Who is going to win the 2013 Most Improved Player award in the NBA?
Trying to figure this out is kind of a tricky deal. The MIP award isn't always about who is actually improving. Sometimes it's simply about which guy is getting more opportunities (i.e.: more minutes, more shot attempts).
We've had winners in the past like Ryan Anderson (2012), Aaron Brooks (2010) and Zach Randolph (2004) that didn't actually improve that much from the previous season, and yet still walked away with the hardware.
Anderson's season in 2012 was almost identical to his season in 2011. Somehow, he walked away with more votes than Ersan Ilyasova, Jeremy Lin and Nikola Pekovic. Does this mean Ilyasova, Lin and Pekovic will be frontrunners for an award they already improved for the previous year?
Aaron Brooks' award in 2010 happened because he jumped from 11.2 to 19.6 points per game. And while he had this increase in just 10 more minutes per game, he also was allowed to increase his field goal attempts from 9.8 to 16.2 shots per game. Was he actually better than the previous year or was he just taking a lot more shots?
As for Randolph, his raw numbers increased dramatically (8.4 ppg to 20.1 ppg and 4.5 rpg to 10.5 rpg) in 2004. But when you average out his numbers over 36 minutes, you're looking at increases of 18.0 points per 36 to 19.1 and 9.5 rebounds per 36 to 10.0. Did he get better or did he get minutes?
You can argue that these guys all had to improve to earn more minutes or more scoring chances when they were on the floor, and maybe that's a valid discussion to have. But it just shows the criteria for this award can be a bit murky.
When you have second-year players winning the award, it usually results in the questioning of shouldn't second-year players automatically improve with one year under their belt? Should we be looking to more established guys in the NBA getting better and adding to their game? And which additions to someone's game mean the most?
Kevin Love in 2011 added a deadly three-point shot and stopped having his minutes yanked around. It resulted in him putting up a historic season of 20 and 15, but was it a more important improvement than LaMarcus Aldridge having to figure out how to be the franchise player for Portland when Brandon Roy went down?
Regardless of what the criteria for winning the MIP award should be for you, we have enough historical evidence to try to figure out who might win it this year. Here are my picks for the 15 Most Improved Players for the upcoming 2012-13 season.