Proving They're Most Improved
It's one thing to have improvement in box-score statistics: Get more minutes from the coach and your numbers should rise.
It's another thing to see that same improvement in one's adjusted plus-minus as well ... and that's what is here in this list of the NBA's 10 Most Improved players for the 2010-11 season.
One more thing. I believe when a player wins the NBA Most Improved award, it should be during his best year ever. So players that have been better in seasons past, then declined before coming back to a high level, should not get M.I. votes (Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler).
That said, here are the 10 players who progressed the most as team players--with their improvements listed in adjusted plus-minus, Player Efficiency Rating and projected minutes played.
1. LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE, Trail Blazers power forward +/-: +2.58 to +8.08; PER: 18.2 to 21.7; Minutes: 2922 to 3270 (2552 actual) Shhhhh. Dont tell anybody but L.A. is a strong MVP candidate this year. He shoulda been an All-Star too. And he deserves the NBA Most Improved award. He's gone from a very good player to a great 25 year old.
2. KYLE LOWRY, Rockets point guard +/-: -0.99 to +4.51; PER: 15.5 to 16.5; Minutes: 1651 to 2549 (2056 actual) Aaron Brooks was traded to Phoenix for a reason. Houston, you've got no more problems with Lowry running your show. Consummate team player.
3. KEVIN LOVE, Timberwolves power forward +/-: -3.51 to 0.05; PER: 20.7 to 24.7; Minutes: 1714 to 3032 (2406 actual) Love has the award already won with the media vote because they see 21 points and 16 rebounds, improvements from 14 & 11 a year ago. But even those gaudy stats don't match the defensive improvement of Aldridge (-6.94) and Lowry (-6.73), the best numbers at their starting positions this season.
4. KEYON DOOLING, Bucks point guard +/-: -2.14 to +3.32; PER: 11.6 to 12.1; Minutes: 971 to 1833 (1410 actual) It's not often you see a 30 year old have a career year, but that's what we're seeing from the Bucks' combo guard under the influence of head coach Scott Skiles.
5. MIKE CONLEY, Grizzlies point guard +/-: -0.88 to +3.23; PER: 13.9 to 16.4; Minutes: 2569 to 2912 (2348 actual) Conley's four-year career arc is the very definition of improvement.
6. SERGE IBAKA, Thunder center +/-: -6.33 to -1.95; PER: 15.2 to 17.2; Minutes: 1323 to 2153 (1656 actual) Ibaka's playoff presence put him on the map. His dunking exhibition brought him more fame. And its his overall rapid development that has Thunder execs salivating about the 21 year old from Congo.
7. DERRICK ROSE, Bulls point guard +/-: -0.82 to +2.13; PER: 18.6 to 22.9; Minutes: 2871 to 3041 (2339 actual) Yes, Rose was an All-Star before. But now he is a superstar and an MVP candidate. That's a giant leap for mankind too.
8. DORELL WRIGHT, Warriors small forward +/-: +1.88 to +5.58; PER: 14.5 to 14.6; Minutes: 1496 to 3162 (2470 actual) Wright is a 25 year old with a 35-year-old basketball brain. Unflappable. Smart player. He puts the gold in Golden State.
9. JAVALE MCGEE, Wizards center +/-: -7.82 to -1.43; PER: 17.0 to 16.5; 968 to 2066 (1589 actual) Despite his shot-blocking and dunking prowess, it's his offensive improvement on the floor as a team player that has the Wizards happy for their 23-year-old leaper.
10. JRUE HOLIDAY, 76ers point guard +/-: +0.10 to +2.06; PER: 12.3 to 15.5; Minutes: 1767 to 2890 (2258 actual) Holiday came from UCLA just like Russell Westbrook and he improved his second season pretty similar to Westbrook as well. Bonus fact: Holiday is 20; Westbrook was seven months older in his second year at 21.
Sources: I used my own formula of three-year adjusted plus-minus numbers to show the past and my weighted APM numbers to show the present, with those stats coming from Aaron Barzilai's great website BasketballValue.com; I also used John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating from numbers supplied at Justin Kubatko's Basketball-Reference.com.