On Ryan Anderson’s Potential – Do “Most Improved Players” keep Improving?

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Published: July 11, 2012
Ryan Anderson with the 2012 NBA Most Improved Player Award

Mason takes a look at the recent history of the Most Improved Player award and the production of those who have won it, the most recent of whom being the Hornets’ newest forward, Ryan Anderson.

In the 2011-12 NBA season, Ryan Anderson won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Personally, I always take this award with a grain of salt, because the league’s true “most improved player” rarely actually wins it. This claim is not meant to be a knock to Anderson; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The “Most Improved Player” tends to be a player who has already showed his potential and ability, and then during the season in which he wins the award, capitalizes on an overdue uptick in playing time. Even Hedo Turkoglu, a  player who appeared to be a very deserving winner based on his vast improvement in the 2007-08 season, may have only truly won the award because of a significant dip in efficiency in the 2006-07 season as compared to the two before that. There will always be exceptions (such as Bobby Simmons in 2004-05), but more often than not, the award is given not to the most improved player, but instead to the most talented player with the largest increase in opportunity to showcase that talent.

Hornets fans, especially those who were not very familiar with Anderson previously, should take comfort in this explanation of the award; simply put, this means that most winners typically aren’t “flukes”, or flashes in the pan. Of the few that could be labeled as such, there are variables that separate them from the others which we can use to determine into which category Anderson falls. To help us figure this out, I have listed each winner of this award since 2000 in addition to a few key statistics to compare them.

*Click here to view the table*

(non-beta version of that table here)

Conclusions:

  1. Large percentage increases (20% or higher) in a player’s PER between the year before and year of his MIP award seem to indicate an unsustainable performance spike. Since 2000, the average career PER for the seven players with a 20% or greater jump between those two seasons was 15.91. Out of the five remaining whose PER increased by less than 20%, their average career PER is almost 4 full points higher at 19.66. While PER slightly favors players with higher usage rates, it doesn’t give any special treatment based on how many minutes per game a player receives, so this would seem to be valuable data. In fact, the only reason the first group of players has an average career PER above the league average is because of Tracy McGrady’s PER increase from 20 to 24.5, leading to his inclusion in that group. Ryan Anderson’s PER % Increase – 11.6% 
  2. Players with PERs above the league average (15.0) the year before they won the Most Improved Player award tend to have far better careers than those below the league average. This concept is fairly intuitive; if a player starts off as an above average player even before winning this award, we should probably assume that said player is in fact above average. Five out of the past twelve MIP award winners posted below-average PERs during the season before they won the award; their combined average career PER is 14.34. Conversely, the seven award winners whose PERs were above the league average in that season have a combined average career PER of 19.71. Ryan Anderson’s PER the season before his MIP Award year – 19.0 
  3. Players who win the Most Improved Player Award at a younger age (23 or under) are more likely to go on to better careers than those who win it later in life. The data for this assumption is not quite as conclusive as the first two points, but it’s still strong enough to mention. Eight of the past twelve MIP award winners were 23 or younger, and this group has a combined average career PER of 18.80; the combined average career PER of the other four is just 14.83. Ryan Anderson’s MIP award age – 23 

So, to recap: Anderson was already a well above-average player before he won the Most Improved Player award, didn’t experience an abnormal increase in efficiency during his award-winning season, and only turned 24 after the 2011-12 regular season came to an end. All three of those factors appear to indicate that Ryan Anderson has very little chance of experiencing any kind of serious regression in New Orleans, and should be a very effective player throughout the life of his four year, $34 million contract with the Hornets.

38 comments
Taylor
Taylor

Great idea for an article... Well done Mason.

John in MO
John in MO

From Monty at Ryan intro press conference: Monty: "We said from day one we wanted guys who wanted to be here " Said Anderson bought in day one. Sound pointed, EG? Also, Good luck in GS, Cap'n Jack. Thank you for your hard work in NOLA.

jjmartin
jjmartin

Rivers is going to be running the point for the Hornets. That is awsome. Seems even more crucial to sign Eric Gordon.

jjmartin
jjmartin

See I disagree. He will be primarily running the point in practices and summer league. I feel he will be the starting point guard at the beginning of the year. But hey I guess we'll find out soon enough.

