ACC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year 2017: Candidates & Prediction

acc player of the year 2017, candidates, prediction, men's basketball, winner, justin jackson, luke kennard, donovan mitchell, bonzie colson

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Unsurprisingly for a conference that could potentially get double-digit teams into the NCAA tournament and boasts a handful of first-round NBA draft prospects, the ACC has a seemingly countless number of candidates for the conference Player of the Year.

First, a little history to help us get an idea of what to expect. Over the last 10 years, there have been 11 winners (co-winners in 2012-13), with eight coming from teams that finished either first or second in the ACC standings.

Of course, with this year’s crowded standings, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between second and, say, eighth place. At the very least, though, we can go ahead and eliminate some candidates whose teams are under .500 in conference play but still at least deserve an honorable mention: Michael Young (20.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game), Jamel Artis (18.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists), John Collins (19.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks), Jerome Robinson (19.0 points and 1.7 steals), Dennis Smith Jr. (18.5 points, 6.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals) and Jaron Blossomgame (17.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.9 blocks and 0.8 steals).

Ultimately, there are four candidates who stand out among the rest: North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson, Duke’s Luke Kennard and Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell.

First, let’s take a look at a general comparison of per-game averages:

Jackson: 18.4 points, 2.7 threes, 4.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks; .456 FG%, .393 3PT%, .549 EFG%
Colson: 16.9 points, 0.6 threes, 10.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.1 blocks; .524 FG%, .378 3PT%, .547 EFG%
Kennard: 19.8 points, 2.5 threes, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.3 blocks; .504 FG%, .454 3PT%, .598 EFG%
Mitchell: 15.8 points, 2.4 threes, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.5 blocks; .423 FG%, .371 3PT%, .518 EFG%

Of course, this is the ACC Player of the Year award, so it’s worth also taking a look at their numbers in conference games, as well:

Jackson: 19.2 points, 3.0 threes, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks; .440 FG%, .383 3PT%, .533 EFG%
Colson: 17.4 points, 0.5 threes, 10.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.5 blocks, .544 FG%, .474 3PT%, .566 EFG%
Kennard: 19.4 points, 2.5 threes, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, .491 FG%, .477 3PT%, .587 EFG%
Mitchell: 18.0 points, 2.9 threes, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals, 0.4 blocks, .449 FG%, .402 3PT%, .553 EFG%

And finally, a couple of advanced stats, per sports-reference.com:

Jackson: 3.6 offensive win shares, 1.4 defensive win shares, .204 win shares per 40, 9.1 box plus-minus
Colson: 3.8 offensive win shares, 2.0 defensive win shares, .244 win shares per 40, 10.3 box plus-minus
Kennard: 4.7 offensive win shares, 1.5 defensive win shares, .234 win shares per 40, 10.4 box plus-minus
Mitchell: 2.8 offensive win shares, 2.2 defensive win shares, .210 win shares per 40, 12.7 box plus-minus

Though Jackson’s stats don’t exactly jump out when compared to the others, he has the argument of “best player on the best team,” which is more than often enough to warrant the award.

Colson is a double-double machine who has helped Notre Dame, the preseason No. 7 ACC team, to second place in the conference.

Kennard is an ultra-efficient offensive weapon who kept Duke afloat amidst a slew of midseason injuries (both to players and to the Blue Devils’ Hall of Fame coach) and tripping-related controversies.

Mitchell’s slow start to the season may end up costing him, but he has been arguably the best two-way player since the start of conference play, he has a 92.5 defensive rating for the seventh-most efficient defense in the nation, and that outstanding box plus-minus number speaks to his overall importance.

If I was voting, I would lean towards Colson, who has the highest player efficiency rating (PER) among the quartet, but I would have a really difficult time doing it.

But if I’m predicting the winner, I believe Jackson gets the nod. Overall team success often tends to sway voting on these types of awards, and there’s no question that North Carolina–in large part thanks to the scintillating junior–has risen above the pack in the ACC.

Note: All stats are as of games played before Saturday, March 4


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