Yesterday Drew showed what's under the hood of this new metric.
A few things to remember about the Four Pettinella Score, or PET. First off, it includes defense (including defensive rebounding) not at all. And, since that's true, there will be more mid-major names than you expect on the list: Remember, "undersized" and "not athletic enough" are consistently reasons to pass on a prospect from a high-major perspective, and are always bigger issues on defense than they are on offense.
I'm going to present the 2011 list first, because it looks saner, and then explain the two really interesting paths that the 2012 list could be taking to look the way it does.
Bill James has a rule that 80 percent of what you see from a new statistic should verify what you already know, and 20 percent should be new and interesting. This list seems to follow that rule. Of these 50 players, 30 were from the six power conferences, 13 from the eight mid-major conferences, and seven from the 18 low-major conferences. The two consensus All-Americans who didn't crack this list, Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State and Kenneth Faried of Morehead State, were both elite defensive rebounders and strong defenders, aspects which aren't included in the PET.
There are some surprising names on there -- I didn't expect to see Noah Dahlman quite that high, or for that matter Devon Beitzel or Gary Flowers -- but it lines up pretty well with my expectation of the top offensive players in the country in 2011. Dahlman, for instance, was an outstanding interior scorer with the oft-ignored strengths of being a stunningly low-turnover big man who could get to the line and make his free throws.
I make such a big deal about the 2011 list because the corresponding list for 2012 seems, currently, insane.
I told you it looked crazy.
To begin with: In 2011 four of the top 50 PET performers played less than 70 percent of their team's minutes: Raji (65.5%), Markieff Morris (60.7%), Ezeli (58.1%), and Casey Mitchell (53.5%). In the 2012 rankings, we have 13 players between 40 and 70 percent. The 2012 level breakdown: 21 high-major, eight mid-major, and (gulp) 21 low-major players. Gerardo Suero, a 100 percent buzzless juco transfer guard from Albany, checks in at No. 11. Overall. In all likelihood, you made no fewer than seven new acquaintances on the way down this list: Suero, Odum, Covington, Craig, Wallace, Hinkle, Ferguson, and Wiens. Ryan Kelly is at No. 34, and Kenny Boynton is No. 3. I saw all of this too.
But before you panic or laugh or bolt from this page due to some equally dismissive reaction, step back for a second and let me point out a few things. Go check that 2011 list again and remind yourself that this exercise is rooted, hypothetically, in sanity.
If this is what a list of the "best offensive players in America" looks like, at this moment, one of two things must be true. Either an abnormally high number of mid-major players are playing great and still flying under the radar, or else the rankings consistently look like this at the outset of conference play -- but the mid-major players fall while the high-major players rise. (Which would mean that, essentially, everyone puts up the same numbers while the high-major players' schedules get tougher and the mid-majors' get easier.) You can bet that, whatever the answer is, I'll have a giant conversation with Dave Telep about why and you'll be able to find that answer in some form somewhere.
It's early, but who are the All-America candidates at this point, really? Well, there's Jared Sullinger, who'd rank even higher here if his defensive strength of schedule wasn't artificially inflated by the cupcakes played during his absence due to injury. There's Thomas Robinson, who makes an appearance and, like Sullinger, couples that with fantastic defensive rebounding and strong defensive work. There's Kentucky's Anthony Davis, whose rim protection is otherworldly and whose defensive rebounding is also excellent, but whose offense is merely very effective rather than dominant at this point. There's Doug McDermott and Harrison Barnes (who's been very good but rarely terrifying). There's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who's been the catalyst of an excellent offense and plays great defense, but his exclusion from these rankings shouldn't come as a wild shock -- it's the attempt to name an offensive star for a team without one that's put his name so powerfully in the discussion.
There's Draymond Green, who's shooting just 45 percent inside the arc. There's Marcus Denmon. Arnett Moultrie? Damian Lillard? John Henson is mostly defense. Mike Scott's right up there. Scott Machado and Kendall Marshall still turn the ball over an awful lot.
What we don't have is a series of high-major guys having truly dominant offensive seasons. When I wrote that list out, I goggled at it confusedly, and then I asked myself the question, "Well, where on earth is __________?" Then I realized I didn't have a whole bunch of names to fill in the blank and goggle confusedly about. There hasn't been a wave of Kemba/Sullinger/Derrick Williams/Marcus Morris to open the season, and we'd just be getting into the Jordan Taylor/Nolan Smith/Jimmer portion of events.
So here's what we're looking at. There'll be some spring explosions from the Barneses and the Jeremy Lambs and the Austin Riverses and the Draymond Greens of the world. The Gerardo Sueros and the Kenny Boyntons alike will either cool down with extended sample size or be recognized, as they always are. Lillard and McDermott and Canaan were the breakout guys from the fall, though, and it may be time to recognize them as such.
Drew Cannon is a college student and a regular contributor to Basketball Prospectus. Follow him on Twitter at @DrewCannon1.
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Drew Cannon is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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