John in MO
John in MO

I think GV will be running the point, at least at first, but this does open up a ton of minutes for Austin to learn the position off the bench while also getting minutes at the 2. It should help him develop faster. It looks to me like Anderson's comment about being the veteran leader makes more sense now.

jjmartin
jjmartin

Traded for Edin Bavicic. 3 team trade involving Us, Sixers, Warriors.

jjmartin
jjmartin

Jarret Jacks is GONE. PEACE HOME BOY

j
j

jarrett jack traded.....

jjmartin
jjmartin

Hornets and Clippers are talking S&T Bellinelli to Clippers for Gomes and pick.

fred
fred

What means this? The New Orleans Hornets renounced their free agent exception rights toMarcus Banks. The New Orleans Hornets renounced their free agent exception rights toMarco Belinelli. The New Orleans Hornets renounced their free agent exception rights toChris Kaman. The New Orleans Hornets renounced their free agent exception rights toCarl Landry. The New Orleans Hornets renounced their free agent exception rights toD.J. Mbenga.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

It means we cleared holds on our cap space and gave up the rights to sign those guys into exceptions.

NOS-3RD GEN
NOS-3RD GEN

I really think he'll be perfect at (SF). It would be perfect. especially if we get an tall good or great Center as a starter, and if we trade ERIC GORDON for Gortat, Marshall, and 1st RND pick(2013). After that S&T for Bobcats formal most improved player of the year.We could also trade J.Jack for Dorell Wright and 2nd RND pick.Our Roster so far could look like this. 2012-13 Roster PG-D.AUG-K.Marshalls-G.Vasquez- J.Dyson SG-A.Rivers(R)-D.Wright-G.Vasquez-X.Henry SF-R.Anderson-D.wright-A.Aminu-Lance Thomas-D.Miller(R) PF-A.Davis(R)-J.Smith-R.AndersonL.Thomas C-M.Gortat-J.Smith-D.Watson

Jo D
Jo D

Problem 1... Dell says we are matching the offer sheet that should arrive today Problem 2... We aren't signing DJ unless we find some extra cap space and trade away another guard... Problem 3.. Wright got traded to Sixers... I expect dell to surprise us with a trade for a center that NO ONE expects... After I heard of the Ryan Anderson trade I was shocked... Not because of the talent involved, but because the first we heard of it was after terms were already agreed to!! Outside of the CP3 deal, Dell does a good job of keeping his dealings out of the media...

Mason Ginsberg
Mason Ginsberg

As nice as that would be, Anderson doesn't have the lateral quickness or athleticism to guard opposing SFs. I think it's more likely to see him playing some center when Anthony Davis is at PF.

NOS-3RD GEN
NOS-3RD GEN

By the way we trade the PHO 1st and our 2nd pick to CHA for D.A. I'm glad anderson is part of us, but I want to know what are we gonna do about or for Gordon.

Kempleton
Kempleton

Great article Mason! Now, think that Anderson played alongside one of the best rebounders of the league, Dwight Howard. I expect his defensive rebounding to improve as well. (until Davis becomes a beast of himself) He can become a Double-Double machine. Oh wait. Do y'all remember another player who broke records like that? I LOVE this game! Anderson will be a lethal weapon for us! Welcome Ryan!

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

I love Anderson. How could I not like a guy who has only 24, who can play in three positions (SF, PF and C) and is 88% FT and 40% 3PT? Welcome, Ryan!

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

IDK maybe because he's making an average of 8.5million. When the following season the luxury tax are about to be insane. Think about it the Magic let him go for Ayon. Most likely they are about to be in a similar place as we are rebuilding wise after the Howard deal. Yet they still didn't think he was worth the price we were willing to pay. That has to tell you something. This isn't Otis Smith Magic anymore.

Mason Ginsberg
Mason Ginsberg

You say I can't use one contract to justify offering another, but you're using one team's (Orlando) decision on a player's worth to determine what every team would think he's worth. I feel very confident in saying that most teams in the NBA would look at Anderson's contract and believe that the Hornets got a great deal.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

Once again you can't use other bad to questionable contracts to justify giving away a questionable contract. We don't want to be those team we want to be better.

