Ryan Anderson is not the Most Improved Player of the Year

The other day the NBA announced that Ryan Anderson has won the Most Improved Player (MIP) award. Like most NBA awards, the MIP is determined by a panel of sportswriters and various other media. Also like most NBA awards, this award was given to the wrong player.

Don’t get me wrong — Ryan Anderson is a good player. In fact, here at the Wages of Wins Network he’s ranked 12th in the entire NBA in terms of total wins for the regular season. The problem is that Anderson was also this good last year — he just didn’t get the same kind of playing time that he managed to get this season.

Take a look at the voting for the 2011-12 MIP:

Player Voting Points MPG Increase PPG Increase WP48 Increase Wins Increase*
Ryan Anderson 260 9.95 5.42 0.004 4.95
Ersan Ilyasova 159 2.50 3.52 0.146 7.51
Nikola Pekovic 104 13.25 8.33 0.322 9.45
Greg Monroe 96 3.77 5.99 -0.037 -0.26
Andrew Bynum 96 7.42 7.38 -0.073 2.51
Jeremy Lin 91 17.03 12.01 -0.026 2.33

The list above includes the top six players in the MIP vote. Wins for this season were pro-rated for an 82 game season in order to make it a fair comparison.

As I said, Anderson won the award — he ended up with 43% of the maximum available points. But other than having a large increase in the number of minutes per game he played, Anderson was nearly as efficient as he was last year, as demonstrated by his unchanging WP48. There were also three other players in the top six for this award — Greg Monroe, Andrew Bynum, and Jeremy Lin — who actually played better last season than they did this season! How could these players be in the running for MIP if they didn’t actually improve?

For my money, here are the real MIP candidates:

Player Voting Points MPG Increase PPG Increase WP48 Increase Wins Increase*
Nikola Pekovic 104 13.2 8.3 0.322 9.5
Brandan Wright 3 5.9 3.1 0.151 4.7
Ersan Ilyasova 159 2.5 3.5 0.146 7.5
Roy Hibbert 7 2.1 0.2 0.140 7.1
Jason Thompson 0 2.6 0.3 0.139 6.3
Goran Dragic 54 8.9 4.3 0.138 6.7
Spencer Hawes 0 3.7 2.4 0.128 3.0
Brandon Rush 0 0.2 0.7 0.111 5.7
James Harden 7 4.7 4.7 0.109 6.2

Nikola Pekovic ran away with the award this year, and it’s a shame that he didn’t win it. Last year he was a really bad player, and this year he was a really good player; he showed the most improvement on a per minute basis and in terms of win totals. His per minute improvement was twice as much as the player with the second largest improvement. If that isn’t the definition of most improved, I don’t know what is. The other eight players on this list were also far more deserving of the MIP than Anderson was, and only two of them — Ilyasova and Dragic — placed in the top seven in terms of voting.

We here at the Wages of Wins Network are not the only ones who have noted this mistake, and this is not the first time this mistake has happened. The MIP award usually goes to a player who simply gets more playing time than the year before. The extra playing time increases these player’s PPG, which is what the voters care about the most.

Season Player % of Vote WP48 Increase MPG Increase PPG Increase Wins Increase
2011–12 Ryan Anderson 43.0% 0.004 9.9 5.5 5.0
2010–11 Kevin Love 69.0% 0.094 7.2 6.2 9.7
2009–10 Aaron Brooks 65.5% 0.041 10.6 8.4 2.7
2008–09 Danny Granger 60.2% 0.009 0.2 6.2 -0.6
2007–08 Hedo Türkoğlu 60.8% 0.063 5.8 6.2 5.2
2006–07 Monta Ellis 54.6% 0.036 16.2 9.7 3.7
2005–06 Boris Diaw 78.9% 0.067 17.3 8.5 5.7
2004–05 Bobby Simmons 62.4% 0.013 12.7 8.6 4.0
2003–04 Zach Randolph 62.6% -0.107 21.0 11.7 -1.0
2002–03 Gilbert Arenas 48.8% -0.047 10.4 7.4 2.0
2001–02 Jermaine O’Neal 41.3% -0.030 5.0 6.1 -1.5
2000–01 Tracy McGrady 59.7% 0.055 8.9 11.4 4.8

After Kevin Love was selected last year, I had some hope that perhaps the voters had finally learned that improvement involves more than getting more playing time and scoring more points. But Anderson showed the smallest amount of improvement of any MIP winner since Zach Randolph in 2004, leaving me to believe that the media panel still has no clue about what it’s doing.

- Devin

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