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Kentucky Basketball: The 2014-15 MVP

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

We're a few weeks past the disappointing end to one of the most memorable seasons in UK history.  We know who is headed off to pursue their dream of a professional basketball career and who is staying to take another shot at #9.  There is still some intrigue left with a few unsigned recruits, but we more or less know who will be on the team in the Fall.  Right now we're in that off period where nothing new is happening but it's a bit too soon to say anything meaningful about next season, so in that vein I present this analysis of the 2015 Wildcat MVP.

In many ways it seems almost like an oxymoron to try and pin an MVP award on someone from this squad.  The 2015 Wildcats, as much as for any other reason, will be remembered by Big Blue Nation for their shared sacrifice and willingness to put the good of the team above their own pursuit of individual greatness.  In some sense they all deserve an MVP award because if any single player had not bought in it would have significantly eroded the espirt de corps that made this season so special.

Bearing all that in mind, think of this as much as a way to celebrate and reflect fondly on the various ways everyone contributed this season.  Like last year, I've limited the analysis to players who averaged double digit minutes (and omitting Alex Poythress), breaking them down by offense, defense, and a variety of other measures and awards.


Offense MPG Pts/40 ORtg OWS OBPM
Willie Cauley-Stein 25.9 13.8 119.8 2.6 4.7
Aaron Harrison 25.7 17.1 115.1 2.5 5.2
Andrew Harrison 25.5 14.6 115.2 2.6 4.9
Tyler Ulis 23.8 9.5 123.3 2.1 5.3
Trey Lyles 23.0 15.1 115.9 2.1 3.9
Devin Booker 21.5 18.7 123.1 2.7 6.9
Karl-Anthony Towns 21.1 19.5 126.8 3.5 6.5
Dakari Johnson 16.3 15.6 113.9 1.6 3.0
Marcus Lee 10.9 9.6 117.8 0.8 3.1
  • MPG: Minutes per game
  • Pts/40: Points per 40 minutes
  • ORtg: Offensive Rating -player analog of team offensive efficiency
  • OWS: Offensive Win Shares - sum total of offensive contributions to each win
  • OBPM: Offensive Box Plus/Minus - an advanced stat that measures the number of points a player contributes on offense above/below what an average player would do, per 100 team possessions.  You can read more about it here and here.

Karl-Anthony Towns led the team in Points per 40 minutes, Offensive Rating, Offensive Win Shares, and was a very close second to Devin Booker in Offensive Box Plus/Minus. He is clearly the Offensive MVP of the team.  Second place is a much tougher call.  A strong case can be made for Devin Booker, both Harrisons, and Tyler Ulis.  I'm going to give the edge to Andrew Harrison because I think his offensive game took a step forward this year, and as a point guard he was critical to running the team.  For third I have Ulis for much the same reason - I loved his passing and although he didn't look to score often, he could be counted on to deliver a timely three or nice looking floater in the lane.

Offensive MVP

1. Karl-Anthony Towns
2. Andrew Harrison
3. Tyler Ulis


Defense DRb% Blk% Stl% DRtg DWS DBPM
Willie Cauley-Stein 17.3 7.1 2.9 80.0 3.4 10.0
Aaron Harrison 9.2 0.6 2.7 88.3 2.6 3.6
Andrew Harrison 8.1 0.9 2.5 89.2 2.5 4.1
Tyler Ulis 6.3 0.2 2.6 90.3 2.1 3.7
Trey Lyles 16.1 2.1 1.4 86.3 2.3 5.1
Devin Booker 7.8 0.3 1.3 92.2 1.8 2.0
Karl-Anthony Towns 22.3 11.5 1.4 78.1 2.9 10.8
Dakari Johnson 19.1 6.1 1.4 82.6 2.0 7.2
Marcus Lee 15.3 6.8 0.4 86.3 1.2 7.2
  • DRb%, Blk%, Stl%: Defensive Rebound rate, Block rate, Steal rate
  • DRtg: Defensive rating - player analog of team defensive efficiency, calculated from box scores
  • DWS: Defensive Wins Shares - sum total of defensive contributions to each win
  • DBPM: Defensive Box Plus/Minus - an advanced stat that measures the number of points a player prevents on defense above/below what an average player would do, per 100 team possessions.  See the above links for more details.

As I've said in the past, standard individual defensive numbers in college basketball really suck.  They leave a lot of things out.  Fortunately we are once again blessed to have a fairly clear-cut winner for Defensive MVP.  This is a two-horse race between KAT and Willie Cauley-Stein.  Both players were critical reasons for Kentucky's historic defensive performance this year.  Despite the closeness of the stats, there's really only one right answer though.  WCS was  the best defensive player in the nation and is rightly the defensive MVP of the team.  KAT is second, and I think Trey Lyles is deserving of third.  Trey was solid across the board and although Dakari Johnson has better rate stats, Trey's versatility on the floor is enough to put him ahead of Dakari who quickly lost effectiveness when he was taken away from the rim.

Defensive MVP

1. Willie Cauley-Stein
2. Karl-Anthony Towns
3. Trey Lyles


Misc Game Balls KP MVPs PER SEC POW
Willie Cauley-Stein 10.8 7 23.8
Aaron Harrison 3.7 4 17.9
Andrew Harrison 5.5 2 18.0
Tyler Ulis 7.5 3 15.6
Trey Lyles 4.5 3 19.8
Devin Booker 8.1 6 19.4
Karl-Anthony Towns 13.3 12 31.4 1
Dakari Johnson 1.3 0 22.3
Marcus Lee 2.2 0 16.5
  • Game Balls: Total of game balls awarded by Glenn in his postmortems.  The left digit is the number of game balls, the right digit is the number of "also-considered/runner-up/honorable mention".  So for instance, WCS had 10 game balls and was mentioned as an "honorable mention" or "runner up" in 8 Postmortems this year.
  • KP MVP: New this year Ken Pomeroy added a Game MVP to the box scores on his site.  This is a purely statistical award based on John Hollinger's Game Score with an additional bonus for the winning team.
  • PER: Player Efficiency Rating - an overall measure of a player's contribution
  • SEC POW: SEC Player of the Week Award

KAT and WCS really cleaned up the game awards with each being awarded a game ball by Glenn on double digit occasions.  KAT also scored double figure KenPom MVPs, but WCS was a big factor in a few more games overall (18 to 16) based on the combined total of game balls and "runner ups" awarded by Glenn.  KAT's edge in PER gives him this category with WCS running a very close second.  Third place was a bit of a surprise to me once I looked at all the information, but I think Devin Booker is deserving of the honor.  He was 3rd in game balls and KP MVPs, showing that his contributions to the team spanned many games, and his PER was very good.  Good cases can be made for Lyles, Ulis, and the Harrisons, but I'll stick with Devin.

Miscellaneous MVP

1. Karl Anthony Towns
2. Willie Cauley-Stein
3. Devin Booker

2015 Kentucky Wildcat MVP

Last year the team MVP came down to a choice between Aaron Harrison and Julius Randle.  We have a similar situation this year, between Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein.  I love WCS, but I think the edge goes to KAT.  His superior offensive ability is enough to overcome WCS's defensive awesomeness.  This is close though, and I won't argue with anyone who sides with the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

What do YOU think?

If there's anything more interesting than making an MVP choice, it's arguing about an MVP choice.  So have at it in the comments!  Who is your MVP and why?