Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tyler Harvey vs Mikh McKinney

Assuming that either Sacramento State or Eastern Washington win the Big Sky*, we can be pretty sure that the MVP of the league will be either Tyler Harvey (if EWU wins) or Mikh McKinney (if Sac State wins). That is just how these things go.

But, if the season ended today, regardless of whose team finishes slightly ahead of the other, who has been the better player? Or, if you had to start a team, who would you choose for this year? It's an interesting debate, because even though both are guards, they are very different players with different skillsets.

Harvey, as you likely know, is the leading scorer in the nation, at 24 points per game. It is not a fluke either... last year, he almost as good with similar usage. Since he first joined the lineup late in his freshman year, he has been a lethal shooter from downtown - he shot 43% from threes last year (on 8 attempts per game), and 49% this year (on 9 attempts per game). Those are borderline unbelievable numbers. Of course, this year he is also shooting well over 50% on twos (a big improvement from last year), and is almost automatic at the line while getting there often. Everything you want in a scorer, he has in his arsenal.

McKinney does more things well than Harvey, though he does not excel in any one area like Harvey does. It has been fun to watch him improve from year to year... he was an average guard as a sophomore, an all-conference candidate as a junior, and now, of course, one of the two best players in the conference as a senior. He is a good three-point shooter, though he doesn't necessarily inspire fear from the outside (though Weber State may agree to disagree). He is up to 41% from deep this year against all opponents. He is a good finisher at the rim, an area that has improved each of his three seasons. For the season, McKinney is shooting 54% from the floor, which is obviously fantastic for a guard. He is a better passer than Harvey, as his assist rate is fourth in the Big Sky. This year, his steal rate has also shot through the roof, and it's 11th in the country (he's averaging 2.7 steals per game).

Here's a quick and easy comparison of their numbers, weeded out to include only games against DI opponents (which is why some of the percentages may be slightly off from the paragraphs above - also, click to enlarge)):

What is the upshot of that graph? In short, Harvey is the better scorer - he is a better outside shooter with a ton more volume, and also does better at drawing fouls and getting freebies at the line. McKinney is certainly not a bad scorer in his own right, but more than anything he has a big edge in distributing the ball, and creating turnovers. Both guys take care of the ball extremely well, especially for how often they handle it (both have high usage rates).

The question on who is better, I think, comes down to personal opinion - it is easy to make a compelling case for either guy. Further each guy is suited well for his own team - the presence of Dylan Garrity as an elite shooter for Sac State allows McKinney to worry more about distributing, while the do-everything ability of Drew Brandon alongside Harvey allows him to be a great scorer.

Who would I take? If I had to choose, as of today, I think I'd take Tyler Harvey. His shooting ability just stretches defenses so much, which in a way helps his teammates offensively as much as McKinney's passing does (just in a different way). Also, I'm not sure Harvey doesn't have better distributing skills in him - he had a 26.3 Assist Rate as a freshman - only he doesn't need to do that as much because of the presence of Drew Brandon. Though McKinney's defensive chops make it tight too, I'd take Harvey and his elite scoring ability.

However, if you want to choose McKinney, I would certainly see the logic there, and I wouldn't argue strenuously. That he has made this a very legitimate debate is a testament to how good he has been.

I have put a poll on the left hand side of the page... would love to see what people think!

*There is a long way to go, obviously, but if I was a betting man and my options were either EWU/Sac State or the field, I'd take the former choice.

Follow me on Twitter @bigskybball


  1. Obviously I am biased, but I'd take Harvey. Absolutely stellar scorer and as a guard to get to the line that often is a critical skill. He definitely has the skills to be a PG/distributor as well, but the team needs / skills dictate most of that load is carried by Drew Brandon.

    Can we just take both McKinney and Harvey though? That's clearly the best option!

  2. McKinney has made some absolute circus shots in his career, and his ability to slash to the rim and dump off a pass for an easy lay in is something to consider. That said my Hornet bias means I am definitely going with McKinney.

  3. I am a LJack so I feel a little more unbiased. I agree with your awesome story Jon, but I think you know that I would go with McKinney. I am a big team guy and I think McKinney is the better "team" player. I also think he is more mature and has a slight edge in court IQ. As a coach, I would take McKinney all day. That said, Harvey is the best scorer in the league no doubt. This year McKinney is 1-0 against Harvey. If he goes 2-0 on the trip to Cheney, I think the debate swings in McKinney's favor.

  4. Last comment by #1JacksFan

  5. I would go with McKinney. He plays some defense...if you watch Harvey plays none. Doesn't mean he isn't a great scorer- just not a great player. McKinney is a senior who is a big reason his team is doing what it's doing. I contend, that although Harvey is unbelievable at scoring- he gets to the line on a lot of touch fouls, and quite honestly with the team of scorers they have around him Eastern Washington at least this year would be pretty darn good.

  6. Harvey's team has way better RPI better numbers better team. Harvey better. Will Harvey declare for NBA draft is the question