Today — as expected — it was announced that J.R. Smith won the 2012-13 NBA 6th Man of the year award. Pretty soon, the other NBA award winners will be announced, including MVP and Rookie of the Year. So I figure that now’s a good time to look at this year’s candidates for Most Improved Player (MIP).
Here’s what we’ve written about this award in the past:
- Who will be Most Improved in 2012-13? (October 2012)
- Ryan Anderson is not the Most Improved Player of the Year (2012)
- The Regular Season Awards: WoW Network Style (2011)
- Aaron Brooks is not the MIP in 2009-10
- Danny Granger is the Most Improved? (2008-09)
Before I get into this year’s candidates, let’s take a look at the previous winners (data and explanation taken from Who will be Most Improved in 2012-13?):
The MIP award usually goes to the player who increases his point total more than anyone else. Since the 2002-03 season (when the voting process changed to the current format), the MIP has played at least 32 minutes per game in at least 67 games, and scored at least 13.3 points per game. The MIP is also young; only one winner, Hedo Turkoglu, has been older than 25 years old and playing in more than his fourth season when he won the award. And of course, thanks to Yay! Points!, the defining feature of the award is that the winner has increased his previous year’s scoring by at least 5.5 points per game — actual improvement in play is not required. Most MIP winners achieve this PPG increase through a simple increase in playing time; Danny Granger is the only winner in the last ten years who increased his PPG without increasing his MPG.
How about this year’s candidates?
|Player||MPG Increase||PPG increase||WP48 Increase||Wins Increase*|
*Note: Win increase uses pro-rated win totals for last season’s 66 game season.
If we go by ESPN’s pundits, Paul George is the most likely winner. But George (+5.2) hasn’t increased his points per game (PPG) as much as James Harden (+9.1), Nikola Vucevic (+7.6), and Omer Aski (+7.0). In fact, George is only ranked 8th in PPG increase between this season and the last. So if the voters are going to be heavily influenced by PPG increase, the winner will probably be Harden, Vucevic, or Asik. My money is on Vucevic, as not only has his PPG improved significantly, but he seems to have surprised a lot of people. He’ll also benefit from the Orlando Magic boost — Magic players have won four of the last 14 MIP awards and five in the 27 year history of the award.
If we rank each player in terms of the improvement in per-minute efficiency, Larry Sanders (+0.171), Lance Stephenson (+0.157), and J.J. Hickson (+0.140) are the top three candidates. These same three players are also the top three in win increase as well, although the order changes to Hickson (+7.9), Sanders (+7.8), and then Stephenson (+7.8). So if we awarded the Most Improved Player award to the player who actually improved the most, it would probably be one of these three players (although it should be noted that Vucevic would be a decent selection under these criteria as well).