Predicting the Best Scorers at Each Position for the 2014-15 CBB Season
College basketball scorers come in all shapes, sizes and positions, and we're kicking off July by predicting the top five scorers at each position for the 2014-15 men's college basketball season.
A good number of these nominees are likely players you have never heard of before, but doesn't that make the list more authentic? Antoine Mason, Patrick Miller and D.J. Balentine all finished last season in the top seven in points per game, and there might be 13 people in the entire country who knew what school each of those guys played for 10 months ago.
But at the same time, there are a ton of familiar faces who should score a ton of points. Among the list of major conference representatives are Montrezl Harrell, Frank Kaminsky, Georges Niang, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Joseph Young.
The following slides are ordered by position, starting with the top five centers and finishing with what should be the five highest-scoring point guards.
No. 5 Center: Reggie Lynch, Illinois State
2013-14 stats: 8.3 PPG, 58.3 eFG%, 58.7 TS%, 55.3 FT%
Not only is Reggie Lynch one of the most unrecognizable names on the list, but he's also the only player (aside from the two incoming freshmen) who scored fewer than 13 points per game last season.
But last year as a freshman, Lynch was the most efficient shot-blocker in the entire country. He played just 20.3 minutes per game but averaged 5.6 blocks per 40 minutes.
Obviously, blocked shots have very little to do with an ability to score on the other end of the court, but his defensive prowess should affect his playing time in a good way, as he was averaging better than 25 minutes per game over the last 10 games of the 2013-14 season.
Even if he scores at the same rate as last season without any sort of development entering his sophomore season, he would average better than 12 points per game if given 30 minutes. Considering the lack of centers that score in bunches, that might be good enough for fifth place at the position.
No. 4 Center: Chris Horton, Austin Peay
2013-14 stats: 13.2 PPG, 59.3 eFG%, 59.8 TS%, 58.2 FT%
Like Reggie Lynch, Chris Horton is a relatively unknown big man.
While toiling away in obscurity for the 12-18 Austin Peay Governors, Horton averaged 13.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
Despite standing just 6'8", he was a force to be reckoned with in the paint, recording 13 double-doubles on the season—including a particularly impressive 20 points and 16 rebounds in the season finale.
Two years ago, Horton was a very good shot-blocker and little else. If he continues to show improvement for a second straight season, people will learn his name regardless of how poorly his team does in the Ohio Valley Conference.
No. 3 Center: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
2013-14 stats: N/A (Incoming freshman)
Duke is expected to be one of the five best teams in the country this season. Remove any individual guard or forward from the roster, and the Blue Devils would still be projected in the top 10.
Take Jahlil Okafor out of the equation, though, and they are a borderline top-25 team.
That's how much Okafor means to his team. This freshman is going to be one of the highest-scoring centers in the nation.
It's been more than 15 years since the beginning of the days of Elton Brand, but he came in and averaged 13.4 points per game as a freshman for Duke during the 1997-98 season.
That's roughly the baseline of expectations for the No. 1 overall recruit.
No. 2 Center: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2013-14 stats: 13.9 PPG, 57.8 eFG%, 61.1 TS%, 76.5 FT%, 37.8 3P%
Despite being a junior on a power conference team, Frank Kaminsky came out of nowhere last season.
When he scored 43 in a game against North Dakota on Nov. 19, the Twitter-sphere lost its mind in making jokes about some goofy looking big man scoring more points than most Bo Ryan teams average. But it was just the beginning of what would blossom into an unforgettable season for Kaminsky and the Badgers.
Can he be even better than he was last season?
Wisconsin didn't really start relying on Frank the Tank until mid-February. Through the first 25 games of the season, he only attempted 10 or more field goals six times. Over the course of the last 13 games, he did so 10 times. And during that 13-game stretch, he averaged 16.7 points per game.
