Sep 19 2012 10:34AM

Can The "Most Improved" Improve Again?

It's a legit question: Can the NBA's Most Improved award winner improve again the following season?

We took a look back at all the 21st Century winners and got answers to varying degrees.

The answer was Yes, if you asked Kevin Love, Monta Ellis, Jermaine O'Neal and Jalen Rose.

The answer was No, if you asked Aaron Brooks, Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu, Boris Diaw, Bobby Simmons, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady.

Simply put, it appears two out of every three Most Improved award-winners regressed the following season.

Some would go on to play an All-Star Game or three--Granger (1), Randolph (1) and Arenas (3). And there were even a few more who later improved into perennial All-Stars--McGrady (7), O'Neal (6) and it appears Love is on that path with two All-Star Games already.

But all things being equal, most failed to match the season that helped them win the MI trophy.

So what kind of season should we expect from Ryan Anderson in 2012-13?

It appears New Orleans Hornets' brass has a good idea of his value, giving the Orlando Magic free agent a four-year, $34 million contract.

It's less money than a perennial All-Star would make, but it's more bank than a good starter gets.

Chances are the stretch power forward will come back down to Earth a bit for the Hornets.

But it appears he may have a 1-in-3 chance of taking his game up another notch while playing alongside Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon.

Time will tell.


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RYAN ANDERSON

AFTER (2012-13) To Be Determined

MOST IMPROVED (2011-12) 61 g, 32.2 mpg, 16.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 0.9 apg, .589 tsp, 21.2 PER, +3.0 RAPM, 8.9 WS

BEFORE (2010-11) 64 g, 22.3 mpg, 10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 0.8 apg, .591 tsp, 19.0 PER, +2.3 RAPM, 6.4 WS

Anderson, who was the 21st pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, did as expected in his 2011-12 Most Improved season, elevating his playing time, scoring, PER and plus-minus stats as his previous three-year trajectory indicated he would. Anderson's play as been so consistent through the years, you halfway expect the stretch power forward to top himself in New Orleans, even though he will be surrounded by new teammates. If Anderson is able to complement rookie Anthony Davis in similar fashion to the way he played alongside Dwight Howard in Orlando, you once again should expect Anderson to top himself as a Hornet.


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KEVIN LOVE

AFTER (2011-12) 55 g, 39.0 mpg, 26.0 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, .568 tsp, 25.4 PER, +1.8 RAPM, 10.0 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2010-11) 73 g, 35.8 mpg, 20.2 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, .593 tsp, 24.3 PER, +0.3 RAPM, 11.4 WS

BEFORE (2009-10) 60 g, 28.6 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, .549 tsp, 20.7 PER, -0.7 RAPM, 4.9 WS

Love, who was the fifth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, has been the picture of improvement in all four of his NBA seasons in Minnesota, seeing a rise in PER, minutes and scoring each year. Perhaps his most impressive statistical showing is his improvement in plus-minus stats, with his RAPM rising from -0.7 in 2009-10 to +0.3 in 2010-11 and +1.8 in 2011-12. His individual statistics really can't get much better, but as his plus-minus stats improve, so too will Minnesota in the win-loss column.


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AARON BROOKS

AFTER (2010-11) 59 g, 21.8 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, .489 tsp, 13.2 PER, n/a RAPM, 1.1 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2009-10) 82 g, 35.6 mpg, 19.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 5.3 apg, .549 tsp, 16.0 PER, -0.3 RAPM, 5.5 WS

BEFORE (2008-09) 80 g, 25.0 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, .521 tsp, 12.9 PER, RAPM, 3.6 WS

Brooks, who was the 26th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, was able to parlay the Rockets' impressive 2009 NBA Playoff showing--a seven-game series with the champion Lakers--into a career-best season in 2009-10, averaging 20 points per game as Houston's starting point guard. Brooks had a big dropoff the year following his Most Improved award and then spent the 2011-12 season playing in China. His career appears to be in decline since his award-winning season, but he will have a chance to turn that around at Sacramento in 2012-13.


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DANNY GRANGER

AFTER (2009-10) 62 g, 36.7 mpg, 24.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, .564 tsp, 19.8 PER, +2.8 RAPM, 6.2 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2008-09) 67 g, 36.2 mpg, 25.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, .584 tsp, 21.8 PER, +2.4 RAPM, 8.0 WS

BEFORE (2007-08) 80 g, 36.0 mpg, 19.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, .542 tsp, 18.6 PER, -2.4 RAPM, 7.3 WS

Granger, who was the 17th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, became a big-time scorer in his 2008-09 Most Improved season, after playing somewhat steady minutes for three straight seasons following his rookie year. But it was as a scorer that Granger showed his greatest improvement during his first four NBA seasons (7.6 points in 22.6 minutes per game in 2005-06; 13.9 points in 34.0 minutes per game in 2006-07; 19.6 points in 36.0 minutes per game in 2007-08; 25.8 points in 36.2 minutes per game in 2008-09). That played a big role into why he won the 2008-09 NBA Most Improved award. As his Pacers team has gotten better over the years, Granger's scoring has gone down, but what is encouraging is that his RAPM has improved during that time too, showing his further improvement as a team player.


