KU's Devonte' Graham tossed into early player of the year chatter
The most popular theory circulating among fans of the Kansas men’s basketball program says that point guard Devonte’ Graham returned to KU for his senior season to take the reins from Frank Mason III and make his own run at national player of the year honors.
At least one publication believes that scenario is entirely possible.
Attempting to pinpoint the preseason picks for national player of the year during the upcoming 2017-18 college basketball season, Chris Johnson, of SI.com, recently tossed Graham into his first tier, labeled “The Favorites.”
Graham was joined by Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Arizona’s Allonzo Trier and Duke’s Grayson Allen.
“Last season Graham played second fiddle to the senior guard who swept the national player of the year awards, Frank Mason,” Johnson wrote. “Mason’s departure, as well as that of lottery-bound freshman forward Josh Jackson, should enable Graham to spread his wings as a featured scorer and lead playmaker while piloting a team that’s heavily favored to take home at least a share of its 14th consecutive Big 12 championship.”
Johnson projects Graham’s senior stats to look something like this — 15.8 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 4.3 assists per game.
While those numbers are a notch below what Mason was able to produce last season — 20.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.2 apg — they speak to a similar impact, with Graham both scoring and setting up teammates to do the same while chipping in on the glass and on defense.
Beyond that, Johnson’s projections and lofty praise are based on the fact that Graham’s minutes and points per game increased during each of his first three seasons at KU.
“Our model likes Graham to continue his positive year-over-year trend in scoring efficiency, and he’s a good bet to shoulder one of the heaviest minutes loads in the conference,” Johnson wrote. “The biggest cause for hesitation with Graham involves one of his teammates: The more times Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman calls his own number, the fewer shots there will be for Graham to take.”
While those four were listed as the favorites, Johnson’s list featured six other names broken into two more tiers.
The “Challengers” included Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Jalen Brunson (Villanova), Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), and Joel Berry II (North Carolina). The “Don’t Overlook These Guys” tier included Trevon Bluiett (Xavier) and Jock Landale (Saint Mary’s).