So, yes, there's still plenty of gold to be mined from one of the most memorable characters of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
No. 1 Center: Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara
2013-14 stats: 21.3 PPG, 51.9 eFG%, 55.9 TS%, 69.0 FT%
Alan Williams is basically the Doug McDermott of the minor conference ranks. We've heard his name a lot over the past few seasons, but that's only going to increase as the points and rebounds machine enters his fourth and final season with the Gauchos.
Williams averaged 21.3 points per game last season while only playing 31.1 minutes per game. Per 40 minutes, that comes out to 27.4 points. Only T.J. Warren (28.1) and Doug McDermott (32.0) were better—and they were both lottery picks last week.
Williams scored at least 14 points in all but two games last season, dealing with early foul trouble in both of those contests.
He had 16 double-doubles in just 28 games.
It's not even a question of whether he'll be the highest-scoring center in the nation. The only unknown is whether he'll finally record enough blocks in a game to finally get a triple-double.
No. 5 Power Forward: Justin Sears, Yale
2013-14 stats: 16.9 PPG, 52.3 eFG%, 57.6 TS%, 69.7 FT%
He might not play in a single nationally-televised game this season, but Justin Sears is the real deal for the Bulldogs of Yale.
Sears averaged just 30.6 minutes per game last year as a sophomore, scoring better than 22.0 points per 40 minutes. Over the last nine games of the regular season, Sears averaged 21.7 points per game.
He could easily average 20 PPG if he gets more minutes this season and shoots a little better from the field—51.7 percent on field goals while very rarely attempting any three-pointers is hardly spectacular.
No. 4 Power Forward: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
2013-14 stats: 14.0 PPG, 61.2 eFG%, 59.2 TS%, 46.4 FT%
If Montrezl Harrell could just make some free throws, he'd be completely unstoppable.
The big man was pretty inconsistent for the first two months of last season. Despite being one of the most physically gifted players in the country, he scored seven or fewer points in six of Louisville's first 18 games—including essentially failing to show up in the losses to Kentucky and North Carolina.
On the flip side of that coin, he had 11 double-doubles in Louisville's final 22 games. Against the eventual national champion Connecticut Huskies, Harrell averaged 20.0 points and 11.7 rebounds while going 3-for-3 in the double-double department.
His decision to stay in school for another season was one of the biggest surprises in April, but he certainly didn't come back to be a less dominant player.
Anything less than 17.5 PPG from Harrell would have to be considered a disappointment.
No. 3 Power Forward: Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
2013-14 stats: 15.4 PPG, 53.9 eFG%, 60.7 TS%, 77.6 FT%
Seth Tuttle is the second of three players on the list from the Missouri Valley Conference and perhaps the most impressive of the bunch.
Over the past two seasons, Tuttle has become an above-average rebounder and shot-blocker and has evolved into an excellent source of free throws. Last season, he drew 6.9 fouls per 40 minutes, resulting in more than 200 free-throw attempts.
Tuttle simply excels at being in the right place at the right time, and he should have another spike in scoring as a senior. Like several of the other players presented here, Tuttle didn't even average 30 minutes per game last year.
Should his playing time increase by about 15 percent for a third consecutive season, he'll be headed for 34 minutes and a minimum of 18 points per game.
No. 2 Power Forward: Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette
2013-14 stats: 18.6 PPG, 53.1 eFG%, 56.0 TS%, 67.9 FT%, 42.3 3P%
Elfrid Payton's early departure for the NBA will likely have a pretty negative impact on Louisiana-Lafayette's winning percentage this season, but it does give us a chance to find out whether or not Shawn Long is for real.
For a second straight season, the 6'9" Ragin' Cajun averaged a double-double. And in addition to being a great rebounder and shot-blocker, Long also shot better than 42 percent from three-point range.