Mason Ginsberg
Mason Ginsberg

They gave Jameer Nelson a 3-year extension for about $7 million per season instead of paying Anderson slightly more. Otis Smith or not, that's just plain stupid.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

Yeah I have to agree good work. Also I don't think Anderson is a fluke either. However I don't see him as a core member of a deep playoff team and most certainly not a championship team. Which he's being paid like with this new contract. That's my only problem with the signing. While he is only 24 he has time to grow I think because of his limited athletic abilities I don't see much more room for growth with Anderson. Ideal I see him as a 6th man not a core piece. Hopefully I'm wrong and he can continue to grow so his impact isn't as dependent on other players.

Jochbe
Jochbe

I think you are way off. Think of it this way--take the four teams that made the conference finals this past year (so teams that are obviously "deep playoff" teams). Then replace the starting power forward (using Battier for the Heat) in game one of those series with Ryan Anderson. They would all still be teams that go deep in the playoffs, and RA would clearly be a "core member" of each team. In fact, I think a case could be made that he would be the 4th best/most important player on each (and the 3rd best for Miami when Bosh is injured). Furthermore, I think the only team that doesn't improve with that switch is OKC, because of loss of defense and not as good a fit. And San Antonio and Boston both probably greatly increase their chances of making the finals with that move.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

He can not create his own offense. To me that's a prerequisite for being a core member of deep playoff team. Either that are premier shot blocker/post defender or perimeter defender. I don't think it's beyond the possibililty for Ryan to increase his play making abilities, but until he can 8.5 mil is too much IMO.

Jochbe
Jochbe

Even if he is being overpaid, that doesn't justify your claim that he wouldn't be a core member of a deep playoff team. And it isn't that obvious that he is being overpaid. Players on conf. championship teams making $ in the vicinity of his contract included Kendrick Perkins and Steven Jackson (who actually made a fair bit more). And I don't think Jermaine O'Neal and Mike Miller was that far off. Players on teams that made it to the second round making around the same $ include Metta World Peace, Caron Butler and Leandro Barbosa. I'll take Ryan Anderson out of that group.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

The problem with that thought is at 8.5 million he wouldn't fit with the Heat, Thunder, Spurs, Celtics etc.

Bonaparte
Bonaparte

Mr. Ginsberg, you continue to cement your case as Don Draper's protege. Well done, good sir. Well done.

Mike P
Mike P

Mason, awesome article.. I love statistical analysis. You said that career PER tends to be higher for those receiving it at an earlier age.. but couldn't that be because they have fewer bad PER seasons to pull down the average? Not trying to nitpick at all. Just trying to find reasons for what you found in your analysis. Awesome stuff, 247.. These articles make my day

Jp Mouton
Jp Mouton

In a way you are correct that the early worse seasons drag down their career PER's. So maybe focusing on peak PER or even next 3 (or in this case 4) years after MIP year. But those early, lesser, seasons do count. If you have 5 years of 11ppg and 4 years of 32ppg, you don't get to claim you are on MJ's level.

peedee
peedee

I can't wait until next season!!!

Trey
Trey

Nothing fluky about Anderson. If you look at Anderson's per 36 and his advanced %s, last year was pretty much in line with his career #s. He just played more minutes so his per game looked better. Even if he doesn't improve at all, at worst they get a deadeye 3pt shooter and great offensive rebounder.

tmb1978
tmb1978

Even if we get the Ryan Anderson version from last year, it still a step up. 16ppg, 3 point range, and the right personality to go with Davis up front. they should do well together.

nikkoewan
nikkoewan

Great work although I didn't need to read a post like this to convince myself that Ryan Anderson is no fluke... Good job yet again

Darren
Darren

I agree with the first guy. Very impressive. These are the types of articles that separate this blog from the mediocrity of a Nola.com piece.

SP
SP

Hornets247 really does go above and beyond... easily the best blog on the truehoop network. I was going to put together something like this for my own benefit this morning, but you guys beat me to it! This is some pretty elite company that Anderson has placed himself amongst, hopefully he comes out guns blazing next season because all signs point towards him being productive. Great job Mason!

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