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.