There was a bit of a dust-up today on Twitter between Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News and Matt Jones of KSR along with a number of other people in the Big Blue Nation jumping to Andrew’s defense. The genesis of this discussion was Mike DeCourcy’s snub of Andrew Harrison for his All-American team. DeCourcy picked Marcus Paige of the North Carolina Tar Heels as his first-team pick, Delon Wright of the Utah Utes was his second-team pick, and Juwan Staten of the West Virginia Mountaineers was third team in th point guard position.
Here’s a synopsis of the conversation:
@tsnmike he can get to basket against anyone, will finish better this year, is a good shooter (led team in 3 point %, great FT and...— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 5, 2014
@tsnmike you take Jawen Staten, I will take Andrew. I like my chances— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 5, 2014
@tsnmike you don't believe Andrew does anything at a high level. Just remember that comment and we will revisit in March— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 5, 2014
Okay, so let’s take a look at these guys and see who’s right. As usual, I’ll go to Ken Pomeroy for my tempo-free statistics from last season. Here is the table I produced. The leader in each relevant category is highlighted in green.
Based on statistics alone, I think we’d have to agree with DeCourcy. Andrew Harrison did a lot of good things last season, but he also did a lot of bad things, like failing to finish at the rim, taking a lot of very bad shots, and becoming the poster child for the Dribble Drive, Fling, and Hope offense that nearly derailed Kentucky’s season until it was famously "tweaked" by John Calipari.
But there’s more to it than that. All three of DeCourcy's selections are upperclassmen this season, with Paige being a junior and the other two guys seniors. Harrison is the only sophomore of the bunch, and that matters quite a bit. Now, if you were picking All-American teams and all you have to go on is past performance, I don’t think anyone can argue against leaving Harrison off the team. In fact, there are probably 10 or more point guards in college basketball that would be a better choice based on proven performance.
Where the problem lies is in asking the question, "Who’s likely to be best this season?" That’s where DeCourcy and I diverge, and I begin aligning myself more closely with Jones. In my opinion, and let’s get the mandatory disclaimer out of the way that I’m not an objective observer by any rational definition, Andrew Harrison is likely to outperform some or all of DeCourcy’s selections this season for the very reasons Jones describes — he’s bigger, he gets to the rim at will, he’s improved his passing significantly, he sees the floor better than last season and he has lots of potential targets where most of the other guys have a limited selection.
We have seen Andrew’s growth in both the Big Blue Bahamas and in the exhibition and Big Blue Madness, and I think it’s fair to attribute some of it, possible a good bit, to Tyler Ulis, who shows him every day what a true "pass first" point guard looks like. Andrew last season could not accurately be described as a true point guard, but more of a combo guard playing the point. From what we have seen early, his entire mentality has changed for the better.
So I’m all in with Matt on this one — give me Andrew above all these guys. The maturity he’s demonstrated both against professionals and inferior opponents is obvious. He has the size, the skill and sufficient athleticism to do everything you need from a point guard. His floor vision still needs improvement, but I think that will come as he gets more reps this season, and I think his overall upside is superior to all DeCourcy’s selections, as much as I respect him.