The Los Angeles Athletic Club released its Top 20 list for the Wooden Award recently, and of, course, Delon Wright was on it. The senior point guard and potential lottery pick in June continues to play at a high level, so naturally he'd make any player of the year watch list. But what are Wright's realistic chances to win it?
There might be 20 players on the list, but there are two clear front-runners for one of college basketball's most prestigious awards. Wisconsin forward Frank Kaminsky and Duke center Jahlil Okafor are most pundits top two contenders for the award.
Kaminsky averages 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this season. His outstanding offensive play is the reason why the Badgers are in contention for a number one seed and a favorite to return to the Final Four for a second consecutive season.,
His Division I leading 34.6 player efficiency rating and .321 win shares per 40 minutes also helps his case, especially in an age of advanced statistics. For comparison's sake, Okafor is tied for third with a 32.4 efficiency rating and has .255 win shares per 40 minutes.
The freshman sensation has the statistical advantage in the traditional statistics with 18.0 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, in a strong ACC this season (Five teams -- Virginia, Duke, Louisville, Notre Dame and North Carolina -- currently reside in the AP Top 25).
The Phil Cofer dunk on Okafor might have been ugly but one bad highlight, no matter how nasty it might be, won't be enough to torpedo his chances.
What does Wright need to do to move ahead of Kaminsky and Okafor?
Wright's solid all-around game has kept him in the hunt, despite lagging behind the top two contenders in points per game. He averages 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds 5.4 assists and 2.2 steals a game and is in Top 20 nationally in several advanced metrics
He's taken some lumps for his performance in losses against Arizona and UCLA (Rob Dauster specifically mentioned Wright's struggles in his recent Player of the Year power rankings) and doesn't have the trendy buzz like Kaminsky and Okafor.
A few things could help make it a three-man race:
1. Stand out performance against Arizona. Utah has six games left on its schedule, but the rematch at home against the Wildcats will have several implications for the Utes. A strong showing and win against Arizona would not only give Utah a leg-up on winning its first Pac-12 regular season men's championship, but also have the basketball team on the inside track for a number two seed, assuming the Utes win the rest of the games. If Wright comes up big in what's shaping up to a pivotal game in the Pac-12 race, it would erase some doubts about his ability to step up big in huge games and elevate him in the Wooden race. One thing to note: Wright shoots much better at home (.612 field goal percentage and .663 two-point percentage) than on the road (.412 and .510).
2. Win at least one Pac-12 title. The last five Wooden Award winners won some form of a conference title, so it's an obvious factor for voters for the award. The best player on a conference champion always sounds good when decided who's the best player in the nation and Wright has a realistic chance to make this happen. The Pac-12 is by no means a juggernaut and Arizona is the only team currently ranked that's left on the schedule. Utah had a half-game lead over the Wildcats for first place as of Friday, so winning out would give them the regular season title and another resume booster for Wright.
Of course, Kaminsky and Okafor, or their respective teams, would have to stumble a bit for Wright to move up. Those two players may be the front two, but if Wright continues to play at the rate he's playing now, and if the Utes continue their winning ways, Wright could very well become Utah's second Wooden Award Winner (Andrew Bogut won in 2004-05).
All statistics courtesy of Sports Reference.
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