The 5 Most Valuable Freshmen in College Basketball
Ben Simmons has successfully made the transition from college basketball’s most hyped freshman to one of its best players, period.
LSU’s first-year point forward is averaging 20.3 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Simmons has been worth 3.8 win shares this season, which is tied for fourth in the country and first among high-major conference players, according to Sports-Reference.com. Win shares is box score statistic that estimates a player’s total value based on his offensive and defensive contributions.
He also leads all freshmen in win shares by a considerable margin, besting Eastern Michigan’s James Thompson IV by 0.7 wins and Duke’s Brandon Ingram by 0.9.
Here is a closer look at Simmons, Ingram, and the rest of the power conference’s most valuable freshmen, ranked by descending win shares.
Ben Simmons, Forward, LSU
Win Shares: 3.8
Simmons is playing his way into being the first pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and, as mentioned, his per game stats don’t even tell the full story as to why.
The 6'10'' Australian is shooting 57.4% from the field, is 10th in the nation in free throw attempts, and is shooting 75.0% from the charity stripe, good for a 62.9% true shooting percentage.
He has also assisted 29.8% of his teammates field goals when he has been on the floor, and has posted an 11.2% offensive rebound rate, marks which both rank eighth in the SEC.
These factors culminate in a 127.2 offensive rating, making him one of 17 players in the country with an offensive rating greater than 127.0 and a usage rate higher than 25.0%.
Defensively, Simmons’ 27.6 defensive rebound rate leads the SEC and his 3.0% steal rate is ninth in the conference, helping contribute to a 93.4 defensive rating.
Brandon Ingram, Forward, Duke
Win Shares: 2.9
Ingram is a tall guy who can shoot. Seems like a good combination.
The 6'9'' frosh is 33-for-84 (39.3%) from three-point range, and is 31-for-63 (49.2%) on two-point jump shots, according to Hoop-Math.
Overall, Ingram is shooting 48.3%, and once we adjust this for his three-point shooting, we get a 56.3% effective field goal percentage.
His 122.4 offensive rating is fifth among high-major conference freshmen with a usage rate of at least 24.0%, trailing Simmons, FSU’s Malik Beasley (who we’ll get to), Wake Forest’s John Collins, and Maryland’s Diamond Stone (who we’ll also get to).
On a per game basis, Ingram is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.8 steals.
Ivan Rabb, Forward, California
Win Shares: 2.7
Unlike Simmons and Ingram, Rabb is more of a conventional big man, but has still been incredibly efficient.
He shooting 64.1% from the field, including 79.7% at the rim (per Hoop-Math), and is also shooting 76.6% from the free throw line, helping him post the Pac-12 second best true shooting percentage (67.2%).
Rabb has also been a force on the glass on both ends of the court, as his 13.0% offensive rebound rate and 22.1% defensive rebound rebound rate ranks third and seventh in the conference, respectively.
In terms of PER, he has been the conference’s fifth most efficient player, and in terms of win shares per 40 minutes (which, unlike PER, includes defense), he has the Pac-12 fourth-most efficient player.
Malik Beasley, Guard, Florida State
Win Shares: 2.5
This year’s most valuable freshman guard can beat opponents in a number of ways, and his 17.1 points per game ranks sixth in the ACC.
He has been an above average shooter at the rim, on two-point jumpers, and three-point shots, per Hoop-Math, and has excelled at getting to the free throw line, averaging .384 free throw attempts per field goal.
This is an especially good thing, given he is shooting 84.9% on free throws.
In terms of overall efficiency, Beasley is recording a 25.0 PER and 125.9 offensive rating, which ranks seventh among ACC players with a usage rate of at least 24%.
Diamond Stone, Forward/Center, Maryland
Win Shares: 2.4
Not only has Stone been a force for Maryland, he has perhaps been the No. 3 in the country’s most efficient player.
He leads the Terps in win shares per 40 minutes (.256) and PER (30.3), and is tied with Jake Layman with a 54.3% true shooting percentage.
Despite his 6'11'', 255-pound frame, Stone has been an adept mid-range shooter, as he is 26-for-60 (43.3%) on two-point jumpers. He has attempted his other 86 shots at the rim, where he is shooting 71.4%.
The Wisconsin native’s 15.8% offensive rebounding rate leads the Big Ten, as does his 29.3 usage rate.
Cal’s Jaylen Brown is the only freshman in a high major conference with a higher usage rate, but he has been considerably less efficient (his offensive rating is 100.7).
The scariest thing, though, might be that Stone is getting better as the competition is getting tougher. His points per game average (19.4), field goal percentage (66.0%), and win shares per 40 rate (.358) in conference play are all better than his overall season rates (13.6, 59.7%, .256).
Look out, Big Ten.