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HEDO TURKOGLU

AFTER (2008-09) 77 g, 36.6 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg, .541 tsp, 14.8 PER, +3.9 RAPM, 7.3 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2007-08) 82 g, 36.9 mpg, 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.0 apg, .576 tsp, 17.8 PER, +2.6 RAPM, 9.0 WS

BEFORE (2006-07) 73 g, 31.1 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, .528 tsp, 14.2 PER, +2.7 RAPM, 4.9 WS

Turkoglu, who was the 16th pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, won the Most Improved award in the only season where he averaged 20 points per game, playing alongside Dwight Howard in Orlando. Turkoglu also posted a career-best 17.8 PER that season. You'd have to figure that both of those facts figured into why Turkoglu, at age 28, surprisingly won the award that 2007-08 season. After all, he had already established himself as a productive contributor for the Kings, Spurs and Magic.


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MONTA ELLIS

AFTER (2007-08) 81 g, 37.9 mpg, 20.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.9 apg, .580 tsp, 19.0 PER, -0.1 RAPM, 9.0 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2006-07) 77 g, 34.3 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.1 apg, .545 tsp, 15.0 PER, -0.5 RAPM, 4.0 WS

BEFORE (2005-06) 49 g, 18.1 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, .486 tsp, 11.1 PER, -0.9 RAPM, 0.5 WS

Ellis, who was the 40th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, had a career arc similar to fellow former second-round Warrior Gilbert Arenas, following up his Golden State rookie season with a Most Improved award in 2006-07. What was noteworthy about Ellis' Most Improved season was that he went from a third-string rookie to a productive starter. But perhaps his true breakout season happened the following year, when he saw his PER rise from a standard 15.0 to a standout 19.0, marked by his 20.2 points in 37.9 minutes per game averages, while posting a .580 true shooting percentage. It was at that level that Ellis has sustained most of his career since.


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BORIS DIAW

AFTER (2006-07) 73 g, 31.1 mpg, 9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, .570 tsp, 13.0 PER, -1.7 RAPM, 4.6 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2005-06) 81 g, 35.5 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 6.2 apg, .564 tsp, 17.3 PER, +3.6 RAPM, 8.9 WS

BEFORE (2004-05) 66 g, 18.2 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, .479 tsp, 10.0 PER,-0.5 RAPM, 0.1 WS

Diaw, who was the 21st pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, found his identity playing alongside Steve Nash in Phoenix, becoming the big-man, all-around playmaker he is today. With his playing time nearly doubled from 18.2 to 35.5 minutes per game, Diaw's PER rise from 10.0 to 17.3 was also reflected in his scoring rise (4.8 to 13.3 points per game), rebound rise (2.6 to 6.9 boards per game) and assist rise (2.3 to 6.2 dimes per game), along with improvement in shooting (.479 to .564 true shooting percentage). Even though Diaw has had a productive NBA career, one would have to say his peak performance had to be that 2005-06 Most Improved season.


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BOBBY SIMMONS

AFTER (2005-06) 75 g, 33.8 mpg, 13.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, .559 tsp, 13.8 PER, +2.5 RAPM, 5.3 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2004-05) 75 g, 37.3 mpg, 16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.7 apg, .540 tsp, 16.1 PER, +3.0 RAPM, 6.8 WS

BEFORE (2003-04) 56 g, 24.6 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, .488 tsp, 12.6 PER, +2.3 RAPM, 2.0 WS

Simmons, who was the 41st pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, was another rare breed, ala Diaw, whose NBA career actually peaked in his Most Improved season. With a PER rise from 12.6 to 16.1, the second-round pick saw all of his averages rise rapidly, with an increase in playing time (24.6 to 37.3 minutes per game), scoring (7.8 to 16.4 points per game), 4.7 to 5.9 rebounds per game, 1.7 to 2.7 assists per game and .488 to .540 true shooting percentage. Simmons saw a slight decline in his play the year following his Most Improved award--not to mention a big 5-year, $47 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks--and then went through a big collapse, never even putting up half his 2004-05 scoring totals for the rest of his career.


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ZACH RANDOLPH

AFTER (2004-05) 46 g, 34.8 mpg, 18.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, .511 tsp, 18.6 PER, -0.5 RAPM, 3.1 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2003-04) 81 g, 37.9 mpg, 20.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, .528 tsp, 19.6 PER, -1.3 RAPM, 7.1 WS

BEFORE (2002-03) 77 g, 16.9 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, .555 tsp, 19.9 PER, -0.2 RAPM, 4.8 WS

Randolph, who was the 19th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, had his first of six 20-10 seasons when the third-year pro averaged 20.1 points and 10.5 rebounds in 37.9 minutes per game, which more than doubled his previous season's output (8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game). The increased playing time was the main reason Z-Bo got consideration for the award, because he was already doing the same per-minute work, as demonstrated by his 2002-03 PER, which was actually higher than his Most Improved score. Randolph has steadily improved through the year and has even played in an All-Star Game.


