Photo by Allan Johnstone
Oregon Basketball

Season Superlatives

March 30, 2019

Now that the men's basketball season is officially over, it’s time to hand out this season’s superlatives, including: Most Valuable Player, Most Improved Player and the Sixth Man Award. 

There were some hard choices and close calls but I’ve made my choices below.

Without further ado, let’s just get right into it. 

Most Valuable Player

This decision was more difficult than I had originally thought. Payton Pritchard seems like the obvious choice because of how he led this team, but after thinking about it there is also a strong case that could be made for Francis Okoro. After all, it was his positive energy and team-first attitude that according to everyone shifted the tide. 

Even though I don’t doubt that Okoro changed this team’s momentum, I have to give the MVP award to Pritchard for the simple reason that without him this team would be completely different.

Pritchard averaged 13 points and 4.6 assists a game over the season, but he bumped those numbers up in the Ducks' seven postseason games to 16 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds. Going into the final game, he was also scoring or assisting on more than 50% of the Ducks' points in that same time frame.

But just as important as those stats is the fact that Pritchard was the Oregon's main ball handler. Sure, players like Paul White, Ehab Amin and Will Richardson could all handle the ball for short stretches, but nobody did it better or to greater effect than Pritchard.

Without Pritchard, the ball movement would have suffered dramatically. 

Most Improved Player

This award could be seen as rewarding either season-to-season gains or improvement over the course of the current year. I decided that I wanted to honor strides taken in the same year.

If I had decided to do season to season, I would have eventually gotten to a point where I couldn’t decide between White and Kenny Wooten. Both improved their play in different ways from last season to now.

By choosing to stay within the 2018-19 season, it gave me a pretty clear winner: Louis King. 

The highly touted freshman’s season started a little bit late because he was still recovering from knee surgery. But once King got on the court, his improvements could be seen game to game. 

You don’t even need to look at the stats to know that King’s game improved with every game that he played. But if you do take a deep dive into the numbers, the stats back that up. In his first seven games back from injury he was clearly getting used to the speed of college basketball but after that his numbers started to climb and climb. Over the next 25 games King only had three games where he scored in single digits, if that’s not Most Improved Player kind of numbers I don’t know what is.

King's game still has a long way to develop, which is why I think he would really benefit from another year at the collegiate level. But there is no denying that King had the most obvious improvement over the season. 


Sixth Man of the Year

There are arguments that could be made for either Amin or Okoro. After all, they both had good seasons. But unfortunately, I'm not handing out a Seventh Man Award.. 

This might come as a surprise to some people, but for me the Sixth Man of the Year is Okoro.

I know that Okoro finished the season as a starter, but I would still classify him as a sixth man based on minutes played. He played most of the year off the bench and rose to that starting position because of his performances and attitude.

Nobody likes Amin more than me, and I think that he proved to everybody what kind of a baller he was in the postseason. But when I stack everything up, Okoro just edges him out.

You could totally disagree with me and say that Okoro isn’t technically a substitute; I wouldn’t argue. And in that case, Amin is the clear winner. I just couldn’t NOT give it to Okoro.

This really came down to a coin flip. But I think that Okoro’s positive, team-first leadership is what set him apart. Just look how much good he did for the team.

Both Amin and Okoro contributed in their own way offensively and defensively. But it's what Okoro did off the court that gives him the edge.

You are certainly entitled to your own opinion, so let me know what you think in the comment section down below.

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