First we had people whining about Tyler Hansbrough’s media exposure. And now the first of the “Tyler Hansbrough is not NPOY” articles have started. ericomac at ACC Country gave the spot on response to Dan Shanoff at The Sporting Blog who favors Kevin Love over Hansbrough for reasons that cannot be tied down with any rules of logic I am aware of. However John Gasaway at Basketball Prospectus has lined up a stat based argument for Love over Hansbrough. My response will be below the jump but let me just say that I agree with Joe Ovies at 850 when he says we should get used to this, there will be more. In light of this, I intend to make this the last such anti-Hansbrough article I respond to because if I get into responding to them all I will have little time for other things.
Hansbrough and Love, on the other hand, are blessed with the supporting casts that Beasley lacks. Hansbrough is a savvy, indefatigable and, not least, lethally efficient scoring specialist who both earns and makes free throws with machine-like regularity. Past that? He’s an adequate defensive rebounder, he never blocks shots (ten the entire year) and rarely records assists (28).
As for Love, by way of introduction let us note that it’s taken Hansbrough three seasons to become the weapon on offense that Love already is:
Hansbrough and LoveOff. Def. Off. Rtng. FTRate eFG pct. Reb. Pct. Reb. Pct. %Poss. Hansbrough 06 118.7 72.5 57.3 14.9 13.9 26.6 Hansbrough 07 119.8 72.6 52.6 16.9 11.9 26.2 Hansbrough 08 127.8 80.9 55.2 20.5 12.8 26.9 Kevin Love 08 126.5 72.5 60.3 30.6 17.0 27.9
While playing as large a role within his own offense as Hansbrough does in his, Love is the better shooter from the field. He doesn’t get to the line quite as often, but he’s a better offensive rebounder. The largest difference between the two players, however, is that Love’s defensive rebounding is simply on another planet. In addition, he blocks a few shots and records a modest number of assists.
It’s beyond odd to be speaking of a UCLA player in revelatory tones more appropriate for an affronted underdog from the mid-major side of the tracks. Keep in mind this is no Nick Fazekas I’m introducing here. This is no boutique efficiency marvel teleported in from a below-radar league. This is Kevin Love. His mug graced magazine covers in November. He plays a featured role in the offense for a Final Four contender in the Pac-10.
True, on Hansbrough’s behalf it is said that he carried his team while Ty Lawson was hurt. Darn right he did. Is that admirable? Of course it is. By all means, give Hansbrough an admirable behavior award. Call it the Gutsy, call it the Irving Thalberg Award, call it anything you want. Only please don’t call it the Player of the Year award.
The Player of the Year award rightly belongs to the player who’s as good as Hansbrough on offense, but vastly superior to Hansbrough on defense. It rightly belongs to Kevin Love.
He won’t get it, of course, but that’s OK. Love will cry all the way to a handshake with David Stern in June. Hansbrough is a solid number two. Besides, he’s used to the exposure.
First let’s start with the main premise and that is Tyler Hansbrough benefits from greater exposure in the media and that exposure serves to trump any statistical advantages enjoyed by Kevin Love or any other player. Basically Gasaway envisions a world where NPOY candidates can be compared based on the numbers and an clear cut winner determined with statistical performance as the greatest measure and not other factors, many of them intangible. And honestly I could stop right here because that is never going to happen nor is a world I want to live in. As much as I love looking at the numbers and proving things by them, they are only part of the equation. There is no way around the idea that the intangibles are a factor in the debate and in this case Hansbrough has a leg up. That being said, I would agree that if you could make a clear cut statistical case for one player over another then you can effectively negate the intangibles argument. The question is did Gasaway do that? The answer is, I don’t think so.
Let’s take a look at the stats Gasaway presented. He discusses offensive efficiency, FT rate, effective FG%, offense and defensive rebound rebounding percentage and possession percentage. Of the five stats Love is a better rebounder, especially on the defensive end and shoots the ball better while touching the ball a bit more. Hansbrough shoots more FTs and is more efficient on the offensive end. So yes there is an advantage for Love here and Gasaway places a great deal of importance on the fact Love outrebounds Hansbrough by tons on the defensive end. Gasaway also mentions assists and blocks which Loves also does better than Hansbrough. So in all these ways Love enjoys some advantages but only in terms of defensive rebounding does he really outpace Hansbrough in a profound way.
In terms of the defensive stats Hansbrough might not block as many shots as Love but he steals the ball more. In fact when Gasaway asserts Love blocks more shots he is talking about half a block more per game(1.1 to 0.6) In terms of steals Hansbrough averages 1.5 per game whereas Love averages 0.6. Now the one huge difference between steals and blocks is a steal in an automatic turnover for the opposition whereas a block is not. I also know that Hansbrough draws plenty of charges and leads the Tar Heel team in charges taken which also causes a turnover. I have no idea where Love stands in this area but things like steals and charges point to Hansbrough’s tenacity which brings us to an interesting subjective statement Gasaway makes amid making a statistical argument.
Gasaway asserts that Love is “vastly superior to Hansbrough on defense.” which is the final point in his argument since he asserts Love is “just as good” as Hansbrough on offense. The problem is this is not true even regarding the stats unless the defensive rebounding stat is the be all end all of defensive ratings. The blocks Love gets are not as much as the steals Hansbrough causes and if we take the Duke game as an example, Hansbrough proved he can guard almost anyone, anywhere on the floor and be effective. So I am not certain why he believes Love is “vastly superior” on defense when it appears to be more of a wash.
As for the rest of it. The fact it took three years for Hansbrough to get to the point Love is at in his first is immaterial to the discussion. I mean if you are willing to toss out the fact Hansbrough carried UNC with Lawson out then I think we can safely toss out the idea that Love playing at this level as a freshman somehow qualifies him more for the award than Hansbrough taking three years. The ultimate conclusion I draw here is that these two players are about the same according to the numbers and even if the advantages Love has are not enough to toss the intangibles out as part of the equation. If that is the case then Hansbrough is still the best player this season not just because his number are great but because the way he plays is pretty darn impressive as well.