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

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Published: July 11, 2012

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.

41 Comments

  1. SP

    July 11, 2012 at 6:28 am

    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!

  2. Darren

    July 11, 2012 at 7:39 am

    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.

  3. nikkoewan

    July 11, 2012 at 7:55 am

    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

  4. tmb1978

    July 11, 2012 at 8:33 am

    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.

  5. Trey

    July 11, 2012 at 8:53 am

    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.

  6. peedee

    July 11, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I can’t wait until next season!!!

  7. Mike P

    July 11, 2012 at 10:46 am

    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

      July 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

      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.

  8. Bonaparte

    July 11, 2012 at 11:00 am

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

  9. da ThRONe

    July 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

    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

      July 11, 2012 at 11:54 am

      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

        July 11, 2012 at 12:23 pm

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

      • Jochbe

        July 11, 2012 at 1:16 pm

        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

        July 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm

        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.

  10. Lucas Ottoni

    July 11, 2012 at 11:08 am

    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

      July 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

      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

        July 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm

        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

        July 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

        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

        July 16, 2012 at 10:42 am

        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.

  11. Monty Williams

    July 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Ryan was a great pickup.

  12. Kempleton

    July 11, 2012 at 11:55 am

    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!

  13. NOS-3RD GEN

    July 11, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    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

    • NOS-3RD GEN

      July 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      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.

    • Mason Ginsberg

      July 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      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.

    • Jo D

      July 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

      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…

  14. Pingback: Ryan Anderson lands with Hornets in sign-and-trade – Sacramento Bee · Sync Date and Sync Up Dating

  15. fred

    July 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    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.

    • Anthony Davis

      July 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      It’s a secret.

    • Jason Calmes

      July 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm

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

  16. jjmartin

    July 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

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

  17. j

    July 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    jarrett jack traded…..

  18. jjmartin

    July 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Jarret Jacks is GONE. PEACE HOME BOY

  19. jjmartin

    July 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm

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

  20. John in MO

    July 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    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

      July 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm

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

      • John in MO

        July 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm

        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

        July 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm

        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.

  21. Taylor

    July 11, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Great idea for an article… Well done Mason.

  22. Kempleton

    July 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

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