The 5 Most Improved NBA Players at Quarter Mark of 2012-13 Season

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterDecember 12, 2012

The 5 Most Improved NBA Players at Quarter Mark of 2012-13 Season

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    The 2012-13 season has been full of surprises.

    The Warriors have been good, the Knicks have been great, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, the Lakers have been bad. 

    For teams to shock us, there must be a lot of flux within the rosters. Many players are playing above past levels this season, especially some of the older guys.

    In part, I credit these players. Otherwise, I credit new basketball strategies. The increased emphasis on spacing and three-point shooting has made the old man's game en vogue.

    If you can play decent defense and shoot off the catch, you have a great chance at making our most-improved list this year. 

5. Andrei Kirilenko

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    Can you win "Most Improved" after not playing in the NBA for a year? It's a valid question in this case, as Kirilenko has looked his best in years after returning to the NBA from a successful Euro campaign. 

    Back spasms took AK47 out for a while, but he's back and producing again, averaging 36 minutes per night for the Timberwolves.

    Kirilenko's defense was essential in the early part of the season when Kevin Love was out. Minnesota suffered for Andrei's absence on the defensive end. 

4. Jason Kidd

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    Can a 40-year-old man win the NBA's Most Improved award?

    Though Jason Kidd will turn that age in March, he seems to have picked up a new trick or two. After shooting .363 from the field last season, he's nudging toward the 50-percent mark. 

    Even better, roughly three quarters of those shots are coming from beyond the arc. The Knicks' spread pick-and-roll attack has worked wonders for his formerly shaky jumper.

    Kidd is getting his feet set and firing off the catch after Tyson Chandler or Carmelo Anthony draws the defense in.

    The four-out spread pick-and-roll has been a veritable fountain of youth for Kidd.

3. O.J. Mayo

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    If you stopped watching the Dallas Mavericks after Dirk went down, I don't blame you.

    But you did miss the best basketball of O.J. Mayo's career. A quick look at his numbers would reveal an impressive 21 points per game and an astounding .530 field-goal percentage on three-pointers

    Yes, the supposedly prototypical scoring guard is finally scoring. It's been a long time coming, after the USC and Memphis hype failed to amount to much.

    With the Mavs, Mayo has the reins and the minutes.

    Perhaps it's a comfort to need not worry about passing to better teammates. 

2. Larry Sanders

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    Not since the 1990s have I been so excited about a man named Larry Sanders.

    The Bucks' Larry Sanders been a defensive force for Milwaukee, blocking 3.1 shots in a scant 23.7 minutes per game. And it's not just what he's doing—it's how he's doing it.

    Sanders is a force near the rim but claims range far outside of it. He's hinting at a future as an elite NBA defender.

    It's not just the defense, as Sanders has improved offensively as well. He's hitting over half his shots to the tune of a 17.36 PER.

    If the Bucks didn't carry several lanky power forwards on their roster, he would have a much bigger role.

1. Eric Bledsoe

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    Eric Bledsoe is basketball entertainment personified, at least this season. The stout point guard is an incredible defender and too athletic to deny on offense.

    Last year, Bledsoe couldn't bring it all together, scoring only 3.3 points in 11.6 minutes per game. This year, he's pouring in an efficient 9.9 points in 18.4 minutes. 

    Bledsoe is stuck on the bench far too often due to the Clipper guard glut, but when he's in, it's electric. There is always a flurry of steals, drives and fast breaks, and in the end, it amounts to a prolific 23.7 PER to go along with the best defense in the league at that position.

    Crazy as it may sound, Bledsoe might be one of the first players taken were the 2010 draft to be redone.