Dec 10, 2014; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins head coach Mark Turgeon (left) looks on in the second half against the North Carolina Central Eagles at Xfinity Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The line between best player and MVP is oft skewed and misunderstood. Often the two are melded together through the impatience or wherewithal on the part of observers to distinguish the two. But the best coaches, GM’s, scouts, commentators, and critics are aware of this line, and they understand its impact on the arena in which it grasps and controls the happenings at hand.
It is an understandable assessment to say that the best player almost has to be the most valuable. However it is a rarity that both a team’s best and most valuable player resides in the same body.
For example, you would be hard-pressed to find a better, more dominant wide receiver than Calvin Johnson, or a another top-five defensive player in the league like Ndamukong Suh on the same team. Those two guys are far and away the best players on the team, but their value pales in comparison to their Quarterback Matt Stafford because he literally touches the ball every offensive snap. And like we saw in the NFL playoffs, he has the ability to throw the game away on any given down. Suh got two sacks in the final defensive possession for the Lions, which is about as big an impact as you can have as defensive lineman on one possession without taking the ball away. But even as the best player playing at his best, he didn’t handle the game the way a quarterback does.
Basketball is similar. An example of this could be the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose and his absence in the playoffs. The Bulls played the Miami Heat in the 10-11 East Finals, and again in the 12-13 East Semis, both times losing with a win in the first game but being swept throughout the rest of the four games in the series. The difference is nonexistent between having Rose and not having Rose.
The 12-13 Heat team was better, having beaten the Spurs in seven games, and losing in the 10-11 finals to the Mavericks in six. Rose’s value is dampened due to his size and relative defensive ineffectiveness (compared to his teammates like Joakim Noah or Luol Deng), yet he is still the most talented player on his team.
Players like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are examples of this exception, because while they are the most talented player and best at their position compared to the rest of the league, they also touch the game in so many more ways than what their position demands. These players are also the best passers, rebounders, and defenders on their teams. These players’ impact isn’t always quantifiable, like how Michael Jordan struck fear into the heart of his opponents and seemed unstoppable at the end of games. Or how Magic Johnson had the ability to play all five positions, on top of his ability to literally single-handedly manipulate the pace of the game on both ends of the floor.
Melo Trimble is not Michael Jordan, or Magic Johnson. Melo Trimble is not even the best player in the country at any aspect of the game. Therefore it is unrealistic to expect the 14-15 Maryland Terrapins to experience any real success with a true freshman playing the role of All-Time Great. If the Terps are going to go as far as they possibly can this season, Melo Trimble can’t be Superman, he can’t be MJ or Magic, and he can’t be the MVP.
The most apt comparison Trimble received early this year was of Syracuse Orange player Tyler Ennis with a more threatening jumpshot. I found this to be really understandable because of the way both Trimble and Ennis get their teams into the called sets and made plays for their teams. Melo Trimble is a better scorer but Ennis is probably the player with the higher basketball IQ (no slight to Melo, who is a very intelligent basketball player).
Last year Ennis averaged 13 points, 5.5 assists, and two steals per game. He also averaged 35.7 minutes per game. So it is safe to say that the Rolling Boeheims relied on their freshman point guard pretty heavily in all aspects of the game. The thing that took some pressure off was that the Orange didn’t ask him to be the man on every possession. He was the leading player in assists and steals, but he was second in points and minutes to CJ Fair, and second in three-point percentage to Trevor Cooney.
More from Maryland Terrapins
- Maryland Football: Terps honor Jordan McNair, beat Longhorns 34-29
- Maryland Terrapins: Roundup of Headlines in Maryland Sports
- Where Will Maryland Basketball’s Kevin Huerter Land in 2018 NBA Draft?
- Maryland Terrapins Offensive Lineman Jordan McNair Dies
- Remembering Maryland Basketball’s Cliff Tucker: Top 5 Best Moments
However the most telling stat is turnovers and the fact that as the point guard, Ennis did not lead the team in that area. At 2.5 turnovers a game you are not throwing the game away. CJ Fair led the team with those numbers and it really impacted the team in a positive way. This, along with the point and minute totals, shows that CJ Fair had the ball slightly more than Ennis and was relied upon to score and let Ennis thrive in finding spaces to get his teammates, or himself, open shots.
