The current Player of the Year race has two point guards—Connecticut's Shabazz Napier and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart—out in the lead. And the immediacy effect of the final plays of their last games has a big impact with where they rank this week.
Napier is the pick today after his game-winner against Florida, knocking Smart from the top spot after his two turnovers in the final minute against Memphis, combined with several other mistakes he made down the stretch.
The fact that Connecticut even had a shot to beat Florida in the final seconds was because of Napier's four-point play in the final minute, but he easily could have taken the blame for the final possession going wrong had he not received a very fortuitous bounce to set up his buzzer-beater.
Look at the screen shot in the final slide, and you can see that as Napier rises to take his shot, both Lasan Kromah and Niels Giffey are open and would have had time to take a dribble and possibly get to the rim had Napier passed the ball.
Is it fair to award Napier when his biggest moment came off a somewhat selfish play, and then drop Smart in the process for some selfish play that went bad against Memphis?
From what we've seen over the course of their careers thus far, I say yes.
Smart is at his best when he's picking his spots to attack the basket and looking for open teammates in the process. His approach down the stretch against Memphis was going to fail more times than not.
Napier has earned the right to be a tad on the selfish side, because he makes difficult shots—like the three on the four-point play—and he makes more shots than he misses off the dribble. So far this season, 36 of Napier's 43 baskets have been unassisted, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Yes, he probably should have given up the ball the first time around on the final possession, but Kevin Ollie wants Napier taking the final shot, even if it's a difficult one. And if I can pick any guy in the country to take an open shot from the elbow down one at the buzzer, I'm taking Napier.
10 to Watch: Jahii Carson, Arizona State; Joseph Young, Oregon; Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; Chaz Williams, UMass; Alex Kirk, New Mexico; Perry Ellis, Kansas; Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga; Marcus Paige, North Carolina; Tyler Haws, BYU; Kyle Anderson, UCLA.