Over 1,500 college basketball players have hit the transfer portal this offseason. Here are the 10 guards that produced the most offense last year.
How many times have you been told that “guard play matters” in college basketball? Outside of “the bubble,” these words might make up the most-uttered phrase during the months of February and March.
Well, that’s because it does matter. Look at the NCAA Tournament we just had: Fairleigh Dickinson upset Purdue because its guards played better, while perimeter production led each of FAU, Miami and San Diego State to the first Final Four appearance in school history. More than that, those teams all had players that could create offense outside of a set play, which is a vital part of success in today’s game.
Despite the growing understanding that offensive creation is vital to success, there hasn’t been a great way to quantify which players are especially skilled in that department — at least, not until now. To address this issue, I have created a metric called Individual Offensive Impact (IOI) in hopes of capturing how much offense an individual player creates. This is done by taking a look at a number of factors including assist rate, free throw rate and unassisted shooting percentage. I’ve also adjusted IOI for usage, minutes and strength of schedule.
The goal is to distill a player’s offensive impact into a single number. It is not meant to decide who the best players are, as defense is not taken into account whatsoever, nor are other factors that go into leading a successful team. Simply put, the IOI just tries to identify the most productive “creators” in college basketball.
For context, the 20.0-25.0 range is the rough average of guards around the country. Anything over 40.0 is generally indicative of a player capable of carrying a team’s offense when he’s on the court. Kansas State star Markquis Nowell posted an IOI rating of 42.3 last season, while Kendric Davis led the country with a 48.4 rating at Memphis. Anything over 50.0 is rare – but the highest rating ever recorded was 61.3 by Kemba Walker in the 2010-11 season.
With the IOI in hand, we can see that a number of high-level creators entered the transfer portal this offseason. Notably, nearly all of those creators who have committed so far have been “up-transfers,” with their new programs hoping they can have the same kind of impact in 2023-24.
Here’s a look at the top 10 guards to hit the transfer portal this year, ranked by their IOI scores.
10. Demarcus Sharp, Northwestern State (committed to Austin Peay) – 34.8
Sharp followed Corey Gipson from Missouri State to Northwestern State last offseason, and it paid off in a big way for both the Demons and the talented 6-3 guard. A role player during his first two collegiate seasons with the Bears, Gipson made Sharp the focal point of Northwestern State’s offensive attack last season. Sharp ended up winning Southland Player of the Year after averaging 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor and 54.7 percent from three.
A good spot-up shooter, Sharp did most of his damage in isolation and ball-screen sets. Nearly 40 percent of his made shots were unassisted, which, when coupled with his efficient shooting splits, shows just how effective he was at generating his own offense. The video above shows how he effortlessly utilizes an array of step-backs and pull-up jumpers to keep defenders off-balance, and he doesn’t shy away from contact when attacking the rim.
Sharp is following Gipson again, this time to Austin Peay, so expect the star guard to play a similar role for the Govs. He’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot and, as Sharp noted when announcing his transfer, will be put in the same positions in Gipson’s offense.
“Coach Gipson is family on top of everything else,” Sharp said. “He’ll keep putting me in advantageous positions so I can achieve my goals and succeed. He only wants the best for me and my upcoming colleagues. Also, he shapes us all to be successful, which is why Austin Peay was the best choice for me.”
9. Dayvion mcKnight, Western Kentucky (committed to xavier) – 36.4
McKnight was a bright spot in an otherwise underwhelming season for Western Kentucky, leading the team in points, assists and steals while earning All-CUSA Second Team honors. It was the second-straight season that he was an all-conference honoree after making the first team in 2021-22.
While his assist numbers dipped from a season ago, WKU still relied on the 6-1, 195-pounder to create a majority of its offense off the bounce. McKnight excels attacking downhill off a ball screen and reading help defenders, diagnosing if he should continue to the rim, pull up for one of his crafty floaters or find an open teammate.
McKnight is headed to Xavier, where he is expected to fill the lead guard role left by Souley Boum, who blossomed into one of the Big East’s better creators in head coach Sean Miller’s offense. A lot of Boum’s success also came from his ability to execute off of ball screens, which should help in his transition.
“I feel it’s a great fit for me,” McKnight told On3’s Joe Tipton. “Being in the Big East, one of the best conferences in the country, and being able to play for a point guard head coach. I feel Xavier will make me a better player and person.”
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