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Giannis Antetokounmpo is Easily the Most Improved Player of the Year

I'll make a bet, by the end of the season we probably won't agree with who gets the Most Improved Player of the Year. The classic model is to examine players that improve their scoring totals (either via more shots or more minutes) We prefer to look for players that enhance their performance. So "for fun" I decided to look over who we'd pick for Most Improved Player (or rather, who the numbers we like would pick). Before I show the lists, here are my criteria:

  • The player needs to have played at least 1,500 minutes in the season*.
  • The player needs to have played at least 1,000 minutes in a previous season*. Only these seasons are considered.
  • The player with the biggest jump in Points over Par per 48 (PoP48) is considered the winner.

*The 1999 and 2012 lockout shortened seasons are normalized to account for minute differences. A reminder the Points over Par per 48 metric is an estimate of how much we would expect a player with a set of average teammates to beat (or lose to) a team of all average players if they played the full 48 minutes. So this year's Most Improved Player is pretty much a lock (which you know if you read the title), let's run down our list.

Rank Name Team(s) PoP48 Old Best Old Team(s) Old PoP48
1 Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL 6.8 2015 MIL 2.8
2 Nikola Jokic DEN 7.2 2015 DEN 4.5
3 Myles Turner IND 0.5 2015 IND -2.1
4 Bradley Beal WAS 1.6 2012 WAS -0.8
5 Patrick Beverley HOU 3.2 2013 HOU 0.9

We thought Giannis looked like a star in the last half of last season and set for a jump. And somehow, he exceeded our expectations! He's currently a top five player in the NBA and pretty much the reason the Bucks are vying for a playoff spot. Nikola Jokic is also having an outstanding season, but sadly "played too well" last year to win the award. We thought he deserved runner-up for Rookie of the Year last season, so I guess 2nd is perpetually his place in awards! Myles Turner and Brad Beal are two above average players this season that were previously bad players. And finally, Patrick Beverley has been a good guard in the past that has flourished under Mike D'Antoni, shocker, I know! For fun, here players we'd have voted in for the previous ten seasons.

Season Name Team(s) PoP48 Old Best Old Team(s) Old PoP48
2015 Enes Kanter OKC 5.3 2014 UTH,OKC 0.9
2014 Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL 2.3 2013 MIL -3.0
2013 Jordan Hill LAL 3.1 2010 HOU -1.6
2012 J.J. Hickson POR 3.9 2009 CLE -0.1
2011 Ersan Ilyasova MIL 3.9 2009 MIL 0.1
2010 Kris Humphries BRK 4.2 2009 DAL,BRK -0.9
2009 Kevin Durant OKC 4.2 2008 OKC 1.3
2008 Kevin Durant OKC 1.3 2007 OKC -3.4
2007 Monta Ellis GSW 2.3 2006 GSW -1.4
2006 Emeka Okafor CHA 4.5 2004 CHA -0.5

Just as a fun note, this is Giannis' second time getting this award. His progression has been fantastic. He's up there with Durant having seen multiple jumps in performance. I'll be shocked if Giannis doesn't hold on for the award this season, but there's still a little time left. We'll check in at the end of the season.

-Dre

IMO, the position you play is defined by who you defend, not by the skills you have on offense. Antetokounmpo is listed as a PG on the site. He plays "point forward" because of his skill set on offense, but he does not generally guard PGs (at least when I've seen him). He's more of a SF on defense. If his positional assignment was adjusted to reflect the amount of time he spends guarding non PGs, it would impact his rating. As a Knicks fan I have a similar issue with Porzingis. KP plays some C, but he spends the vast majority of his time at PF (at least until recently). He's listed as a C. If he was listed as more of a 4.3 (give or take) instead of 5, it would better reflect his contribution.
My understanding is there's no difference difference between PF and C in the site's position adjustments.

Mirotic, for example, has a nearly identical ADJP48 to Porzingis right now. His position is listed as 4.0, so if the position adjustment was more punishing I'd expect his WP48 to be better than Porzingis, who is listed as 5.0. However, they also have identical WP48, the site just sees them both as "BIG":

http://www.boxscoregeeks.com/players/compare?utf8=%E2%9C%93&player_ids%5B%5D=3076&player_ids%5B%5D=2944&season=2016

There are other cases where this will matter though, Paul George and Aaron Gordon are example people often bring up (aka, should we compare them to WING players, or to BIG?). In cases like that, you can still compare ADJP48 if the position adjustments don't feel right.
Now that you mentioned it I remember the change taking place. There used to be a separate adjustment for PF and Cs.

I wonder if it was better the other way given the way the game is evolving. PFs used to play more like Cs in that they would often be in the post or certainly nearer the basket on offense. These days, stretch PFs spend a lot of their time on the perimeter shooting 3s or guarding other stretch PFs out there. It's unlikely they will get as many rebounds as a true C playing in the post. So they would tend to be underrated given the heavy value of rebounding on this metric.

That's the issue I am seeing with Porzingis.

He's being compared to young Cs guys like Towns, Embiid, Okafor, and Jokic, but he's not playing anything like them. A few of them do have 3 point range, but much more of their time is spent near the basket. KP is on the perimeter most of the time specifically because he's a 3 point threat and can help create space. There are loads of times on both ends of the floor he is nowhere near the basket to get a rebound. That job more or less falls on Noah, O'Quinn, and Hernangomez because they guard the C and play more inside. The thing is, when they do play him at C, his rebounding goes up on the defensive end because he's usually guarding a C . However he is still trying to gain an edge for the team by remaining on the perimeter on offense by drawing the opposing C out (so he's still not getting as many OREBs as would be possible if played in the post more) .
I'd love to hear your take on this analysis: https://hickamsdictum.com/the-g-o-a-t-who-is-the-best-basketball-player-of-all-time-e43c7e53a9a7#.w7t7sgejg
FYI the position adjustments for Paul George and and Thaddeus Young are switched around again. Young starts at PF and George only plays PF in small lineups.
Lovethoseknicks, I believe the position adjustments were made into PG, WING, and BIG to make it easier to classify players, not because they are better adjustments. The traditional 5 positions had to be assigned manually IIRC.

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