Thursday, May 6, 2010

My beef with the NBA's Most Improved Player Award

(Photo from Yahoo)
Key: MIP=Most Improved Player Award

It's old news, but Aaron Brooks won the MIP this year after boosting his numbers from

11.2 points on 40% shooting, 3 assists, and 1.4 3pt made
19.6 points on 43% shooting, 5 assists, and 2.6 3pt made

Here's his recent career courtesy of his Yahoo Profile Page:
Recent CareerFG3PTFTReboundsMisc
YearTeamG Min MAPct
2008-09HOU8025:00 4.09.840.4

True, these are improved statistics. But my beef with the award (along with a lot of other NBA arguments) is that statistics don't tell the whole story. Although... I will be using statistics to prove my point. But anyways, look at the minutes played. Aaron Brooks went from 25 minutes per in 08-09 to 35:30 minutes per this season. My argument is that Aaron Brooks' numbers are inflated due to an increase in minutes and that he was fully capable of averaging these numbers if given the chance, which he was this year. NBA sportswriters across the nation take a look at the RAW stats (simple player profile page with per game averages) and see who made the biggest jump statistically, and vote him as the MIP.

So the first thing we need to look at is the boost in minutes from 25 to 35:30. More minutes = more stats.

Read a little further and note that this Houston team is absolutely nothing compared to last years. Missing is Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady (played half the season when Brooks was on the bench), and the face of the franchise, Yao Ming. Added is Trevor Ariza who had his ups and downs this season.

Read a little further into this and note that although he played in 80 games last season, he only started 35, coming off the bench for Rafer Alston. When Alston was traded to the Magic for Brian Cook and Kyle Lowry, Brooks went into the starting lineup for only 35 games, meaning that a majority of his per game stats are BENCH stats. Here are the splits:
As a bench player in the 08/09 season, he averaged
  • 20 minutes, 10 pts on 40% FG, 2.4 ast, 1.1 3pt made
As a starter in the 08/09 season, he averaged
  • 31 minutes, 13 pts on 40% FG, 3.7 ast, 1.7 3pt made.
Even when he started, he's still averaging more minutes this year as a starter. So let's look at one of my all time favorite stats, the PER 36 MINUTES STAT.
If you're not familiar with the per 36 minute stat, it's a way to gauge how a player would perform based on the minutes he does play, if he played a 36 minute game (average playing time for an NBA player). Example: Two players both average 20 points per game, player A plays 10 minutes per game , player B averages 48 minutes per game. If you just looked at their per game stats, you'd say, "they're both averaging 20 points, whats the big deal?" The big deal is that it's taking player A 10 minutes to score 20 points, imagine if he played 36 minutes!

Here are Aaron Brooks per 36 minutes stat from last season (08-09) note: percentages stay the same as regular per game stats -

16 points, 4.3 assists, 2 3pt made

and his per 36 minutes stat from this season (09-10)

19.8 pts, 5.4 ast, 2.6 3pt made

(Stats from

Is this worthy of the MOST IMPROVED player award? Slight upticks in a new offense where he's the second best scorer for most of the season with Artest and Yao gone (but 24 games with Kevin Martin at the end of the season made him probably the third best scorer behind Martin and Ariza. See Tracy McGrady 3 team deal)? Well that's the debate. I don't feel that Aaron Brooks was the most improved player. He had the skill all along, he just needed the minutes to showcase it and the right team around him to get those stats. Oh, and by the way, the Rockets missed the playoffs this season, going 42-40. Again, no Yao and trying to integrate Ariza as the go to guy after a season being a role player on a championship team-- you're gonna have struggles.

What I wish is that the sports writers who vote for these awards actually look for improvement in game play and in defense. Not just defensive numbers but keeping your opponent from scoring. I personally think Zach Randolph could have been voted as MIP this year with his more efficient, all star caliber play this season for a Memphis team who looked like it was going to be terrible. In recent memory, I think Trevor Ariza last season should have gotten some consideration due to his improved 3 point shooting, a KNOCK on his game before the season (people saying he wouldn't be able to space the floor), but he IMPROVED it, started for the Lakers, hit his 3 pointers and helped win a championship (and then cashed in with the Rockets).
Aaron Brooks is still the same fast PG who can hit a 3 pointer that the Rockets drafted in 07. Not much improvement, only in statistical terms.



I agree. Anyone who saw Brooks play in college knows that he's doing exactly what he's capable of given shots and minutes.

Curious as to who your pick for MIP would be. I'd go with Durant or Josh Smith.

ReadBetweenTheBaselines said...

My pick would def be Kevin Durant - the addition of James Harden had little to do with their huge improvement in the games won column. Also he made the all nba team, all star team, and really worked on his defense this year, a knock on his game in prior years.