The NBA's most improved players are the guys who have taken the next step in their careers, contributing in ways they haven't been able to in recent years.
While comparing one player's improvement with another's is completely arbitrary, I've taken into account the impact they've had on their respective teams as well as their boost in production.
The top entries on the list are either maximizing their potential or proving that their upsides are higher than initially believed.
Note: All statistics accurate as of January 3, 2013.
2012-2013: 21.39 PER,11.9 points per game, 55.7 percent shooting, 5.8 rebounds per game, two blocks per game
2011-2012: 15.23 PER, 5.4 points per game, 46.1 percent shooting, 3.3 rebounds per game, .9 blocks per game
Given a larger role in New Orleans, Robin Lopez has more than doubled both his scoring and shot-blocking averages while seeing a huge boost in field-goal percentage.
He's looked like a legitimate starting center as opposed to the backup one he's played like throughout his four years in Phoenix. Lopez has been a glowing target for his playmakers, and if he's finishing with regularity and effectively protecting the rim, then he's fulfilling his duties as a relatively cheap source of production.
2012-2013: 17.02 PER, 8.7 points per game, 42 percent shooting, 4.1 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, 1.9 steals per game, 43 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 13.11 PER, 6.2 points per game, 36.3 percent shooting, 5.5 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 1.7 steals per game, 35.4 percent 3pt
The impact Jason Kidd has had on the New York Knicks can only be measured by their win total.
Forget his assist numbers. Kidd makes the pass before the pass, setting up plays and creating scoring opportunities that aren't documented in the box score.
You can argue that Kidd has been the Knicks' most important player, as it seems they struggle when he's out and thrive when he's in. He's been a factor in Carmelo Anthony's MVP-caliber season, making sure his star gets the ball in the right spots at the right times.
While Kidd looked to be visibly declining his last year in Dallas, he seems rejuvenated in orange and blue, helping the Knicks reach contender status in the process.
2012-2013: 20.92 PER, 12.3 points per game, 56.3 percent shooting, 10.8 rebounds per game
2011-2012: 14.91 PER, 8.3 points per game, 46.6 percent shooting, 6.2 rebounds per game
J.J. Hickson is having his best season as a pro, manning the center position for Portland despite being undersized for a natural 5.
He's averaging a double-double in less than 30 minutes a game, taking advantage of his athletic and upward explosiveness to make plays above the rim. With LaMarcus Aldridge comfortable playing at the elbows further from the basket, Hickson has excelled as a complement working the low block inside.
He has been consistent, an adjective we haven't really used before to describe Hickson's game. On a one-year contract worth $4 million, Hickson has been providing substantial bang for Portland's buck.
2012-2013: 17.96 PER, 8.0 points per game, 54 percent shooting, 8.4 rebounds per game, 3.0 blocks per game
2011-2012: 13.34 PER, 3.6 points per game, 45.7 percent shooting, 3.1 rebounds per game, 1.5 blocks per game
Larry Sanders' impact on the interior has forced Scott Skiles to double his minutes from a year ago.
He's averaging three blocks in only 24 minutes per game, which illustrates his high activity rate and presence around the rim.
Sanders had a 10-block triple-double earlier this year against Minnesota and a 20-rebound game against Boston. His aggression, size and ability to play above the rim have made him a difficult assignment for opposing frontcourts.
At 6'11" with explosive NBA athleticism, Sanders has become one of the more feared shot-blockers in the league.
2012-2013: 16.64 PER, 11.1 points per game, 50.6 percent shooting, 10.5 rebounds per game, 1.1 blocks per game
2011-2012: 14.33 PER, 5.5 points per game, 45 percent shooting, 4.8 rebounds per game, 0.7 blocks per game
Philadelphia used a first-round pick on Nikola Vucevic, noticing his polished skill set and size. But nobody expected him to contribute this early in his career.
Vucevic is averaging a double-double for Orlando after being shipped over in the Dwight Howard trade. He's recently coming off a 29-rebound, 20-point performance that generated buzz throughout the entire basketball community.
Vucevic does an excellent job of maximizing his size by occupying the biggest amount of space that his body is capable of occupying. His offense will continue to expand as times goes by, but this type of impact on the interior shows how he's adjusted from his rookie to sophomore year.
2012-2013: 14.84 PER, 10.8 points per game, 58.8 percent shooting, 11.7 rebounds per game
2011-2012: 13.44 PER, 3.1 points per game, 50.6 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds per game
Omer Asik is justifying the $25.1 million contract Houston offered him that seemed bloated at the time. He's proven to be one of the most rock-solid post-defenders as an unmovable object in the paint, giving the Rockets toughness on the interior they never had with Luis Scola.
He's averaging a double-double after playing only 14.7 minutes a game in his last year in Chicago—the team who chose not to match the contract that was offered by Houston.
Asik ranks fourth in the NBA in rebounding, and ranks first in the ability to look like Eddie Murphy's partner Billy in the movie Beverly Hills Cop.
2012-2013: 14.9 PER, 14.5 points per game, 45.9 percent shooting, 3.6 assists per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, 1.4 steals per game, 36 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 13.33 PER, 9.5 points per game, 45.2 percent shooting, 2.1 assists per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 1.2 steals per game, 33.7 percent 3pt
If you saw this coming a few years ago when he was a forward at the University of Florida, then pass me whatever Kool-Aid you're drinking.