Here are some numbers for you to consider:
Shawn Long (2013-14): 6'9", 245 lbs, 29.4 MPG, 18.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 2.7 BPG, 43.2 three-point percentage
Kevin Love (2007-08): 6'9", 255 lbs, 29.6 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 35.4 three-point percentage
Granted, Long did his damage in the Sun Belt with a great sidekick. But if he puts up great numbers for a third consecutive season, don't be surprised if Long becomes Louisiana-Lafayette's second first-round draft pick in as many seasons.
No. 1 Power Forward: John Brown, High Point
2013-14 stats: 19.5 PPG, 53.5 eFG%, 58.1 TS%, 73.2 FT%
John Brown is a little undersized for his position, weighing in at just 205 pounds.
He was only held to fewer than 12 points three times all of last season, but it's no coincidence that those three games were also High Point's only three regular-season games against major conference opponents. Against the likes of Arkansas, Georgetown and Syracuse, Brown was hopelessly outmatched.
That doesn't sound like much of a ringing endorsement for this guy at No. 1 among power forwards, but he averaged 19.5 PPG last year because High Point plays most of its games against a level of competition where being 6'8" with a bit of muscle is good enough to dominate.
We don't yet know what the Panthers' schedule looks like for the 2014-15 season, but the past five years of scheduling would certainly suggest that there will plenty of cupcakes against which Brown can put together a scoring average in the vicinity of 22.5 PPG.
No. 5 Small Forward: Stephan Hicks, Cal-State Northridge
2013-14 stats: 17.2 PPG, 52.9 eFG%, 60.1 TS%, 82.1 FT%
Stephan Hicks is not a good three-point shooter (30 percent for his career). He averages considerably more turnovers than he does assists. He wasn't even the leading scorer on his team last season.
Yet, he checks in at No. 5 among small forwards because he has averaged better than 15.0 points per game for three straight seasons with the Matadors—a team that will be relying even more heavily upon him this season because they are losing their starting shooting guard and third-leading scorer.
If you live on the East Coast, you've probably never heard of him, but Hicks is the type of hard-working bucket-maker that could average 20 PPG this year.
No. 4 Small Forward: Jarekious Bradley, Southeast Missouri State
2013-14 stats: 19.0 PPG, 57.5 eFG%, 60.3 TS%, 77.6 FT%, 37.3 3P%
Jarekious Bradley joins Stephan Hicks in the group of players on this list who didn't even lead their teams in scoring this past season.
Tyler Stone (19.3 PPG) had a marginally better scoring average for the Redhawks, but he graduates this summer, leaving Bradley as pretty much the beginning and the end of Southeast Missouri State's offensive game plan.
Bradley has only been playing Division I ball for one year, but he had at least 20 points in 15 of the first 18 games played during that one year.
He would probably be at No. 1 among small forwards if not for the very real concern that the lack of other scoring options on the roster will lead to constant double teams and a decline in production.
No. 3 Small Forward: Georges Niang, Iowa State
2013-14 stats: 16.7 PPG, 52.6 eFG%, 54.8 TS%, 72.1 FT%, 32.7 3P%
Believe it or not, Georges Niang attempted more field goals (468) last season than Melvin Ejim (436) or DeAndre Kane (431). And now that those two leading scorers are gone, he may be in line for an even bigger chunk of the score sheet.
There are an awful lot of variables in play with Iowa State, though.
How well will Bryce Dejean-Jones, Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader make the transition as transfers to Ames? What sort of role will Naz Long and Matt Thomas play on this roster? And most importantly for today's discussion, how will that eight- or nine-man rotation impact Niang's minutes and field-goal attempts?
He'll obviously be a starter again, but will he get more or fewer than the 30.1 minutes per game from last season?
If he plays 35 minutes and becomes the head honcho in the absence of Ejim and Kane, he could easily be the highest-scoring small forward in the country. But if he's sharing too much time and shots with incoming players, it'll have a negative impact on his ability to finish in the top five.
