Editor’s Note: This week, we’ll be making the case for each of the top five finalists for national player of the year. Coming Tuesday: Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Creighton’s Doug McDermott. Wednesday: Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke.
Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk may not get as much attention as some of the other top Wooden Award candidates, but statistically he is as valuable as any player in the country.
Among Division I players this season, Olynyk has the highest Player Efficiency Rating (which is the overall rating of a player's per-minute statistical production) and ranks third in Win Shares (which estimates of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense). Olynyk’s 8.6 Win Shares are the highest among the Wooden Award finalists.
Highest Player Efficiency Rating
Division I, This Season
A year removed from a redshirt season, Olynyk ranks third in the country in field goal percentage and leads the country in true shooting percentage. True shooting percentage is a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals and free throws. Olynyk is on pace for the highest true shooting percentage by any Division I player since Belmont's Adam Mark (72.5) in 2001-02.
Some might argue that Olynyk isn’t prolific enough as a scorer to win the Wooden Award, but that's not true. He averages nearly the same amount of points per 40 minutes as the leading scorer in the country, Virginia Tech's Erick Green.
Olynyk doesn't play as many minutes per game (25.7) as some other Wooden Award finalists. He ranks fourth in the country in points per 40 minutes (27.2). McDermott, Northwestern State’s DeQuan Hicks and Green are the only players who score more often than Olynyk.
Olynyk also is one of three players in the last 30 seasons to average 25 points and 10 rebounds per 40 minutes and shoot 65 percent from the field and 75 percent from the free throw line. The others are Duke's Carlos Boozer (2001-02) and UNLV's Larry Johnson (1990-91).
If he wins the award, Olynyk's 65.2 field goal percentage would be the second highest by a Wooden Award winner behind 1990 winner Larry Johnson (66.2 percent).
Most Win Shares This Season
Why is Olynyk so effective?
He averages at least one point per play for seven different play types (post-up, cut, pick-and-roll roll man, spot-up, transition, isolation, offensive rebound put-backs). He excels against man defenses, averaging 1.13 points per play (second highest in Division I, minimum 300 plays) and shoots 63.8 percent (highest in Division I, minimum 300 plays).
The Gonzaga 7-footer would be the first player from the West Coast Conference to win the Wooden Award. The last player from a school in the Pacific Time Zone to win the award was UCLA’s Ed O'Bannon in 1994-95. Olynyk would also be the first Canadian to win the Wooden Award.