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Looking Ahead: NBA Awards and Team Success (Part 1)

Does fielding non-MVP award winners correlate to the team’s performance in following seasons?

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at New York Knicks Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

At the NBA Awards Show on Monday night, two notable Milwaukee Bucks took home some well-deserved hardware. Malcolm Brogdon won the hotly-debated (but pretty obvious, IMO) Rookie of the Year award, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the season’s Most Improved Player by a small landslide.

These awards are great for the players, as well as the franchise. Any and all positive momentum for the Bucks can only be a good thing, and accolades like this provide some evidence that things really are on the upswing.

One question I was curious about was this: historically speaking, do either the Most Improved Player or Rookie of the Year awards indicate any sort of uptick in team success?

Before doing any research, my initial hypotheses were “not really” for MIP and “almost definitely not” for ROY. Rookies are generally bad (by definition), and since the best rookies are often high draft picks (which most often go to struggling teams) chances are that ROY winners don’t see an immediate improvement in the seasons following their award. MIP winners are more nebulous, since literally every player is technically eligible for it, and the specific criteria applied year to year seems to go subtle adjustments as well.

Taking a wholly unscientific approach, I decided to trace back both awards starting from the 2000-2001 season, then compare the player’s team record for their award-winning season, as well as the two seasons immediately thereafter. We’re left with a simple win/loss +/- that is fun to argue about but ultimately tells us very little.

Except, of course, unless it does tell us something. What correlations do you think exist? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to come back for Part 2!