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Making the Case: Jerian Grant for ACC PoY

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On the heels of an incredible senior night, One Foot Down lays out the case for Jerian Grant winning the Atlantic Coast Conference's Player of the Year award.

And this wasn't even close to his best dunk on the season
And this wasn't even close to his best dunk on the season
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Our friends at FIDM put together a fantastic page detailing the remarkable contributions of Jerian Grant in his final season with Notre Dame basketball. Go check it out here, then come back, we'll wait...

The talented fifth-year senior has been instrumental to the turnaround of Notre Dame's performance in their second ACC campaign. After going 15-17 (6-12) last year, the Irish now sit at 26-5 (14-4). Grant is a candidate for every major college basketball award this spring, but in this post, I'm going to focus on his candidacy for the ACC Player of the Year award. I chose that focus because it eliminates a lot of other variables from the equation, specifically Wisconsin center Frank Kaminsky, and boils it down to a 2 man race with presumptive favorite, Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor.

I will make no argument that NBA general managers should look at Grant ahead of Okafor in spring's NBA draft (although James Harden might be making that case for me). Instead, I'll ask you to identify the best player on the most surprisingly successful team in the ACC and award the ACC PoY award not on draft potential or best player in Carolina or Duke blue, but rather on the most valuable man to a winning team.

The crux of my argument is simply this: Jerian Grant is the best player on the team that will finished third in the league. Grant is the engine that drove a team that had 12 ACC losses last year to 14 ACC victories this year. As the unquestioned leader of the third place team in the ACC, Grant represents the league's most outstanding player.

Quantitative Case:

Jerian Grant leads the ACC in assists and is fifth in points scored. Overall, he's produced 579 points to lead the league, 17 more than Oliver Hanlan has for 3-14 Boston College. That's also 81 more points than Okafor has produced for Duke. Jerian Grant has played more minutes than anyone in the ACC other than Syracuse's Trevor Cooney, and his team finished the season a single game behind second place Duke after splitting the season series with the Blue Devils. In addition to doling out the most assists, Grant scored the 2nd most FT's in the league, combining his knack for getting to the rim with an outstanding .754 FT shooting percentage. From the floor, Grant's .558 eFG on the season is second among ACC guards, trailing only Okafor's teammate Quinn Cook. Grant also owns the highest player efficiency rating (PER) among ACC guards, trailing Okafor's 30.8 PER by only 3.9, which is tremendous for a guard who's played nearly every minute of every game and is the team's primary ball handler. Grant's overall 127.5 offensive rating (ORTG) trails only Duke's starting back court of Cook and Tyus Jones, and is 6.5 points higher than Okafor's. Grant is 2nd in the ACC in steals with 56, showing a significant defensive value to the Irish, and it isn't as thought Okafor's strength is his defense. If you combine steals plus blocks, Grant's 73 is significantly ahead of Okafor's 64.

Most importantly, Jerian Grant leads the ACC in win shares at 6.6. He's a full 0.8 win shares clear of second place Montrezl Harrell from Louisville and 1.1 clear of Okafor. Isn't that the purpose? Isn't that the most valuable player, the guy who delivers wins for his team? A "win share" is a statistical measure of an individual's overall contribution to a team win. A full technical analysis of the statistic and sample calculations can be found here.

The advanced metrics place Grant more than a whole victory more valuable to ND this season that Okafor has been for the loaded Blue Devils. That happens to be 0.1 more than Duke finished ahead of ND in the ACC standings.

Qualitative Case:

No one has more individual value for their team in the league, save BC's Hanlan, than Grant has for Notre Dame. Quinn Cook's presence on the leaderboard of multiple ACC statistics underlies the relative importance Grant has for ND. While Grant's teammates Demetrius Jackson, Pat Connaughton and Zach Auguste do appear here and there on statistical leader boards, Cook and Tyus Jones are near the top of many ACC categories.

Let me put it differently. Jerian Grant has a single teammate that was named a McDonald's High School All-American (Jackson). In Jahlil Okafor's 922 minutes played this season (209 fewer than Grant, 5 full GAMES worth), not a single one of them was played alongside fewer than four fellow HS All-Americans. Quinn Cook, Rasheed Suilamon, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Marshall Plumlee, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, and Grayson Allen were all honorees. Allow me to put this simply. Okafor was part of an incredibly stacked squad. Every single player that saw the floor for Duke this season was an McDonald's All American and they finished one single game above ND in the ACC standings and split the season series. Okafor wasn't required to carry his team, he didn't have the ball every possession and generate the lion share of Duke offense, he was a cog in a big blue machine. Jerian Grant wasn't just a cog. He was the engine that drove the Irish.

Credit to Tom Noie for this insight:

Then, of course, you have stuff like this:

and

It is really very simple, the Irish are one of the most formidable offensive teams in the country, and Jerian Grant is the primary ball handler and most potent scorer and assist man in that attack. There is no one else who is asked to do more for any top 20 team in the country.

Sentimental Case:

Jerian Grant represents what is right about college basketball. He has improved and matured every season in South Bend. Grant withstood a crushing blow when an academic misstep caused him a season away from his teammates last year, and he handled it with class and grace. He didn't pout, he didn't leave, he didn't cry foul, and he didn't go running off to somewhere with lower academic standards. He challenged himself to finish what he started, and he'll walk away from Notre Dame holding both a degree and an NBA draft position. It doesn't have to be a mutually exclusive proposition.

I understand that the ACC media ballot boxes will be stuffed by the tradition of anointing the best player in Carolina or Duke blue as the PoY. Of course, the ongoing sentiment that Notre Dame is only "half" in the ACC will also hurt Grant's PoY candidacy among the fairly closed loop that is ACC media (Noie, the SBT beat writer does not get a vote). However, all of us who are invested in Notre Dame basketball know who the true ACC Player of the Year has been this season, and we should all take a moment to thank Jerian Grant for his perseverance and relentless work to improve himself while in an Irish uniform. Even if the ACC media can't see it, we know the quality of the man, and we can't wait to see him represent Notre Dame as a proud and productive alum.