After a month of action here’s a way-too-early look at the most improved players around the league.
I listed the 10 likeliest players to win the 2018 MIP Award with stats from the past two years showing their improvements in bold.
San Antonio Spurs
Perhaps it’s unfair to put Anderson on this list. His increased playing time 14.2 MPG last year -> 27.4 MPG this year has allowed him to increase production across the board.
Dubbed the Tao of Slow-Mo Anderson has shown the unique ability to play at an excruciatingly slow yet effective manner. His size and length allow him to impact the game on both sides as a plus defender and playmaker.
Maybe Kawhi returning will bump Anderson back down the pecking order, but maybe Spurs will continue to play Anderson major minutes allowing him to compete for the 2018 MIP award.
17/18 stats: 8.6 PPG, 3.1 AST, 6.2 RPG, 0.8 STL, 1.0 BLK, 51% FG, 38% 3FG
16/17 stats: 3.4 PPG, 1.3 AST, 2.9 RPG, 0.7 STL, 0.4 BLK, 45% FG, 38% 3FG
Tyreke has returned from the dead to haunt all the doubters and non-believers.
He is shooting a career best 50% from the floor and a blistering 41% from 3. Evans has provided a spark for the Griz off the bench in the young season.
Tyreke’s season is the quintessential cinderella story… a former ROY winner returning to top form with an improved stroke.
17/18 stats: 17.9 PPG, 3.4 AST, 5.0 RPG, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK, 50% FG, 41% 3FG
16/17 stats: 10.3 PPG, 3.1 AST, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 STL, 0.3 BLK, 40% FG, 36% 3FG
Lamb is finally tapping into his potential.
Coming out of UConn, Lamb was the 12th pick in 2012 mostly because his ability to spread the floor. Adjusting to the NBA proved to be harder than expected as he averaged only 3.1 points as a rookie and never really found his college stroke.
In 2017/18 it seems Lamb has found his way. For the first time ever is shooting over 40% from 3 and he’s actually demonstrating his playmaking tools with a career-best 3.1 assists per game.
The past few games Lamb has slowed down with Batum’s return, but his ability to put the ball in the bucket keeps him on this list.
17/18 stats: 16.0 PPG, 3.1 AST, 5.1 RPG, 0.9 STL, 0.3 BLK, 46% FG, 41% 3FG
16/17 stats: 9.7 PPG, 1.2 AST, 4.3 RPG, 0.4 STL, 0.4 BLK, 46% FG, 28% 3FG
Sabonis is having quite the FUCK-YOU campaign.
After being the afterthought in the summer trade with OKC he is quickly showing why he deserves more credit.
Sabonis increased his PER by more than double, jumping from 9.5 to 20.2.
He is averaging a healthy 9.2 rebounds in only 25 mpg off the bench. Sabonis is a hard-nosed player with a knack for scoring around the rim, look for him to carve out more playing time as he continues to improve.
17/18 stats: 12.7 PPG, 2.5 AST, 9.2 RPG, 0.3 STL, 0.3 BLK, 59% FG, 43% 3FG
16/17 stats: 5.9 PPG, 1.0 AST, 3.6 RPG, 0.5 STL, 0.4 BLK, 40% FG, 32% 3FG
Giannis is really good at basketball.
He is 23 years old and leads the league in PER at 30.59. His blend of athleticism, freakish length, strength, and basketball IQ allows him to compete at a level few others can… like maybe just Lebron and KD.
Blah blah blah, the stats speak for themselves.
Giannis is placing his name on the ballot for both MVP and MIP in 2018.
17/18 stats: 29.7 PPG, 4.4 AST, 10.3 RPG, 1.6 STL, 1.9 BLK, 55% FG, 27% 3FG
16/17 stats: 22.9 PPG, 5.4 AST, 8.8 RPG, 1.6 STL, 1.9 BLK, 52% FG, 27% 3FG
Let me introduce you to Mr. 3-and-D…
Meet Robert Covington.
