Aaron Brooks named Most Improved Player

Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but it looks like my prediction a few days ago was spot on. Aaron Brooks has won the 2010 Most Improved Player award.

The speedy, 6-foot point guard was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Thursday, after setting career highs in points (19.6 per game), assists (5.3) and rebounds (2.6). His scoring average went up 8.4 points from 2008-09, the highest increase of any qualifying player.

Brooks earned 403 of a possible 615 points, including 62 first-place votes, from a panel of 123 sports writers and broadcasters. Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City and George Hill of San Antonio tied for second with 101 total points.

This marks the 9th straight year that the award has gone to a player drafted with the 16th pick or later. Sixteen of the last 17 MIP winners were drafted #13 or later (or not at all, in the case of Darrell Armstrong). The award simply doesn’t go to former lottery picks.

Kevin Durant finished second, but as a former #2 overall pick, his superstardom was expected. I am a little surprised that Andrew Bogut didn’t finish in the top three. I thought that the somewhat mediocre start he had to his career would have lowered the bar enough that his drastic improvement both offensively and defensively would have been noticed by the voters.

As for George Hill, after only one TrueHoop panelist voted for him, this is what I had to say:

What about George Hill? He only got one vote from the TrueHoop panel, but the former 26th overall pick improved his numbers from 6-2-2 last season to 12-3-3 this season, and was a big reason why the Spurs stayed in the playoff picture even though they lost Tony Parker for part of the season.

Congratulations to Brooks. He had a very nice season.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Who will win the NBA Most Improved Player award?

When handicapping the NBA MIP award, I always like to look at the player’s original draft position. Here’s a table with the last 20 winners of the MIP award. Take a look:

Notice anything? Only one MIP winner in the last 16 years (Tracy McGrady) was drafted in the first 12 picks.

It appears that the voters don’t just look at overall improvement, they also take into account unexpected improvement.

Looking at TrueHoop’s list of MIP candidates that received more than one vote from a panel of voters, here are draft positions for each player: Kevin Durant (2), Andrew Bogut (1), Corey Brewer (7), Joakim Noah (9), Josh Smith (17), Russell Westbrook (4), Aaron Brooks (26), Anderson Varejao (30), Channing Frye (8), Al Horford (3), Andray Blatche (49) and Zach Randolph (19).

Can we safely cross Durant, Bogut, Noah, Westbrook, Frye and Horford off the list?

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Danny Granger wins Most Improved Player

Danny Granger has been named the 2009 NBA Most Improved Player. Last month, I wrote the following in my “Predicting the 2009 NBA year-end awards” post.

Most Improved
This is always a tough one. Usually, it goes to a player that entered the league without a lot of pomp and circumstance (i.e. they were non-lottery picks) that makes the jump from role player or starter to star or superstar. The last eight winners are: Hedo Turkoglu (16th pick), Monta Ellis (40th), Boris Diaw (21st), Bobby Simmons (42nd), Zach Randolph (19th), Gilbert Arenas (31st), Jermaine O’Neal (17th) and Tracy McGrady (9th). A few of the names being bandied about are Devin Harris (5th), Danny Granger (17th), Kevin Durant (2nd), Nene (7th), Thaddeus Young (12th), Brandon Roy (6th) and Roger Mason (31st). Durant, Harris, Roy, Young and Nene all came into the league as lottery picks, a fact that works against them in this case. They’ve all made leaps this season, though I think everyone was expecting Durant, Harris, Roy and Young to make those jumps. Nene is more of a comeback player than an MIP. He’s been battling injuries his entire career, so the fact that he’s playing well while healthy is no surprise. The last few winners indicate that the MIP usually goes to a player who makes an unexpected leap, so I think it will go to Danny Granger, though his late season run in 2007-08 works against him. He averaged 22.4 points in March of ’08, and 24.8 ppg in April of ’08, so if you dig into the numbers a little, his play this season isn’t as big of a surprise. Still, I don’t think that he had the same expectations as Durant, Harris and Roy, so I think he’s our guy. Mason might be the darkhorse.
My choice: Granger
My prediction: Granger

Devin Harris finished a close second (364 to 339). The bottom line is that it’s tough to win the MIP if you were a former lottery pick; it hasn’t been done since T-Mac won it back in 2001.

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