When we were looking at Creighton's Doug McDermott as an overall Player of the Year candidate, the topic of Murray State's Isaiah Canaan and his potential regression came up.
I volunteered to do a little digging into Canaan's numbers to see what I could determine based on some rough player projections. After all, Drew Cannon had Canaan at a 112 overall, which is still good, just not on the level of what is expected from the junior McDermott (119).
But here is the tricky part. How do we appropriately value Canaan's career so far?
He went from a bench player with strong contributions for the Racers, to a part-time starter, to a full-time starter. He was never the same player from season to season.
This played out in his HOOPWAR ratings over his first three years:
His biggest jump came when he became a full-time starter, and it was light years ahead of what you would have expected for Canaan based on his numbers sophomore year. Most players on average don't improve that much between their sophomore and junior seasons. Most players are lucky to have a small bump in their HOOPWAR numbers during that span.
Canaan has had the opposite improvement curve during his career, and the only reason that makes sense is the departure of B.J. Jenkins. Canaan had to do more for the Racers, and while his minutes also increased his junior year, they didn't increase significantly more than they did from his freshman to his sophomore seasons.
That is the long way of saying that projecting Canaan in the same manner as we did with Temple-via-Boston University's Jake O'Brien is difficult because he hasn't progressed in the same manner as most players. But we can take a guess.
Based on the average player's improvement, we would project Canaan to a 7.35 HW/30 during his senior year. That is probably good enough to win player of the year honors in the Ohio Valley Conference. It even puts him on par with McDermott in terms of total value (7.57) this coming season.
That is provided that the regression doesn't hit him too hard. I am not doubting the abilities of Canaan, and obviously he was a huge reason for the Racers' success last year. But when someone has an improvement of that magnitude, and it doesn't come with a similar playing time increase, can we be sure that it will stick?
I hope that our commenter jwill266 is right, when he said that Canaan doesn't have it in him to regress. I hope that Canaan can improve, even if it is just a single win for his team that he is able to eek out. You don't want to see a player drop off, falter, stumble, lose their way, any of the myriad of ways of saying it.
I hope we have a reason to think that Isaiah Canaan could be a potential player of the year (because if he provides the same value as McDermott, then it isn't such a leap to think it could be possible). It is just hard to look at someone with this development path and wonder if we are looking at the potential fluke season.
This won't be the last word on this topic, that is for sure.
So until that happens, what do you think is the likely path for Canaan next season? Will he be a 7-win player, or is he destined to regress?