Bucks Lead

Giannis For Most Improved Player

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Giannis Antetokounmpo was the Most Improved Player in the NBA for the 2016-17 season. I know it. You know it. And on Monday night, everyone in the world will find out.

This is the first year the NBA has waited until after the conclusion of the playoffs to announce the regular season award winners, and let’s all hope it is the last time they choose to do so. Not that the idea of an Awards Show itself is a bad concept, but waiting this long is poor execution.

In virtually every measurable statistic imaginable, Giannis improved from the 2015-16 season to this past year. There’s the obvious stats – he scored more, dished out more assists, grabbed more rebounds, blocked more shots, got more steals, and recorded less fouls. There’s the advanced stats – he improved his player efficiency rating, value over replacement player, true shooting percentage, win shares, box plus/minus, all while posting an increased usage rate.

2015-16 | 2016-17 |
PPG 16.9 → 22.9 → +6.0
RPG 7.7 → 8.8 → +1.1
APG 4.3 → 5.4 → +1.1
SPG 1.2 → 1.6 → +0.4
BPG 1.4 → 1.9 → +0.5

PER 18.8 → 26.1 → +7.3
VORP 3.2 → 6.9 → +3.7
TS% 56.6 → 59.9 → +3.3%
WS 7.1 → 12.4 → +5.3
BPM 2.4 → 7.6 → +5.2
USG% 22.3 → 28.3 → +6.0

Giannis became the first player in franchise history to lead the Bucks in all five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals); and the first in league history to finish in the top 20 in each of those stats (totals for the season, not per game).

He increased his field goal percentage from 50.6 to 52.1, while attempting 246 more shots. His average distance per field goal attempt increased from 7.5 feet to 8.7, without a drop in efficiency. This is extremely encouraging for a player whose only real weakness is outside shooting. Giannis attempted 71 more threes for the season, and shot 1.5% better than the year before. He also shot 206 more free throws than a season ago, with 175 more makes, raising his free throw percentage from 72.4 to a respectable 77%.

Overall, Antetokounmpo accumulated 482 more points, 89 more assists, 88 more rebounds, 38 more blocks, 37 more steals, and 12 less personal fouls; while playing in only 22 more minutes.

In both 2015-16 and 2016-17 Giannis appeared in exactly 80 games, and averaged damn near 35 minutes per game. The fact that his production saw such across the board increases, with virtually no minutes increase, is the reason why he absolutely deserves, and will win, this award.

The other two finalists for Most Improved Player, Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert, both improved in multiple statistical categories as well, but neither improved in EVERY category like Giannis did. And both benefited from dramatic increases in total minutes played from their respective previous seasons. Jokic tallied 305 more minutes in 7 less games than his rookie season. While Gobert appeared in 20 more games, and recorded 812 more minutes than 2015-16.

Giannis is the only finalist for this award who measurably improved in all areas, with essentially the same role he had the year before.

I am convinced that the numbers all point to Antetokounmpo as the run-away winner. But it’s perhaps, most notably, the simple eye test where he is most deserving of the title Most Improved.

In 2015-16, Antetokounmpo was arguably already the best player on the Bucks, even though Middleton led the team in scoring and Monroe led the team in PER and Win Shares. This season, however, Giannis took the leap into true superstardom. He became an unquestionably elite player in the NBA, and the undeniable face of the franchise in Milwaukee.

Giannis was named to the All-NBA Second Team, and received more total votes than Finals MVP, and former league MVP, Kevin Durant.

More often than not this season, Giannis looked like the best player on the floor. At his best, he performed like one of the most dominant players in the league. Which is precisely what he is, and what Bucks’ fans expect him to be moving forward.

On December 23rd, Antetokounmpo posted a career high 39 points, to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists when the Bucks hosted the Washington Wizards. He finished the game 12-19 from the field, and 15-17 at the free throw line. Giannis dominated from the start, scoring 24 points in the first half, and the Bucks cruised to a 27 point win.

Eight days later, on New Year’s Eve, the Greek Freak struck again hitting the Bulls for 35 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 blocks. Is it crazy to think that Giannis may some day win both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season? It’s only been done twice before, by Michael Jordan in 1987-88 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993-94. Kawhi is a finalist for both this season, but not the favorite to win either.

On February 10th, he bested his performance against the Wizards and posted a new career high. Against the Lakers Giannis put up 41 points, shooting 11-20 FG and 18-21 FT, to go along with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 steals.

In conclusion, Giannis Antetokounmpo was the Most Improved Player in 2016-17. Next year he will be a candidate for MVP, and possibly DPOY. This season, as part of his top 20 in everything, he was 5th in the league in blocks and 9th in steals. In four or five years, he will be debated as the best player in the world. When his career is said and done, he will be in the Hall of Fame. These are facts.

Tune in to the NBA Awards Show Monday night on TNT to see the first of those statements become reality. Continue watching Giannis, and you will witness the rest as well.

About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks’ supporter

I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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