Wooden Award Watch: Is Buddy Hield the Frontrunner?

As conference play kicks off, how does Hield compare to his peers in the player of the year conversation?

Now roughly 15 games into the college basketball season, we're starting to see who the championship contenders and pretenders really are.

With a decent sample size now before us, we can also see which players make up college basketball's cream of the crop.

A lot of people would tell you straight up that Ben Simmons is the best player in college basketball. In terms of raw skill and NBA potential, they're probably right. However, when looking at possible Wooden Award candidates, it's not just about the skill -- it's about what you do with it.

Do you produce for your team? More importantly, do you help your team win games? After all, that's what Coach Wooden was all about.

With that in mind, I came up with a simple formula in order to produce an accurate (albeit not foolproof) list of the top candidates for this year's coveted John R. Wooden Award.

I combined each player's Player Efficiency Rating and Win Shares (courtesy of and added that figure to their team's total nERD, which is our in-house metric that measures overall efficiency and acts as an estimate of a team's score differential against an average team on a neutral court.

My reasoning for using these three advanced stats? It's pretty simple. This formula represents a player's overall efficiency and influence on team success while also taking into consideration his team's success.

At least in my opinion, the numbers spit out a very accurate watch list of Wooden Award candidates. 

Check it out for yourself!

Player PER Win Shares Team nERD Total
Buddy Hield 31.5 3.2 19.80 54.50
Brice Johnson 34.2 3.2 16.97 54.37
A.J. Hammons 32.3 2.0 18.43 52.73
Daniel Ochefu 30.5 2.4 19.03 51.93
Jarrod Uthoff 31.1 2.7 16.25 50.05
Jakob Poeltl 36.2 2.9 8.88 47.98
Wayne Selden 24.9 2.5 19.99 47.39
Domantas Sabonis 31.8 3.3 11.57 46.67
Ben Simmons 35.2 3.5 7.20 45.90
Kris Dunn 33.3 2.7 9.37 45.37

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma's outstanding senior, not only tops this list but comes in second in the nation in points per game (26.3), seventh in three-point percentage (50%) and seventh in Offensive Win Shares (2.4). He's one of the clear frontrunners at this point in the season thanks to his 46-point game in Oklahoma's only loss of the season at Kansas in triple overtime Monday night.

Brice Johnson's great play as of late has sprung him up the leaderboard. Since losing to Texas on December 12th, Johnson has averaged 21 points and 12.4 rebounds per contest and has had at least 15 points and 9 boards in all but one of his past seven games. He punctuated his great run with 39 points and 23 rebounds in a win against Florida State.

According to the numbers, Purdue has quietly become one of the best teams in the country. They're seventh in Ken Pomeroy's Basketball Ratings -- with the nation's best defense in terms of Adjusted Defensive Rating -- and fifth in our very own rankings. The biggest reason why is A.J. Hammons and his 13.9 points, 8 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He's a force on both ends of the floor and has the Boilermakers playing some great basketball.

As you move down the list you see names like Jakob Poeltl, Domantas Sabonis, Ben Simmons and Kris Dunn. All of these players are considered first-round draft picks, some higher than others. Simmons and Poeltl might be two of the best NBA prospects for this year's upcoming draft, but their teams aren't title contenders, so I don't see them making a serious push for player of the year honors.

Wayne Selden has the lowest Player Efficiency Rating by over five points. However, what he has going for him is a 13-1 record, of which he's contributed 2.5 wins to go with his 15.9 points and Effective Field Goal Percentage of 68.6%. Who can argue with that?