All-Arthur Team: Breaking down the top college basketball players by role

Keegan Murray, Iowa

Iowa’s Keegan Murray, Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji and Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe headline our first-ever All-Arthur Team.

What makes a good team? Good players of course, but even more than that, teams need players that can perform their specific role exceptionally well.

Those roles change from squad to squad, but there are still some generalizations that can be made. For instance, few would argue that a team is better off without a “floor general”-style point guard, or without a “brick wall”-style post defender.

With that idea in mind, last year we trotted out a piece on some of the best players in the country at these types of roles. The shortlists were built using Bart Torvik’s website, which allows users to sort through thousands of college basketball players by setting arbitrary thresholds for various statistics. We looked at five different “roles” and put out lists of 5-10 guys whose stats best fit the bill.

Because every good award has a name, we called these “arbitrary threshold” lists The Arthurs.

Well, The Arthurs are back this year, and this time we’re doing things a little differently. First off, we’re adding five new roles. Additionally, we’re actually selecting winners for the awards this time. Last year we just threw out the shortlists after six weeks; this time we’ve cooked up some arbitrary “Arthur scores” for each role in order to rank the finalists and determine the best player at each role.

Below are the 10 Arthur categories, along with their component statistics. The first five are the original roles we used last year, followed by the five new categories.

  • The Main Attraction – Usage (+), Offensive Rating (+), Effective FG Rate (+)
  • The Highlight Reel – Dunks (+), 3-Pointers Made (+), 3-Point Percentage (+)
  • The Floor General – Minutes Played (+), Assist Rate (+), Turnover Rate (-)
  • The Artillery Gunner – 3-Point Percentage (+), 3PA/Possession Rate (+)
  • The Brick Wall – Block Rate (+), Defensive BPM (+), Fouls Committed/40 (-)
  • The Swiss Army Knife – 2-Pointer% (+), 3-Pointer% (+), Assist% (+), Turnover% (-), Off. Rebound% (+), Def. Rebound% (+), Block% (+), Steal (+)
  • The Cutpurse – Steal Rate (+), Fouls Committed/40 (-)
  • The Junkyard Dog – Off. Rebound Rate (+), Def. Rebound Rate (+)
  • The Unicorn – Block Rate (+), 3-Pointers Made (+), Assist Rate (+)
  • The Secret Weapon – Minutes Played (-), Off. Rating (+), True Shooting % (+)

It probably sounds more complicated than it is, so I’ll stop babbling. Let’s jump in to see the winners who make up our midseason All-Arthur Team.

Duke’s AJ Griffin knows the best is yet to come
Purdue’s Stefanovic is thriving in a crucial role
—DPI: Game Predictions | 1-500 Player Rankings

The Main Attraction: Keegan Murray, Iowa

There has been plenty of ink spilled about Keegan Murray’s breakout this year, but now we’ve got some numbers to back this up. His over-30 usage rate and over-130 offensive rating is the stuff of video games. There’s supposed to be a major drop-off in efficiency once the possession start racking up; not so for Murray. His 3-point shooting may not be quite as good as some of the other guys on this list, but Murray is hitting nearly 70 percent of his 2-pointers. The other thing that isn’t accounted for here? Murray is racking up nearly 3.5 stocks per game, thanks to 1.9 blocks and 1.5 steals in each contest for the Hawkeyes. He truly is the main attraction.

The Highlight Reel: Ochai Agbaji, Kansas

Want some high-efficiency fireworks? Look no further than Ochai Agbaji, whose ability to hit the long ball pushes him over frequent flyers such as Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin. Despite all the offseason hubbub that said Arizona State transfer Remy Martin would be the show-stealer, Agbaji has been That Guy for Kansas to this point. It’s hard to imagine a better demo tape to send to NBA scouts, too, as the league remains predicated on offensive production. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, Agbaji still has a college season to finish. As it stands, the Jayhawks are among the handful of national championship contenders. With Martin struggling to reach his ceiling, Agbaji has stepped up into the spotlight for Kansas.

The Floor General: Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State

Though his teammate shows up on three of these shortlists, Stevens is the only Ram to take home a midseason Arthur Award. Incredibly, Stevens’ assist rate is nearly double that of Collin Gillespie, who has been one of the prime examples of a “floor general point guard” in his time at Villanova. Add to that the fact that the CSU point guard is extremely careful with the ball, and it’s not hard to understand why the Rams are still undefeated after 10 games. David Roddy gets more press than Isaiah Stevens, but that’s a discrepancy that should really be fixed. Stevens is, without a doubt, a top-five point guard nationally and may even be the nation’s best.

