basketball Edit

Bossi's Best: Player of the year candidates

As the 2016-17 season moves along and the NCAA Tournament comes within view, a small group looks to be establishing themselves as favorites in the National Player of the Year race.

In this week’s Bossi’s Best, national basketball analyst Eric Bossi discusses his top five candidates, how they got there and how they might possibly be replaced.

MORE: Bossi's Starting Five | Which five-star pledge faces the most pressure?



This season: 20.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

How he got here: Mason originally signed with Towson as a senior in high school before heading to prep school and opening things up. Kansas actually found Mason when they were out to see another commit from their 2013 class, Conner Frankamp. Frankamp left for Wichita State after his freshman season, but Mason has stuck around for four years and is arguably the best point guard Bill Self has had in his time at Kansas.

Replacing him: The Jayhawks are hoping to land either of the two five-star high school seniors that they are chasing, Trevon Duval or Trae Young. Whether or not they land one of those two, it’s possible that Mason’s backcourt mate Devonte Graham is best suited. Most likely, Graham is going to at least test the NBA Draft waters, but it’s still up in the air if he’s going to stay in the draft or return for his senior season.


This season: 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

How he got here: It never seemed like anybody but UCLA had a chance to land Ball, and he committed at the midway point of his junior season. Since then his brothers LiAngelo Ball (2017) and LaMelo Ball (2019) have followed suit. His arrival has totally transformed UCLA’s offense and freed up the Bruins many scorers.

Replacing him: To be clear, Ball is the type of point guard talent who doesn’t come along often and will be hard to replace after he leaves for the draft. However, the Bruins are in pretty good shape. Aaron Holiday should be back for his junior season and is a potential NBA player in his own right, plus the Bruins are bringing in a capable replacement in five-star senior recruit Jaylen Hands.


This season: 18.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

How he got here: Hart chose Villanova over Penn State and Rutgers out of high school. After a solid first two years of college, he really started to take off last year as Villanova won a national title. This year, he’s taken things to a new level, scoring more, scoring more efficiently and doing a better job than ever of setting others up all while continuing to play great defense and crash the glass.

Replacing him: Former five-star point guard Jalen Brunson and former Rivals150 forward Mikal Bridges have both stepped up big as sophomores and figure to improve again as juniors. However, keep an eye out for four-star senior wing Jermaine Samuels, who has similar size and style to Hart as a senior in high school.



This season: 19.1 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

How he got here: A five-star prospect, Swanigan waited until the end of April in his senior year to pick Michigan State. Then about a week later he changed his mind and opened things up for almost another two weeks before he finally picked Purdue. After a solid freshman year, he’s been a man possessed and is the favorite for Big Ten Player of the Year.

Replacing him: Because of his unique ability to take up space in the lane but also open the floor with his jump shooting and passing, Swanigan may be the toughest to replace of any National Player of the Year candidate. Purdue fans are hopeful that he chooses to return for his junior season; the way NBA teams view him just might be murky enough to get him back for a year. If not, former four-star center Isaac Haas will have to step up big time as a senior, because there’s just no way to expect any of the Boilermakers' recruits to replace Swanigan’s production.


This season: 23.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.

How he got here: By now, most people know the story about how Fultz didn’t even make varsity as a sophomore and developed into a top-five player in the class of 2016. Washington landed him by identifying him early and stressing that he would play the point when many others saw him as a shooting guard. Fultz most likely won’t get any serious consideration for NPOY because the Huskies have had a bad year and have lost nine of their last 11. However, there’s no denying the special season he’s had on an individual level.

Replacing him: The Huskies have landed a top-five recruiting class that includes the nation’s top player, Michael Porter Jr. Expecting Porter, Jr., to replicate Fultz’s numbers is asking a lot, but if anybody is capable of making that kind of noise it’s the 6-foot-9 wing with unlimited range, athleticism and skill.