editor's note: After adding DRat stats, Porter and Behanan look to be equals].   His statistics are comparable, but more importantly, he was one of the best defensive players on one of the best defensive teams in the league.  

So, Porter is both the best offensive and defensive player in the group and yet, he does not make the team?  I realize he does not have the feel-good story of being the point guard on the suddenly decent Bulls or did not put up a few 30-point games like Harkless, but he was simply a better player this year.

Otto Porter deserved to be in the discussion for Big East Freshman of the Year, not left off the team completely.

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