Through Monday, the NBA season is exactly 25 percent done. The quarter pole is a great time to evaluate a lot of things, but here we’re going to look at early candidates for the Most Improved Player award.
There isn’t clear criteria for the award, as indicated by the 13 different players who received first-place votes last season. Personally, I thought that Kevin Durant, who went from non-All-Star to MVP candidate, was the only choice, but only 17 of the 123 voters agreed with me.
Statistically, there are a few different ways you can compare performance from one year to the next. And I’ll probably explore all of them by the end of the season. But for now, since it’s still early, I’ll keep it simple.
To see whose production has taken the biggest jump from last season to this one, I looked at efficiency per game. Efficiency is a stat that’s been used here on NBA.com for a while now, and it’s fairly simple to understand. You just add up a player’s positive stats (points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks) and subtract turnovers and missed shots (both from the field and from the line). So the formula is this:
Pts. + Reb. + Ast. + Stl. + Blk. – Turn. – (FGA-FGM) – (FTA-FTM)
Here are the season leaders, and here are the most improved players, according to efficiency per game…
|Most Improved: Efficiency per Game|
D.J. Augustin probably isn’t one of the first guys you think of when it comes to Most Improved. But he’s clearly a step ahead of the field (especially since Reggie Evans is out for two months with a broken foot), having stepped into Raymond Felton‘s role as the starting point guard in Charlotte.
None of the other names on the list are real surprises.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the 10 players who have regressed most in terms of efficiency per game…
|Most Regressed: Efficiency per Game|
The name that stands out here, of course, is LeBron James. We all knew that his statistical production would fall off, but maybe not this much. People talked about him averaging a triple-double with the Heat, but his rebounds have gone down from 7.3 to 5.7 per game, and his assists have gone down from 8.6 to 7.3.
Last year, James led the league in efficiency at 32.4 per game, which was more than four points better than the next player on the list, Durant at 28.0. It’s obviously not easy maintaining those numbers when you’ve got to share the ball with two other All-Stars.