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GILBERT ARENAS

AFTER (2003-04) 52 g, 37.6 mpg, 19.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5.0 apg, .512 tsp, 16.0 PER, -1.4 RAPM, 2.6 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2002-03) 82 g, 35.0 mpg, 18.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6.3 apg, .540 tsp, 18.6 PER, +0.1 RAPM, 6.5 WS

BEFORE (2001-02) 47 g, 24.6 mpg, 10.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.7 apg, .562 tsp, 17.0 PER, -1.3 RAPM, 2.7 WS

Arenas, who was the 30th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, was able to parlay his second-round status into a 5-year, $51 million contract after his Most Improved season in Golden State, eventually signing on with the Wizards. The man who would be known as Agent Zero in Washington, started becoming a prolific scorer as a Warrior, elevating his scoring average from 10.9 to 18.3 points per game in 2002-03, once he got more playing time (from 24.6 to 35.0 minutes per game). Arenas would go on to become the focal point of the Wizards' offense, eventually playing in three All-Star Games and ranking as a Top 10 scorer three times.


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JERMAINE O'NEAL

AFTER (2002-03) 77 g, 37.2 mpg, 20.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, .539 tsp, 21.4 PER, +1.8 RAPM, 10.5 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2001-02) 72 g, 37.6 mpg, 19.0 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, .521 tsp, 18.1 PER, +1.5 RAPM, 6.4 WS

BEFORE (2000-01) 81 g, 32.6 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, .501 tsp, 17.5 PER, n/a RAPM, 6.4 WS

O'Neal, who was the 17th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, was a surprise Most Improved pick in 2001-02 because it was his 2000-01 campaign that was his true breakout season. He played five more minutes per game in his official Most Improved campaign and saw gradual, if any, improvement in his statistics. But if you look at the jumps the year before, it's mind-boggling that he got the award a year-too-late. From 1999-2000 to 2000-01, O'Neal saw his minutes per game jump as a 22 year old from 12.3 to 32.6, his scoring average from 3.9 to 12.9, rebound average from 1.9 to 6.7, block average from 0.8 to 2.8 and PER rise from 13.3 to 17.5. O'Neal would show continued improvement throughout his 20s and play in six NBA All-Star Games.


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TRACY McGRADY

AFTER (2001-02) 76 g, 38.3 mpg, 25.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, .532 tsp, 25.1 PER, +0.5 RAPM, 11.5 WS

MOST IMPROVED (2000-01) 77g, 40.1 mpg, 26.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, .521 tsp, 24.9 PER, n/a RAPM, 12.2 WS

BEFORE (1999-00) 79 g, 31.2 mpg, 15.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, .509 tsp, 20.0 PER, n/a RAPM, 6.6 WS

McGrady, the ninth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, saw an annual progression in his minutes from his high-school-to-pro rookie season in Toronto, where he first averaged 18 minutes per game, followed by 23 and 31 minutes per game. But once he signed a big-money deal with Orlando and got out of the shadow of his cousin Vince Carter in Toronto, that's when T-Mac saw his playing time balloon to 40 minutes per game, leading not only to his Most Improved season in 2000-01, but to his first of seven All-Star Games. If you look at T-Mac's per-minute stats, his rebounds and assists actually declined in his Most Improved season. But there was no denying that he became one of the game's elite scorers, once he got heavy minutes in Orlando, He would eventually lead the NBA in scoring in the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.


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JALEN ROSE

AFTER (2000-01) 72 g, 40.9 mpg, 20.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6.0 apg,.530 tsp, 17.8 PER, n/a RAPM, 7.3 WS

MOST IMPROVED (1999-2000) 80 g, 37.2 mpg, 18.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.0 apg, .547 tsp, 16.7 PER, n/a RAPM, 7.3 WS

BEFORE (1998-1999) 49 g, 25.3 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, .479 tsp, 14.4 PER, n/a RAPM, 1.8 WS

Rose, the 13th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, saw a slight uptick in his performance in that 1999-2000 Most Improved season, but the main reason the voters gravitated to him was 1: the Pacers had a good team that would go on to reach the 2000 NBA Finals; 2. most importantly, Rose got 2978 minutes--800 more than he had in any of his previous five seasons. That's why his 37.2 minutes per game was 10 better than his previous high, resulting in career high points/rebounds/assists per-game averages. The 27-year-old Rose pretty much played near that same level the following two seasons as well.

GLOSSARY g: games; mpg: minutes per game; ppg: points per game; rpg: rebounds per game; apg: assists per game; tsp: true shooting percentage; PER: Player Efficiency Rating; RAPM: Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus; WS: Win Shares.

SOURCES Basketball-Reference; Stats For The NBA; Hollinger's NBA Player Stats.