Ersan Ilysaova's career season saw improvement in almost every facet of his game. Ryan Anderson played more minutes. Guess who won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award? (Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)
The Orlando Magic scheduled a press conference 1:30 pm EST today. As CBSSports's Matt Moore puts it, this time of year press conferences typically mean "a coach hiring, a coach firing, or an award." For the Magic, it's the third option, as Brian Schmidt of the Orlando Sentinel reports that Magic PF Ryan Anderson will be named the NBA's Most Improved Player for the 2011-2012 season.
In kind and simple terms, this is totally bogus.
From last season, Ryan Anderson improved his scoring by 5.5 points and his rebounding by 2.2. Ersan's scoring improved 3.3 points and he grabbed 2.8 more rebounds. The difference? I've used Anderson's per-game numbers and Ersan's numbers per-36 minutes. Because you know what stat Ryan Anderson improved the most in?
Minutes per game.
Ersan was robbed.
Update: Ersan Ilyasova finished second in voting. The final tally for the award breaks down as follows, according to NBA.com (first-place votes in parentheses): Ryan Anderson - 260 points (33), Ersan Ilyasova - 159 points (21), Nikola Pekovic - 104 points (10).
The official voting results haven't been released yet (I expect they'll become available around the time of Orlando's press conference), but at this point I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Ersan finish third at best, behind Anderson and transient New York point guard Jeremy Lin (Update: I was too harsh here, admittedly. Lin finished 6th in voting).
Ryan Anderson is a very good player, there is no doubt about that. His superb three-point shooting and strong rebounding make him one of the NBA's best stretch-4s, a perfect companion for Dwight Howard and his band of merry shooters. But Ersan improved to the point where he was, arguably, the best stretch-4 in the NBA this season. He ranked 2nd in the NBA in three-point shooting after a stunning 15.7 percentage point increase this year; Anderson shot an identical 39.3% this season and last. Anderson did improve his ORB% from 10.8 to 13.0, but his overall rebounding percentage actually fell. Ersan added almost five points to his ORB% and improved his TRB% from 14.1 to 17.6. Ersan was a better rebounder than Ryan Anderson this season, and he was worse than Anderson last season. The process of making that change is typically referred to as improving.
It sure seems like the voters fell victim to their own blindness, or laziness, or whatever you want to call it. Anderson's production jumped this season, no doubt about it. But to not recognize that such a jump is virtually assured when playing ten more minutes per game is just foolish. You might even call it reckless, if you consider these awards important (I do). But once again, that simple fact, that basic concept, that singular anomaly that every person learns when he or she starts delving deeper into statistical analysis, escaped the brilliant men and women voting for this award. And that sucks.
There is a deeper possibility, I suppose. Perhaps the voters are actually so transcendent in their understanding of the NBA that they chose to discount Ilyasova's leap because it came in a contract year! If so, we'll have to wait until next season to determine if their foresight deserves applause. Touche, voters.
Hey, at least the Bucks won't have to negotiate with Ersan while he polishes his trophy though, huh?
Update #2: I didn't even notice this when glancing through the voting results earlier, but as Sports Illustrated points out, Andrew Bogut received one first-place vote. Bogut played in only 12 games and most of his production was below even his career levels, but cool!?!
Re-Update: The NBA recounted the MIP votes and discovered that one first-place vote for Andrew Bynum accidentally went to Bogut. Things now make sense again.