The Artillery Gunner: Kyle Foster, Howard

Our only HBCU entry on the midseason All-Arthur team, Kyle Foster has been lights out for the Bison through 10 D-1 games. The fifth-year guard has worked his way into the starting lineup after spending most of his career coming off the pine. It’s not hard to see why Kenny Blakeney is giving him more minutes: all Foster does is hit 3s. He is an even 50 percent on 70 attempts so far, and he has shot twice as many balls from beyond the arc as he has from inside. He has hit multiple 3-pointers in all 10 games against D-1 competition, including going a combined 12-for-21 from deep in the Bison’s two toughest contests so far, against Villanova and Georgetown.

The Brick Wall: Walker Kessler, Auburn

One of the more polarizing transfers of this past offseason, Kessler has quieted all the doubters after just a few weeks. The big man with the sweet stroke showed out well as a freshman at UNC, but he rankled some feathers when he bolted for Auburn. Bruce Pearl is not among the ruffled-feathers crowd, surely, as Kessler has blossomed into one of the country’s premier post defenders. His ability to swat every shot without fouling is incredibly vital. Players like Christian Koloko and Mark Williams may be more talented shot-blockers, but Kessler keeps himself on the court — and as the old saying goes, “the best ability is availability.”

The Swiss Army Knife: Orlando Robinson, Fresno State

If the best ability is availability, then the best “-atility” is versatility. Need a guy who can do everything? Orlando Robinson is your guy. A seven-footer, Robinson is lithe and quick and absolutely venomous on both ends of the court. He seriously does it all: he’s a terrorizing defender on the block; he’s efficient around the basket; he can shoot the 3-pointer (36.4 percent on 33 attempts); he can rebound on both ends; he passes well (21.8 assist rate) and doesn’t cough it up (15.3 turnover rate). He is a matchup nightmare for most Mountain West teams, too, so expect these kinds of numbers to continue all the way through league play.

The Junkyard Dog: Oscar Tshiebwe, Kentucky

Players don’t become good rebounders by accident. It takes will, work ethic and a tireless motor. In what was probably the easiest award to guess, Oscar Tshiebwe is our first-ever Junkyard Dog. Currently, only one other player in the country (Norchad Omier of Arkansas State) has an offensive rebound rate over 20 and a defensive rebound rate over 30. But Tshiebwe has gone above and beyond, making rebounds cool again in his first season with Kentucky. The third-year big man has hit the 20-rebound mark three times already this season, including grabbing an incredible 28 against Western Kentucky in the team’s last game on Dec. 22.

The Cutpurse: Jacob Gilyard, Richmond

OK, I take it back: maybe Tshiebwe wasn’t the most obvious choice for the Arthurs. Gilyard, who broke the NCAA career steals record this year, was another very obvious frontrunner for Arthur love. There is a lot more to Gilyard’s game than just steals, to be sure, but the fact remains that there’s never been a better pickpocket in college hoops history. Perhaps the most impressive part of his thievery is that he does it so gracefully. Of our six finalists for the Cutpurse role, Gilyard is the only one to average fewer than two fouls per 40 minutes. That allows him to stay on the court longer, which is why he’s also the only one on this list playing such heavy minutes.

The Unicorn: Pete Nance, Northwestern

While the last two awards had pretty clear-cut winners, this one was a pretty big shocker. When designing this short list, I honestly assumed Chet Holmgren would float right to the top. However, thanks to elite passing and shooting numbers, the truest analog to the mythical horned horse is Pete Nance. The Northwestern big man is also solid on the defensive end, posting top-50 numbers for block rate and defensive rebounding. His offensive contributions, though, are what really set him apart. Need more proof that Nance is special? The senior big is shooting 85 percent from the free throw line, the best mark of any player on this list.

The Secret Weapon: Immanuel Allen, Abilene Christian

Bench production is often the difference between wins and losses, and perhaps no bench player has been more of a difference-maker than Immanuel Allen. In his second season for ACU, the JUCO product has never started a game for the Wildcats — and he might not ever need to do so. Allen is 11-of-18 from deep on the year, including 8-of-11 aginst D-1 competition. He also contributes on the defensive side, racking up multiple steals in five games so far. Another underrated bit of value? Allen has a top-50 rate for drawing fouls, which is a big part of the reason that the Wildcats currently have the fifth-highest free throw rate in the country.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the last of our 10 midseason All-Arthur winners. Here’s a summary of the full roster:

We’ll check back in on these again later in the season, but for now, let’s hear it for the 10 men who have reached some completely arbitrary heights thus far.

Header image courtesy of Iowa Athletics.