Chandler Parsons has erupted offensively for Houston and in some cases has even completely taken over as a dynamic scoring wing. He's actually shown to be somewhat clever as a perimeter scorer, using pump fakes and extra dribbles to free himself up and knock down jumpers.
At 6'9", Parsons can draw power forwards for defenders, where his foot speed away from the rim gives him a distinct advantage off the dribble.
Parsons is going to earn himself a nice little second contract for a former second-round pick. Houston will be getting substantial bang for the buck in the meantime.
2012-2013: 15.83 PER,13.6 points per game, 42.6 percent shooting, 9.0 assists per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 37.6 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 14.27 PER, 8.9 points per game, 43 percent shooting, 5.4 assists per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 31.9 percent 3pt
Greivis Vasquez has defined the term playmaker for a Hornets team that doesn't have many to offer. He's tied for third in the NBA in assists just a couple years after having his position questioned as an NBA prospect at Maryland.
Vasquez and Anthony Davis have been great for each other's development, as Davis needs a creator and Vasquez needs a target. With good size and quickness, Vasquez can penetrate the defense and execute as either a distributor or finisher.
Vasquez's creativity alone makes the Hornets more watchable than their record suggests.
2012-2013: 22.16 PER, 14.1 points per game, 47.8 percent shooting, 3.4 APG, 14.4 rebounds per game
2011-2012: 18.93 PER, 10.8 points per game, 51.4 percent shooting, 1.7 APG, 11.5 rebounds per game
Though Anderson Varejao has missed his last seven games with a knee injury, it would be irresponsible not to highlight what he's done prior to going down.
Before last year, Varejao had never averaged double figures in either rebounding or points. In 25 games played this year, he's averaging monstrous numbers of 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds per contest, completely dominating the paint as a relentless presence on the glass.
Varejao has taken his motor to a new level, and it seems that nobody is capable of containing his size and nose for the ball.
Considered a likely trade target to start the year, Varejao's play might have helped the Cavs change their stance on his value and long-term outlook.
2012-2013: 19.73 PER, 8.5 points per game, 46.2 percent shooting, 2.7 assists per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 1.5 steals per game, 33.3 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 11.24 PER, 3.3 points per game, 38.9 percent shooting, 1.7 assists per game, 1.6 rebounds per game, 0.8 steals per game, 20 percent 3pt
You get the feeling that someone is going to offer Eric Bledsoe a lot of money one day.
He's been mesmerizing at times this year, displaying elite athleticism and a mature offensive skill set to go with it. His numbers are pedestrian playing in a crowded backcourt with proven veterans, but he always seems to make his presence known when he's on the floor.
Bledsoe plays much bigger than his size with strength that most point guards aren't used to handling. Defensively he's an asset and a pest on the ball, always looking to make a play and bring it the other direction.
It's possible Bledsoe will be in the "most improved players" conversation every year until 2015. Expect him to get better and better as his workload increases.
2012-2013: 18.9 PER, 18.1 points per game, 42.7 percent shooting, 6.0 assists per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 1.9 steals per game, 33 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 14.98 PER, 12.1 points per game, 36.6 percent shooting, 4.4 assists per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 0.9 steals per game, 30.5 percent 3pt
Well, that was fast. Kemba Walker is already averaging 18.1 points per game in just his second year as an undersized scoring combo-guard.
He's Charlotte's primary scorer on offense and has even led the team to victory on multiple occasions.
It's at the point where defenses have to game-plan around Walker's quickness up top, which puts him on a level with some of the fastest guards in the game.
Walker is doing a little bit of both in terms of scoring and playmaking, giving Charlotte a puncher's chance on a nightly basis.
2012-2013: 16.54 PER, 18.6 points per game, 46.7 percent shooting, 3.8 assists per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 1.3 steals per game, 45.9 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 14.76 PER, 12.6 points per game, 40.8 percent shooting, 2.6 assists per game, 3.2 rebounds per game, 1.1 steals per game, 36.4 percent 3pt
Dallas handed O.J. Mayo bigger responsibilities as a primary scoring option, and he's run with his opportunity.
He's improved his shooting percentage with more shot attempts, a sign his confidence is high given the added offensive freedom.
It's a shame Dirk Nowitzki had to miss the first portion of the season, because Dirk and O.J. together would make for a potent one-two scoring punch.
2012-2013: 18.74 PER, 18.8 points per game, 45.1 percent shooting, 9.0 assists per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 35.6 percent 3pt
2011-2012: 14.74 PER, 13.5 points per game, 43.2 percent shooting, 4.5 assists per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 38 percent 3pt
You can start mentioning Jrue Holiday with some of the upper-echelon point guards in the league. He's scoring and distributing with consistent volume and is a potent offensive threat whenever the ball is in his hands.
With Andrew Bynum sidelined, Philadelphia doesn't have many reliable scoring options, but Holiday has kept the 76ers above water. He's playing with confidence and aggression while remaining in control of the offense.
Holiday has gone from an average point guard to a potential cornerstone at the position for the franchise. He's proven to be a guy you build with moving forward, and the 76ers should be thrilled with what they're getting from a former 17th overall pick.