No. 2 Small Forward: Juwan Howard Jr., Detroit
2013-14 stats: 18.3 PPG, 45.4 eFG%, 49.6 TS%, 83.9 FT%, 34.4 3P%
By no small margin, Juwan Howard Jr. has the worst true shooting percentage on this list. And it's not as if last season was an anomaly, either—his TS% was 48.6 as a freshman and 49.7 as a sophomore.
But it's quite apparent that Detroit doesn't have a Plan B beyond getting the ball to Howard and letting him do his thing.
Howard attempted 229 more field goals than any other Titan last season. Even though he shot 41.9 percent from the field, shooting the ball more than 16 times per game ended up producing a lot of points.
With the second-leading scorer (Evan Bruinsma) graduating and not much of anything coming Detroit's way in the form of recruits or transfers, there's no good reason to expect much to change for Howard. He'll get his points no matter how many shots it takes.
No. 1 Small Forward: Terran Petteway, Nebraska
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 48.2 eFG%, 55.3 TS%, 81.9 FT%, 32.7 3P%
Much like Juwan Howard Jr., Terran Petteway was hardly the world's most efficient scorer last season. He was unquestionably the team leader, but he only shot 42.6 percent from the field, needing 13.3 field-goal attempts per game to reach his scoring average.
But unlike Howard, Petteway has a knack for getting to the free-throw line. He averaged 5.2 made free throws per game—right on par with Doug McDermott, Julius Randle and Shabazz Napier.
You don't always have to be a great shooter to be a great scorer, but there's reason to believe that Petteway actually is a better shooter than the percentages indicate. Through the end of January, he was shooting 46.5 percent from the field. His stroke simply started to fail him over the course of the final 12 games.
That should hardly come as a surprise, though. He averaged less than 15 minutes per game as a freshman during the 2011-12 season and sat out all of the 2012-13 season after transferring from Texas Tech. If he hadn't gotten fatigued by the end of last year, we would've been questioning whether he's even human.
But now that he has a full season under his belt, he should be ready to consistently produce all season long, averaging better than 20.0 PPG in carrying the Cornhuskers back to the NCAA tournament.
No. 5 Shooting Guard: D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State
2013-14 stats: N/A (incoming freshman)
There are a ton of great options for this fifth spot—perhaps most notably James Daniel from Howard and Andrew Rowsey from UNC-Asheville—but I'm going out on a bit of a limb with D'Angelo Russell on account of the fact that someone needs to carry the load for Ohio State.
Maybe it'll be Sam Thompson finally realizing his full potential as a senior or Anthony Lee coming in from Temple and dominating in the post for the Buckeyes, but my money is on Russell being the man in Columbus.
Russell seems to have the scorer's mentality that eluded Ohio State last season. LaQuinton Ross scored a good number of points, but he disappeared for large stretches of games on a regular basis. Other than Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft were the best scoring options, which isn't saying much.
With all of those players out of the picture, if Russell is as good as advertised, he could be the first Buckeye to average 20.0 PPG since Evan Turner during the 2009-10 season.
No. 4 Shooting Guard: Antoine Mason, Auburn
2013-14 stats: 25.6 PPG, 47.9 eFG%, 54.1 TS%, 72.8 FT%, 28.6 3P%
Were it not for Doug McDermott, Antoine Mason would have led the nation in scoring last season.
But he is only ranked fourth among shooting guards because he did so while taking more than twice as many shots as any other player on the team for which he no longer plays.
Not only is he transferring from Niagara to Auburn—increasing the level of competition he will play against by quite some margin—but he wasn't a very good shooter to begin with.
Sure, he averaged better than 25.0 points per game, but he averaged 18.5 field-goal attempts and 10.8 free-throw attempts to get there. Give a blind man that many shots and he'll average at least 10 points per game.
To be fair, Mason earned those free throws. His ability to get to the hoop at any cost is second to none. But it seems a little improbable that Bruce Pearl will let him take and miss as many field goals as he did at Niagara.
