I'm not usually a huge fan of snubs lists because they imply that the person writing the lists is somehow more knowledgeable than a group of 30+ voters. When I took graduate statistics, I was taught that a sample size of 30 or more was usually just enough to have faith in the results. Thus, it's difficult to argue against the results of the voting from a group this size. But I do wonder if the voters collectively undervalued the play of Terell Parks, the junior center for Western Illinois and one of the few big men in the conference to have a strong 2011-12 campaign. Using a combination of stats and sights, my case:
Parks came to WIU this year by way of junior college, making him eligible for the All-Newcomer Team. Parks did indeed make the team of five, but he fell short of winning the Newcomer of the Year award. That distinction went to NDSU's Lawrence Alexander, a point guard who has had a major impact in Fargo since the first game of the year. Choosing between those two for that award could be a toss up, depending on what an independent voter is valuing. NDSU's offense was run by Alexander, a rarity for a freshman point guard, and he responded by becoming a top assist man and able scorer. Parks, meanwhile, served as a low-post force for WIU's offense, making a high percentage of his frequent two-pointers, 25 percent of which were dunks. Both players filled huge holes for their respective teams (point guard at NDSU, center at WIU). Again, it's a toss up.
Where these two players differ is on the defensive end. By my estimation, Parks was one of the more impressive defensive players in the league. The fact that he was a more influential two-way player would have been enough to convince me that he was the Newcomer of the Year -- not that he was better than Alexander per se, but that he had the biggest overall impact of any newcomer on both ends of the floor.
If there's doubt about Parks' case for Newcomer of the Year, there should be less doubt about his case for Defensive Player of the Year. That distinction went to his teammate, Ceola Clark. Clark is a proven defender and a former Defensive POTY. To say that the award was undeserved by Clark would simply be inaccurate. What I am saying is that his center may have had a better case for winning the award. Consider the following points:
- Parks averaged the most rebounds per game in the Summit League, of which 6.1 per game came on the defensive end. He did so while playing on a team with the slowest pace in the nation, meaning on average his team had 8-to-10 fewer defensive possessions per game than a typical Division I squad. That means there are 8-to-10 fewer opportunities for Parks to grab a defensive rebound per game. That's why defensive rebounding rate -- which adjusts for pace and minutes played -- can allow us to make comparisons across squads with different styles of play. Parks' defensive rebounding rate this season was 28 percent, meaning he rebounded 28 percent of opponents' misses while he was on the court. That's good enough for eighth in the entire nation. Defensive rebounding is paramount to defensive success -- a defensive rebound ends the other team's possession! Parks did this better than any other player in the league this year.
- His 1.3 blocks per game was good enough for second in the league, one-tenth behind USD's Ricardo Andreotti. In addition to swatting shots, Parks anchored the paint on the defensive end for WIU, altering plenty of shots with his length and athleticism in the process. In a year where Summit League offenses seemingly scored at will, Western Illinois had one of the best defenses in the league. Summit opponents made 49 percent of their two-pointers against WIU, which was good enough for third-lowest in the league. Parks' presence helped contribute to that solid interior defense.
- Because box scores lack detailed defensive data, one of the only other defensive statistics that we can easily obtain is steals per game. Parks had 1.1 steals per game, which was the most of any legitimate forward not named Michael Craion.
With the lack of defensive stats, voting on defense will inevitably come down to these few stats and what voters have seen on the court. My argument is merely that Parks takes the cake in several key defensive categories and appears to pass the eye test, too.
When combining the impact Parks had on both ends of the floor in helping WIU to one of its best regular seasons in ages, it's further difficult to imagine how he ended up on the Honorable Mention list. When combining my various grievances, there's a case that Parks was snubbed out of a Second Team spot as well as Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year. In a year where the league was stacked on the perimeter, Parks was one of the few true big men in the league who had a measurable and visible impact on both ends of the floor. Perhaps I'm just valuing him this highly because I enjoy solid post players and the league had too few of them this year. Whatever the case, Parks counts as the one and only member on my list of snubs. Who are your snubs?