Devonte Graham frankly could have three seasons on here, as his sophomore campaign was hyper efficient, but his low usage rate in 2016 means his 2017 makes the cut instead. It’s fair to say Graham was still a third banana as a junior, given the player of the year season from Frank Mason and the impact Josh Jackson made as a freshman, but Graham increased his value in one key way: attempting almost 100 more threes as a junior than he did as a sophomore while not losing much in terms of percentage. Graham made 43.6 percent of his 165 attempts during his sophomore year, and 38.8 percent of his 242 attempts in his junior season.
Why is he this high?
Graham was insanely efficient. As previously mentioned, he shot around 39 percent from three on a ton of attempts, and also was over 50 percent from two. His assist rate was under 20 percent, but his turnover rate was low as well, under 16 percent. In terms of PRPG (a refresher into that stat can be found here), Graham ranks up there with almost every other KU point guard season under Bill Self.
Why isn’t he higher?
If Graham was so hyper efficient, why then is he in the 20s in this list? Mostly, it is due to his status as the third banana on that 2017 team. With Frank Mason occupying all of the attention from opposing defenses, and Josh Jackson taking what was left, Graham got a lot of open looks from deep and a lot of easy looks inside as well. He was never a high turnover player, but he didn’t have to handle the ball as much with Frank Mason alongside him either. Some of this is unfair to Graham, who proved the next season that he could put a team on his back in his own right, so perhaps this is a bit too low with the benefit of knowing how next year would go, but I think we can only judge a season on its own merits.
Tying into the first point, Graham’s usage rate was just 17.8. The remaining point guards on this list all have usage rates over 20, with most of them over 25. While he did function as a secondary point guard, he essentially was a spot up shooter on the 2017 team, albeit one who also provided a lot of value on the defensive end of the court. He also played almost 90 percent of the team’s minutes in 2017, which is also valuable. But the low usage hurts his case, as (fairly or unfairly) does his absolute stinkbomb in the 2017 Elite 8 loss to Oregon when he was 0-7 from the field in 38 minutes.
So we don’t have to leave this post on that sour note, I will mention that Graham also almost singlehandedly speared the comeback against West Virginia in Allen Fieldhouse, shooting 5-12 from three for the game, and was incredible in the NCAA tournament against Michigan State and Purdue, and helped come up with the adjustment that helped Kansas blow the Boilermakers away in the 2nd half. He’ll also get his due much (much) later in this countdown. If Frank Mason hadn’t been on the team in 2017, this Graham season would probably rank much higher as well, but we can only take seasons as we get them, and so Graham’s lack of usage really hurts him here.