Why Not Frank Kaminsky as Big Ten Player of the Year?Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 25th, 2014
As the saying goes, “basketball is a game of runs.” This season’s Wisconsin team is a prime example of that notion. The Badgers started the season with 16 straight wins, including impressive victories over Florida and Virginia. Then they hit a midseason lull to lose five of six games, dropping their conference record to a middling 4-5 by the start of February. After winning its last five games, Wisconsin appears to have righted the ship. Through it all, it has been seven-foot junior Frank Kaminsky who has remained consistently effective during the ups and downs. Lately, he’s also added “clutch performer” to his resume. On Saturday, the junior big man scored 20 points at Iowa, including two key baskets to build a lead and some clutch free throws to seal the game away. Kaminsky has not only led his team back to a placement in the top three of the standings, he’s also leading the league in terms of overall efficiency.
Back in November, fellow Big Ten microsite writer Brendan Brody wrote that Kaminsky could follow in the footsteps of former Badger Jared Berggren and other bigs in Bo Ryan’s system by taking a significant leap in production with his expanded role. Hopes were already high because of returning starters Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, and Sam Dekker; but Kaminsky, a three-star prospect who had provided spot duty for two seasons in Madison, was regarded as the unknown commodity in the starting lineup. He had shown some indications that he was capable of taking on a bigger role, but his capabilities were regarded as suitable for a “pick-and-pop” forward most typical of Wisconsin’s big men. With the departures of Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz from last year’s team, there was also significant concern that Kaminsky would not be a reliable rebounding presence on the blocks. He’s done nothing but blown all of these misconceptions out of the water, exhibiting a developed footwork skill set that has allowed him to score either directly under the basket or create a layup from 10 feet away. When Bo Ryan needs a bucket now, he instructs his players to get the ball to Kaminsky on the blocks.
Kaminsky’s season has been nothing short of outstanding and may warrant consideration as the Big Ten Player of the Year. While his 13.6 PPG average is short of what is normally expected from a POY candidate, a deeper look into his overall numbers reveals just how effective he’s been in all facets of the game. Let’s begin with his offense, where he’s averaging a superb 1.32 points per possession (first in conference), shoots 71.6 percent under the rim, 47.8 percent on two-point jumpers, and 41 percent from deep. On the rebounding front, Kaminsky is even better than his 6.3 RPG suggests, as evidenced by his offensive rebounding percentage of 10.3 percent (fifth in conference) and total rebounding percentage of 14.7 percent (also fifth). Finally, while not an elite defender, Kaminsky more than holds his own in this area – he’s very good in Bo Ryan’s man-to-man defense, quickly capable of switching and defending the weak side. He holds his opponents to 0.98 points per possession and has a block percentage of 6.0 percent (seventh in the conference). Kaminsky has transformed himself to a premier all-around big man, as illustrated by his league-leading Player Efficiency Rating of 29.7.
So, why isn’t Kaminsky in more discussions for Big Ten POY? There’s a whole precedent of players who were not necessarily offensive juggernauts, but who provided elite contributions in other facets of the game. (Most recently, Anthony Davis won SEC and NPOY in 2012.) What Wisconsin’s big man does well is score efficiently from all areas of the court. Because he is in a system that requires sharing the ball, he does not get many opportunities to post huge numbers. Still, Kaminsky’s offensive and defensive numbers and the team’s overall success suggests that he deserves a look — he has had the most positive influence on his team winning Big Ten games than any other player in the league this season. It’s time we start talking about him as special player around Big Ten circles rather than just a surprising one.