Saturday, March 5, 2011

Is Diante Garrett an all-time great Cyclone?

Today, Diante Garrett set the record for most games played for the Cyclones (127), passing Fred Hoiberg, Julius Michalik and Stevie Johnson. His 1327 career points put him ahead of Jeff Hornacek (1313) at 16th all-time. Garrett's 605 career assists put him ahead of Gary Thompson (600) and behind only Jeff Hornacek (665) for second all-time. His 152 steals put him 9th all-time.

These are all big numbers, putting him alongside some players who've had their numbers retired. Is this enough for him to be considered an all-time great? He's played on some of the worst teams ISU has seen in a long time. The coaching staff and surrounding players can be blamed; everyone would agree that Diante has played much, much better this year than ever before. How can we rate him against other Cyclone greats?

It's tough to find a metric that allows for overall comparison. The best one I've found so far is Win Shares provided by sports-reference. The calculation, I'm sure, is difficult but the idea is simple. How much, through offense and defense, does one player contribute to wins? I like this metric for a number of reasons. Really great players have large win shares. Especially in college basketball, one player can make a huge difference. This will be seen with a big win share for a given season. Longevity is rewarded. The best Cyclones have been around for awhile. More years allows more opportunity to grow the career win shares. Finally, great players should play for good to great teams. Win shares are just that, the number of wins dispersed among the players. If a 'great' player were playing for a bad team, maybe that player isn't so great.

Unfortunately, the calculation of win shares takes substantial statistics. Thus, sports-reference only has win shares going back to the 98-99 season for the Cyclones. Still, we can see where Diante fits in over the last 10+ years.

I'm okay with this list. It shows Diante outside the top 10 over the last 13 years or so. The players ahead of him are either great players (Fizer) or good players on great teams (Sullivan, Johnson) and more likely good players on decent teams (Homan, Vroman, Stinson, etc).

I'm okay with Jake Sullivan having the top spot. He was productive for four years for some of the better teams of the past decade. Rashon Clark in the third spot is surprising. He wasn't ever a star but obviously contributed in a number of ways. He's an example of a player contributing consistently to some average teams. That Garrett was only able to accrue half the win shares of Clark is a pretty strong commentary on his legacy. If Garrett was that good, his teams would have been better. If his teams were better, maybe he doesn't start.

Diante has had a nice career, but isn't one of the all-time greats. He survived the roughest stretch of ISU basketball since the early 80's. He's the first player since Rashon Clark (2004-08) to play a full 4 years for Iowa State.

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