For years RoCo has flashed his ability to defend and shoot 3s at a respectable rate. This year he’s evolved from a competent shooter to a lethal marksmen. He is hitting 3.6 threes per game at an insane 48% clip. Even if these numbers regress a bit he is demonstrating why he’s the ultimate role-player next to Philly’s talented young core.
Covington is 27 years old and seems to be finally finding his niche in the league and if he keeps up this torrid pace don’t be surprised to see him land the MIP award.
17/18 stats: 16.5 PPG, 1.5 AST, 5.6 RPG, 1.7 STL, 0.8 BLK, 49% FG, 48% 3FG
16/17 stats: 12.9 PPG, 1.5 AST, 6.5 RPG, 1.9 STL, 1.0 BLK, 40% FG, 33% 3FG
New York Knicks
PorzinGod could be in our next MVP column but for now let’s put him here.
Porzingis is THRIVING with Melo finally gone. As the single go-to option for the Knicks he has willed them to victories including an incredible 40 point performance in a come-from-behind win in Madison Square Garden.
Kristaps is the original unicorn. He stands at a menacing 7′ 3″ with a silky smooth stroke… Oh, and by the way he gets an NBA best 2.3 blocks per game.
Porzingis is legitimately one of the 10 best players in the NBA right now and if his trajectory continues he could be one of the all-time great big men to ever play.
17/18 stats: 27.6 PPG, 1.1 AST, 7.1 RPG, 0.5 STL, 2.3 BLK, 47% FG, 40% 3FG
16/17 stats: 18.1 PPG, 1.5 AST, 7.2 RPG, 0.7 STL, 2.0 BLK, 45% FG, 36% 3FG
AG is finally playing his preferred power forward position in an up-tempo Orlando Magic system. And through 17 games, boy has it paid off… just ask the Brooklyn Nets.
Gordon is posting career highs EVERYWHERE. His jump from 29% shooting from 3 to 44% is astounding. He demonstrates a unique ability as an elite rim-runner and competent outside shooter.
Aaron Gordon is the ultimate hybrid big and Orlando should be happy with his progress.
17/18 stats: 17.5 PPG, 2.1 AST, 8.1 RPG, 0.9 STL, 0.7 BLK, 52% FG, 44% 3FG
16/17 stats: 12.7 PPG, 1.9 AST, 5.1 RPG, 0.8 STL, 0.5 BLK, 45% FG, 29% 3FG
Oladipo has been magnificent in the young 17/18 season. For the first time in his career he is scoring over 20 points per game and shooting better than 40% from deep.
Oladipo was the main piece in the package that sent PG13 to OKC over the summer. All the NBA analysts that trashed the Pacers for giving up their star for two below-average NBA players couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, right now both Oladipo and Sabonis have higher PERs than Paul George, just sayin’.
Oladipo is still 25 and with the keys to the Indiana franchise in his possession, the sky is the limit. He and Myles Turner could be a scaaaaaary tandem in a couple years.
17/18 stats: 22.9 PPG, 3.8 AST, 5.2 RPG, 1.7 STL, 0.9 BLK, 46% FG, 45% 3FG
16/17 stats: 15.9 PPG, 2.6 AST, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 STL, 0.3 BLK, 44% FG, 36% 3FG
Warrior-killer Jaylen Brown is quickly becoming one of the league’s most prolific wings. Offensively, JB has had to step up in the absence of Gordon Hayward and so-far he’s exceeded expectations. His scoring is already up almost 10 points from last year.
Brown has the rare ability to be a positive contributor across all facets of the game. His shot was questioned at Cal because he only hit 29% from deep but he’s improved drastically shooting 34% as a rookie, and now 40% so far as a sophomore.
Brown’s defensive prowess combined with his open court mobility, outside touch, and elite finishing ability places him ahead of almost any other player his age(21).
The #1 seeded Celts should be proud of their young wing.
17/18 stats: 16.2 PPG, 1.0 AST, 6.7 RPG, 1.2 STL, 0.3 BLK, 47% FG, 40% 3FG
16/17 stats: 6.6 PPG, 0.8 AST, 2.8 RPG, 0.4 STL, 0.2 BLK, 45% FG, 34% 3FG