Challenge: Who will win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award for the 2012-2013 season?
First of all, let me start by writing that finding next season’s MIP is a really difficult task. Any player who last season had average or below-average stats can make a leap in his production and become the new MIP of the league. That’s why any of the methods used to foresee the MIP is good enough; nobody (not even the stats) can read the future. Any player can surprise us next season.
But, in any case, I have tried to set a reasonable approach to next season’s MIP through the stats. In order to find the player who could win the Most Improved Player award next season, I have taken the following steps:
1. I have searched for the previous MIP winners and their stats (both “per game” and “per 36 minutes”).
2. If I were the person who decided the MIP winner, I would award the player who had improved the most his “per 36 minutes” stats. The essence of the word “Improved” is located in the “improvement” of the player, not in the improvement he has done in the amount of minutes he has been given. That’s why I don’t think that the “per game” stats are representative of the improvement of a player; the “per 36 minutes” are.
3. In any case, the analysts who vote for the MIP never take this reasoning into account, as it can be seen in the “per 36 stats” of the awarded players (see Excel document). They value the PPG (they are the stat that, actually, is the Most Improved in each player) and, if that was possible, an improvement in RPG and APG too. They don’t care about TOPG. See the chart below
4. Then, the player that I have to find is the one that will improve the most his PPG in regard to last season. In addition, if it was possible, we will also search for an improvement in the RPG and the APG of the player.
5. The next step is using the Basketball-Reference website and its search tool to find all the players who had a PPG average between 4 and 10 and who played less than 1000 minutes last year. Moreover, I will remove from the quest all the players older than 24 years old, because it is the average age a player has when he is awarded the MIP.
6. The next step is removing from the list all the players that (in my opinion) will not see a bigger role in their team this season. The list gets reduced to six players: Spencer Hawes (Philadelphia 76ers), Anthony Randolph (Denver Nuggets), Alec Burks (Utah Jazz), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic), Robin Lopez (New Orleans Hornets) and Devin Ebanks (Los Angeles Lakers). I have chosen these players for the following reasons:
Spencer Hawes: he will become a starter for his team or, at least, he will see more playing time.
Anthony Randolph: he will see more playing time.
Alec Burks: He will have a bigger role and he will possibly become a starter.
Nikola Vucevic: He will be a starter or the first big off the bench for his team; he will see more playing time.
Robin Lopez: He will be a starter or the first big off the bench; in my opinion, he will play more consistently.
Devin Ebanks: He could start for his team depending on his performance, as the current starter (Metta World Peace) is going downhill.
7. After checking their stats for this year, I have done a prediction for their stats next season (taking their new role into account).
8. According to the variation of the new stats in regard to those they put up last year (see the graph above), there are two players who can win the MIP award: Robin Lopez and Alec Burks. The winner will be the one whose team advances to the playoffs. The Utah Jazz are a deep team that already qualified for the playoffs last season, whereas the New Orleans Hornets are a team with lots of young players which finished the third-worst last season in the whole league (and last in the Western Conference).
9. Finally, according to the players’ projected stats, the player that will improve the most will be Alec Burks. Then, Alec Burks will also be the MIP of the NBA next season.