Before basketball season started, the Wildcats were understandably hard to judge. They had only four returning scholarship players, and one of those -- D.J. Johnson -- spent the 2014-15 season out with an injury. Now that the team is 6-1 and has played several credible opponents, it is probably fair to start gauging the contributions players are making.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll take a look at a very simple aggregate stat. Eff (I think it is short for efficiency, although it doesn’t really measure that) is a formula I stumbled on a couple of years ago, I honestly can’t remember where. The formula is:
Eff = points + rebounds + assists + steals + blocks – (missed field goals + missed free throws + turnovers)
Like I said, it doesn’t really measure efficiency, since there isn’t any kind of rate component to it. What it does is sum up nearly all of the plays a player might make (notably, it omits fouls from the calculation).
I’ve occasionally calculated it after K-State games, and I have a decent idea of its shortcomings. It weights counting stats all the same, which typically means rebounders’ numbers are inflated, and it can’t give you a look at contributions that don’t make the box score, like defense that forces opponents into bad shots, rather than blocking them. It also doesn’t account for pace.
Its biggest strength is its simplicity: anyone can calculate it, and it is pretty easy to identify major contributors from it, especially once you calculate Eff/game.
Having paid attention to the numbers for a while now, I think I can identify different thresholds of Eff/game.
- Less than 1: Warm body
- 1-2.99: Minutes-filler
- 3-4.99: Sporadic contributor
- 5-7.99: Roleplayer
- 8-11.99: Major rotation player
- 12-14.99: Borderline star
- 15-19.99: Star
- 20-24.99: Major star
- 25-29.99: Superstar
- 30 or more: Superduperstar
For comparison’s sake, Michael Beasley’s Eff/game was 29.70 his one year of college.
Now let’s take a look at how the Wildcats shape up through seven games.
Based on Eff, Eff/game, and Eff/minute, Justin Edwards is clearly the most productive player for the Wildcats so far this year. That makes sense, since he leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He is at the upper level of "star" status, bordering on a major star. In essence, he is what he was advertised to be before last season.
Dean Wade has been phenomenal as a freshman, a borderline star who anyone can see has major star written all over him if he continues to develop – we’ve seen him improve game-to-game already, and make a game-winning shot against Georgia.
Wesley Iwundu has fallen way back to earth after looking like a superstar against UMES. A lot of that can be chalked up to foul trouble keeping him out of the flow of the game. Wes also has been hampered by some poor shooting percentages, including at the free throw line. I think he can turn things around; he just needs to stay on the court. For that matter, K-State needs him to stay on the court.
Stephen Hurt is right about where I thought he’d be, although for different reasons. His shooting from the floor has been poor for someone with his size and frame, but he’s been rebounding better this year and he has a phenomenal free throw percentage. If he can get more comfortable deep in the post, raise his shooting percentage, and get to the line where he is so good more often, he could be a borderline star for this team by the end of the year, but those are a bunch of ifs.
Kamau Stokes wraps up the starting lineup and has been as good of a starting point guard as I could hope for out of a true freshman. He has been a solid rotation player with some phenomenal ups (most of the game against North Carolina) and some awful downs (the end of the game against North Carolina). I’m looking forward to seeing him in purple for four years.
D.J. Johnson has played like a grown damn man in limited minutes, posting an Eff/minute below only Edwards and Wade. As he continues to get into shape and up to speed, look out.
Carlbe Ervin II has been a better backup point guard than I had any realistic expectation of. Fine shooting and a phenomenal assist/turnover ratio.
Barry Brown has shown some flash, but he has also shown himself to be a volume shooter so far in his college career. He can score a bunch, but he has to take a bunch of shots to do it.
Austin Budke is fine as a very back of the rotation guy, grabbing rebounds and giving fouls when needed.
Wildcats vs. opponents
In all but one of their wins, the Wildcats comfortably outpaced their opponents in team Eff. The biggest differential was the season opener, when we had a team Eff of 86 to UMES’ 37. According to Eff, K-State kind of stole one against Georgia, which is doubly impressive since it was a road game. The flip side of that is that the Wildcats really outplayed South Carolina State but only won by 2. In our lone loss of the year, North Carolina won the Eff battle handily, which is unsurprising. As much of the game as the Wildcats led, I think we always realized the team was teetering on the brink.
OK, so what does this tell us?
I think it tells us that Bruce Weber might actually know what he’s doing this year. Stokes/Ervin and Hurt/Johnson are the only spots where the reserve has higher Eff/minute than the starter, and there are good reasons to continue with both for now. Both are very marginal differences, Johnson is still getting up to speed after a year injured, and Stokes is the present and future of the point guard spot.
The Wildcats play Coppin State (2-6, 0-2 MEAC) on Wednesday. As far as Eff/game goes, the Eagles are pretty comparable to K-State's average opponent so far, at 68.13 per game.