Were he still at Niagara, we'd project him as the top scorer in the nation. That's not the case at Auburn.
He'll still be a quality scorer, but this is definitely an instance where the highest-scoring returning player doesn't translate to the projected highest-scoring player.
No. 3 Shooting Guard: Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
2013-14 stats: 21.8 PPG, 55.5 eFG%, 61.6 TS%, 89.7 FT%, 43.3 3P%
If you've never fallen in love with a player without even seeing him play, go ahead and let Tyler Harvey be your first.
Playing in relative anonymity in the same conference that produced Damian Lillard, Harvey led Eastern Washington in scoring last year by being one of the best three-point and free-throw shooters in the nation.
One of the best box scores from last season was the overtime win over Northern Colorado in which Harvey made 10 of 15 three-point attempts and shot 8-of-8 from the free-throw line. Another was the win over Southern Utah when he made both of his three-point attempts and all 20 of his free-throw attempts.
If and when Eastern Washington makes the NCAA tournament this season, there's a good chance Harvey sets the world on fire the way Stephen Curry did in 2008.
No. 2 Shooting Guard: Joseph Young, Oregon
2013-14 stats: 18.9 PPG, 56.9 eFG%, 62.7 TS%, 88.1 FT%, 41.5 3P%
Last year, Joseph Young was that rare breed of shooting guard that got a lot of points without really taking all that many shots. He only averaged 12.6 field-goal attempts per game, making him good for 1.5 points per field-goal attempt.
That's an important ratio to keep in mind, because his number of shots per game figures to shoot through the roof this year.
Dana Altman and Oregon are still figuring out what in the world the Ducks' on-court product is going to look like, but there's no question that Young will be the focal point of what they do. As mentioned ad nauseam already this summer, Young and Elgin Cook are the only returning players who averaged at least 7.0 minutes or 2.0 points per game last season.
As such, Young may well get the same keys to the vehicle that Antoine Mason had at Niagara or T.J. Warren had at North Carolina State. Anything up to 27.0 PPG is absolutely on the table.
No. 1 Shooting Guard: Tyler Haws, BYU
2013-14 stats: 23.2 PPG, 50.0 eFG%, 57.7 TS%, 88.1 FT%, 40.4 3P%
Joseph Young has the potential to explode, but Tyler Haws actually has been averaging better than 21.5 PPG in each of the past two seasons. It would be foolish to give the top shooting guard spot to anyone else.
Plus, much like Young, Haws will now be playing without a good portion of his supporting cast from last season. Matt Carlino (13.7 PPG) and Eric Mika (11.8 PPG) are both gone, and there's no telling how fit to play Kyle Collinsworth (14.0 PPG) will be after undergoing ACL surgery in March.
Quite the transitional season for a team that didn't have a single senior last year.
Young may average 27.0 PPG, but Haws might be the first person to average 29.0 PPG since Jason Conley did so for VMI during the 2001-02 season.
No. 5 Point Guard: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown
2013-14 stats: 17.6 PPG, 52.8 eFG%, 59.7 TS%, 87.3 FT%, 39.3 3P%
In case you didn't pick up on the trend from the Joseph Young and Tyler Haws slides, it's generally bad news for the team but good news for this list when a player who was already a great scorer suddenly becomes the team's only above-average option on offense.
That isn't quite the case at Georgetown, as the Hoyas have great incoming players in Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak and Paul White as well as a returning player who showed some serious promise toward the end of last season (Jabril Trawick), but there's no doubt D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the primary scorer now that Markel Starks is gone.
Smith-Rivera will likely play the role that Xavier Thames and Marcus Paige played last season for San Diego State and North Carolina, respectively. Technically, both players started at point guard, but they spent more time creating their own shot than they did setting up teammates.
With no other three-point shooting guard on the team, Smith-Rivera could improve upon the 17.6 PPG he averaged last season.