This is an ingenious tactic on the part of the coach, because it utilized the skill set of their most talented player but recognized his youth and put some of the load on his more senior players. It shows the maturity of CJ Fair in taking some of the responsibility for his team’s success and grabbing at least one of the reigns on the team carriage. That coaching genius and player maturity is where the comparison is broken for that team and this Terps team.
Melo Trimble leads the team in minutes with 33, points with 15.5, assists with three, steals with 1.4, and free-throw percentage at 86.8%. Granted, Dez Wells is close in a couple of those categories, but Mark Turgeon and the rest of the team are relying on a true freshman night in and night out to carry the team from tip-off to final buzzer.
A lot of possessions are the same: Trimble bringing it over half, high ball screen (the defending big always hedges hard), the screener rolls weak or pops out to the wing, Trimble gives it up to the opposite wing who slashes hard to the paint picks up his dribble, Trimble gets the ball again and is forced to put up either a tough three or drive and get fouled. It rarely seems like they get a shooter running off of a screen, or clear out a side for the big, or get a player at the high post to attack and pass, or set a good enough screen to get the ball handler open or roll hard enough to get a dunk, or cut to an open space for an easy midrange jumper.
Defensively they have one player that is averaging over one (1.6) block and he is the starting center, who happens to be an almost non-factor offensively at four points, and barely a factor on the boards at four.
There is one player on the team over one steal per game outside of Trimble; he is at 1.3 and that is Dez Wells.
The Terps are currently ranked 19th in the AP poll, but they are only in the top 100 in the country in any team stat, and that is points per game where they are 96th — averaging 70.6. They are 121st in the country at 35.7 rebounds with a front court that goes: 6’8, 6’8, 6’9, 6’9, 7’0. They are 278th in the country with 11.2 assists, and 169th at 43.7% from the field. That means that they are a top 25 team that is not even top 50 in any significant statistical category.
The assists and field goal percentage are a coaching and philosophy issue. This is far and away the most talented team Maryland has had since the 01-02 National Championship team. And Melo Trimble is the best player since Greivis Vasquez. The problem is that Mark Turgeon relies on Trimble as a freshman the way Gary Williams relied on Greivis as a Junior and Senior. Yes, Turgeon does get the ball in the hands of Dez Wells and Jake Layman every fourth or fifth possession, but everything seems to be a one-on-one drive or a contested three.
For a team to be 20-5 and the statistical mess that this team is means they have a special player. Melo Trimble is a special player, but his coach has got to put his best player and his teammates in positions to be better. This team won’t reach its potential until the coaching staff steps up and says that our entire offense won’t be fast-breaking and three screen and rolls until we get a reasonably open shot. If this continues, the smarter coaches in the country will double hard with a big every time Trimble gets one on one, saying to the Terps “make the right pass (which they don’t have a lot of experience doing), or score with a non guard player (which they don’t have a lot of experience doing).”
This is not just a coaching problem though.There are a few players who have the potential to step in the roll as MVP. This team has got to have an upperclassman say to himself “I’m the MVP, I’ve got to do something to take this team to the next level.” Damonte Dodd has to say “I’m going to be the defensive MVP” and then get 10 rebounds and three blocks and take a couple of charges. Dez Wells has to say “I’m going to be the MVP and take control of games in my last year on campus; I’m going to guard the other team’s best player and lock him down.” Jake Layman has to say “I’m the MVP; I have to be the Jack of all trades that takes attention away from Melo on offense and defense.” Someone off the bench like Dion Wiley or Jared Nickens has to say “I’m better than seven points and a rebound per game.” Richaud Pack has to be the defensive terror that he is capable of being and step up as a graduate transfer and make a bigger impact.
The Terps are a good team that hasn’t even tapped their potential. The attitude of the program will determine how far they go. If they are content with a dependency on one freshman to carry them, they won’t reach the level of play they are capable of doing.