JAG For A-10 POY: The Numbers Say There’s No Debate

Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson

The Atlantic 10 regular season has come to a close, with VCU securing the regular season championship. Now, before the fun gets going in Brooklyn, the biggest question remaining: Who will take home A10 Player of the Year honors? Several players have had noteworthy seasons, including Javon Bess (Saint Louis), Marcus Evans (VCU), Josh Cunningham (Dayton), Justin Kier (George Mason), and Sincere Carry (Duquesne). Each of them has their own legitimate cases for the conference’s top individual honor. No player, though, has meant more to his team and had a more universal impact than Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson, and a look at Game Score in the A10 all but guarantees his crowning as 2018-19 Player of the Year.

Created by John Hollinger, Game Score is a single number representing a player’s all-around performance in a single game, taking into account each stat in the box score. The stat is calculated as follows:  

GS=PTS+ .4FGM – .7FGA – .4(FTA-FTM) + .7OREB + .3DREB + STL + .7AST + .7BLK – .4PF – TO

Note that this metric gives the most weight to points, steals, and turnovers, which are arguably the most productive offensive and defensive stats.

What is a good Game Score, then? The NCAA D-1 average is about 4.2, and the A-10 average comes out around 4. A Game Score of 4, though, indicates a fairly mediocre performance. A good performance would be a score of at least 10, which is in the 90th percentile of all NCAA players, and a great performance would be a score of at least 16, which is in the 99th percentile. The best players put up even better numbers. Duke’s Zion Williamson averages an astounding 21.45 Game Score per game, and the highest average Game Score (as of March 3) belongs to NCAA bound Murray State’s Ja Morant, whose average is a 22.01 Game Score per game.

Aside from being an easy way to judge a player’s overall single-game performance, Game Score can have several practical uses. For example, when plotted against average minutes played per game, one can analyze if a player’s ability justifies his playing time. Players farther above the trendline can be considered underutilized and worthy of more playing time (with the exception of Ja Morant, who already plays over 36 minutes per game), as they produce at an above-average level in less time than other players. On the other hand, players well below the trendline, especially those to the right of the NCAA average for minutes played, can be considered overutilized.

Mouse over a team’s logo to find Game Score versus minutes played for a particular player on the team. The best players are found on the top right of the chart, and the not so good on the bottom left. Players with high y-values are outperforming their minutes, and those with low y-values are underperforming.

We can then take this information and assign an efficiency score to players by dividing their average Game Score per game by the average number of minutes played. Among players from over 14 different conferences who play at least 5 minutes per game, NC State’s Ian Steere claims the title as college basketball’s most efficient player with a 1.06 efficiency score. He’s followed by Duke’s Zion Williamson, who has a .761 score, and ETSU’s Octavion Corley, who has a .741 score. Ja Morant ranks 6th with a .606 score.

As of March 6, here is JAG’s dominant perch atop the rest of the A10.

Gudmundsson has recorded a Game Score of at least 20 in nine games this year. NINE. Keep in mind, a score of 20 is indicative of an elite performance, so Jon Axel has put up an elite number in over a quarter of the games he’s played this year. Marcus Evans, Josh Cunningham, Justin Kier, and Sincere Carry COMBINE for TEN games with a Game Score of at least 20. Scoring points and contributing significantly on offense gets you noticed, certainly, as players like Charlie Brown and Obi Toppin can confirm, but when it comes down to being the best player on the floor, one must be present on both sides of the court. The truth is that no one in the Player of the Year conversation even comes close to matching Gudmundsson’s consistent dominance. Another point for JAG.

Game Score paints a clear picture that Jon Axel Gudmundsson is the most complete player in the A10 this year. Looking at the individual numbers, it gets even more clear. He plays an excellent, diverse game on offense, both scoring himself and creating chances for others. He’s 3rd  in the conference in points per game (17.2) and 4th in total assists (146). His constant production puts him number one in the league in points produced per game. His presence on offense puts him to the free throw line on a consistent basis, as JAG leads the A10 in free throws made (145), and has the 4th  best free throw percentage (82.4%). On defense, he’s just as strong: he leads the A10 in defensive rebounds with 204 (he’s 5th in total rebounds) and is 4th in defensive win shares among all A10 players. JAG is 1st in overall win shares by FAR (he has 6.1, the next closest is SLU’s Javon Bess with 4.9). No player in the conference can claim a top-5 standing in points per game, assists, free throws made, and total rebounds except Jon Axel Gudmundsson. He truly does it all. Game, set, match.

JAG is the best player in the Atlantic 10 this year hands down. There is no comparison to his level of offensive and defensive presence, and both the eye test and the numbers test can prove it. He contributes to every aspect of every game, and his Game Score shows it. At what point should JAG be talked about on a national scale? His nine 20+ Game Score performances have something to say about that. The first step, though, is being awarded A10 Player of the Year, which should almost certainly be a lock for our Icelandic star.

Want to explore our graph for other players? Try the Tableau graph below.

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