No. 4 Point Guard: Juwan Staten, West Virginia
2013-14 stats: 18.1 PPG, 49.3 eFG%, 55.1 TS%, 71.9 FT%, 40.0 3P%
Just like Tyler Haws, Juwan Staten is losing a ton of key teammates from a team that had no seniors last year. Eron Harris transferred to Michigan State, Terry Henderson is still figuring out where he wants to transfer and Remi Dibo is planning to play professionally overseas.
Those three players plus Staten were responsible for more than two-thirds of West Virginia's points last season.
Needless to say, Staten will be expected to duplicate last season's efforts and then some.
One of the most impressive things about Staten's stats is that the 6'1" guard averaged better than 18 PPG while making a grand total of six three-pointers all season—and he still averaged 1.42 points per field-goal attempt.
He did a terrific job at finishing near the rim last season, but we'll see how effective he remains now that he's losing his three favorite players to drive and dish to—Harris, Henderson and Dibo combined to attempt 472 three-pointers last year.
No. 3 Point Guard: Jalan West, Northwestern State
2013-14 stats: 19.4 PPG, 55.2 eFG%, 65.0 TS%, 87.6 FT%, 40.9 3P%
One of the biggest things working in Jalan West's favor is the fact that Northwestern State played at the fastest pace in the nation last season. That was hardly a fluky year, either, as the Demons have ranked in the top 11 in adjusted tempo in seven of the past eight years.
The big question, though, is will he take enough shots this year for that to matter?
Despite all those extra possessions, West only averaged 12.8 field-goal attempts per game, choosing instead to average 6.4 assists per contest.
Perhaps a little extra selfishness will be unavoidable with two of the four leading scorers from last year graduating. That leaves West and Zikiteran Woodley as the only returning players who averaged 18.0 minutes or 6.0 points per game last year.
He certainly doesn't need to increase his scoring average by much. He was already 35th in the country last year. Even an increase from 19.4 PPG to 20.4 PPG could be enough for him to take third place among point guards.
No. 2 Point Guard: D.J. Balentine, Evansville
2013-14 stats: 22.8 PPG, 49.0 eFG%, 56.3 TS%, 84.7 FT%, 39.8 3P%
D.J. Balentine scored at least 29 points in each of his first five games last year.
He finished the season with more games with at least 30 points (six) than he had games with fewer than 15 points (five).
In three games against Wichita State, he averaged 25.3 PPG and shot .500 (13-of-26) from three-point range.
Balentine was only a sophomore last season.
His heroics didn't help the Aces (14-19 overall, 6-12 in Missouri Valley) win very many games, but this is also a team that didn't have a single junior or senior in the starting lineup.
Not only will Balentine be one of the leading scorers in the country, but Evansville is officially a mid-major to watch. The Gulf Coast Showcase (Nov. 24-26) won't get much national attention, but those of us with a passion for bracketology will be closely watching that tournament with the likes of Evansville, East Carolina, Florida Gulf Coast and Green Bay.
No. 1 Point Guard: Keifer Sykes, Green Bay
2013-14 stats: 20.4 PPG, 49.7 eFG%, 57.3 TS%, 84.7 FT%, 39.8 3P%
Keifer Sykes' senior season is going to go in one of two directions.
Path A is one of regression. Playing without 7'1" Alec Brown, Sykes struggles to get into and score in the paint, instead choosing to rely on an unreliable three-point stroke. He scores a good number of points, but not quite as many as last season, and not with anywhere near the same level of efficiency.
Down Path B is a second-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft fueled by a fantastic season as the unequivocal alpha male at Green Bay. Instead of being crippled by Brown's departure, it turns out that Brown was just a crutch for Sykes all along, and he blossoms into a 24.5 PPG mid-major star thanks to a few extra field-goal attempts per game.
Based on his spot at No. 1, you can probably guess which of those routes we're expecting to see in 2014-15.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.