Thursday night, during the Indiana/Illinois game televised on ESPN, this question was raised to the viewing audience:
Who is the best sixth man in the country?
The following names were presented: Jaye Crockett of Texas Tech, Davante Gardner of Marquette, Will Sheehey of Indiana and Kyle Wiltjer of Kentucky. I’m not sure who ended up winning the poll at the end of the night, but I wanted to examine that question here.
In looking at the numbers, that question appears to be a fairly difficult question to answer.
Will Sheehey averages 10.0 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in 22.0 minutes of action per game for the Indiana Hoosiers. For Marquette, Davante Gardner averages 12.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in only 20.8 minutes per game. Jaye Crockett of Texas Tech plays the most minutes per game of the four players at 25.8 per game and averages 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Lastly, Kyle Wiltjer of Kentucky averages 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 25.0 minutes per game.
On the surface, all four players look fairly similar. But when you take a deeper look into the various analytical numbers that have become popular in basketball recently, you can begin to get some clarity on the subject.
Gardner, of Marquette, stands above the rest in terms of the player efficiency rating, which measures a player’s per-minute performance. Gardner is first in the PER rating among the four players at 32.2. Jaye Crockett is second at 24.1, followed by Wiltjer at 20.9 and Sheehey is last 19.6. In terms of offensive efficiency, which measures a player’s efficiency at producing points, Gardner is again first at 127.3. However, Wiltjer is second at 117.6, Sheehey is third at 117.3 and Crockett is last at 114.3
Also, defensively, Will Sheehey of Indiana grades out as the better defender of the four, with a defensive rating of 90.7. The defensive rating measures a player’s efficiency at preventing the other team from scoring. Crockett, of Texas Tech, grades out to be the worst in that category at 99.7.
Win shares is also another stat that has recently been applied to basketball, even though it was first primarily used in baseball. Win shares assigns a single number to each player’s total contributions for the year. Gardner, of Marquette, again leads this category at 3.6 win shares. Wiltjer is second with 2.7 win shares, while Sheehey is third at 2.4 and Crockett is last at 2.3.
Honestly, in looking at this question, a sound argument could probably be made for each player. Before looking at the numbers, I probably would have said Wiltjer, simply because I have watched Kentucky play more than any other team this year. I also like the fact that Wiltjer gives you the threat of the three-point shot. He leads all four players in three-point percentage at 41.1 percent. However, it is hard to argue with Gardner’s numbers. But as I said, each player is valuable to their team in their own way, and a solid argument could be made for each player.