Monday, 23 April 2012

I firmly believe that individual awards should be based on individual performance. Sounds simple right? How many times do you hear that LeBron isn't MVP because he plays with D-Wade, or that Kevin Love can't be an MVP candidate since the T-wolves can't sniff .500? It's like measuring player success based on team results. Do you have to win a title to be an elite player? If that was true then shouldn't elite teams be measured on individual awards? Of course not.

It's not hard to tell that like many people with an NBA-OCD, I stare at advanced stats at a near-blinding rate. There is always such a hidden story deep in a box score. Look at how many times a team loses despite having someone go for 35+. Is that a continual failure of the team to match the scorer's efforts? Often that is the way the highlight package is presented to you. But dig a little deeper. Instead of shooting 28 times at a 40% clip, and getting your 40 followed by the standard post-game "I would trade all the points for a win" speech, does it ever occur to guys that maybe there is a way to do just that - trade your points for a win? Everyone knows that there is high value shots (close to the rim, corner 3's) and low value shots (vs the double team, long two's etc) so if you can pass up some of those misses (since the misses are disproportionately low value shots) you start trading-up for a greater chance at winning the game. That is the goal, right?

There is a lot of potential choices for the Most Improved Player award. Some guys went from underwhelming to above average (Roy Hibbert, Goran Dragic, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Thompson, Gordon Hayward), guys who went from terrible to slightly below average (Roddy Beaubois, Nate Robinson, Michael Beasley, Linas Kleiza) and one guy who went from terrible at a historic level, to just unusually bad - TO's own Andrea Bargnani.

Very few above average players are able to improve as substantially as the above guys. Brandon Rush went from average-level shooting to above average across all measures (FG%, 2 point FG%, 3 point FG%, TS%, eFG%). Ersan Ilyasova - all he did was go from mostly average to well above average at basically everything. How about adding this weapon - he went from a 30% 3 point shooter to 45%! Not to mention he's picking up 4 more boards a game. At just over 15/48 mins he'll get you 4 more than the average.

However one guy smashed his way into the upper levels of the most elite group of players. Since last season, this shooting guard is getting almost 20% more points per 48 minutes, increased his rebounds, decreased his fouls and went from a good shooter to well above average in all measurable ways. He has a better 3pt%, eFg%, TS%, FT%, and more free throw attempts than Dwyane Wade. If you are a Kobe fan, you do not want to run a comparison to him. Simply put, he is the best mix of efficient scoring and versatile range in the league. Somehow he manages to be the least noticed elite talent in the NBA while. The most improved player is James Harden.

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