(Editor’s note: some idiot read his google doc wrong and skipped 23. Josh Jackson is the real 22. My apologies for the mix up).
This will probably be the shortest post of the countdown, because really how much can you say about a guy who just night in, night out shut his guy down to the point where you could count on an opponents’ best wing not really doing anything.
Releford didn’t have a great steal rate, nor did he have a great block rate. Yet he was an incredible defender because he constantly held opponents below their average, and made coaches adjust their gameplans even early into his career:
It’s even harder to quantify, but also important, to point out the effect that defense had on everyone else:
Admittedly, when you look at the advanced stats, Releford doesn’t totally stand out from other wings under Self (note: Defensive box plus minus wasn’t a thing when Brandon Rush and Brady Morningstar were playing, hence no stat listed for them):
|Year||Player||Defensive Win Shares||Defensive BPM|
However, given how much weight stats like win shares and BPM give to blocks and steals (one could argue too much), I think it’s fair to say Releford looks a bit better given his lack of blocks and steals. This of course gets into a philosophical debate. Is it better to have a bunch of blocks and steals, or is it better to not let your guy catch the ball at all, or let him do anything more than a couple dribbles and a pass once he does? I also think if a stat like “field goal percentage on shots where player x was guarding you” existed in college basketball at the time, Travis Releford would be near the top. Or the bottom as it were. Unfortunately, we have to rely on me watching youtube and reading old quotes about him, which is just as good as math.
We haven’t even touched Releford’s offensive output. He’s a guy who I think could have benefited as much as anyone from a switch to a more perimeter offense like the ones Kansas had in 2017 and 2018. He shot 37 percent from three for his career, but on just 219 attempts over four years. As a senior, he was 39-94 (41.5 percent). His efficiency extended inside the arc as well, as he shot 65.9 percent from two as a senior. In all, he ranked 8th nationally in effective field goal percentage and 4th nationally in true shooting percentage.
I admit I am doing some projecting with this ranking. But the fact remains, in 2017 or 2018 Releford probably attempts 170 threes getting to play in that free flowing offense and with point guards like Frank Mason and Devonte Graham. It’s also easy to discount his efficiency because of his low usage, but using Bart Torvik’s PORPAGATU stat (again, basically how many points a player contributes over a replacement player at his usage rate), Releford’s 2013 ranks 13th since 2008, which is up there with Devonte Graham in 2017 and Sherron Collins in 2010. Could Releford have posted those kind of numbers as a high usage player? Probably not. He wasn’t a guy who created his own shot, but he should get credit for being such a good cutter that he was able to get easy looks at the rim. And it just goes to show, even in a low usage environment, how valuable his efficiency was. Add that to his insane perimeter defense, and you get yourself quite a valuable season.