All of our players are obviously in a new system -- one that seems to be bringing out the best in them, which means a few of them will probably be in the conversation for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. So how might they stack up against other top candidates in the NBA?
All the statistical jumps I've included are in comparison to last year, not to career stats. But enough with disclaimers, here are my current top 10, biases and all:
1. Jimmy Butler, Bulls (Min +1.6, Pts +8.2, FG% +11.1, 3P% +8.7, FTA +3, Reb +1.3, Ast +1.3)
Can you say contract year? Butler is only averaging 1.6 more minutes a game this season in the same system, but is scoring 63% more while shooting much more accurately and getting to the line in superstar quantities. He's been turning into a real workhorse in terms of minutes the last 2 seasons (38.7 and 40.3). Thibodeau doesn't seem to mind this (remember Luol's minutes?); let's hope he's as durable as Thibodeau thinks. He's my breakaway favorite, and it stings.
2. Anthony Davis, Pelicans (Min +1.5, Pts +4.7, FG% +6, Reb +1.4, Stl +1, Blk +1.1, TO's -0.6)
Same system, and just 1.5 more minutes a game (sound familiar?). Fewer turnovers with those kind of stat jumps is impressive. He's turning into the best player in the NBA, and is making a serious push for that spot this year. He's easily my MVP favorite. We still need to get him a better nickname, I'm not sure AD is glorious enough, and I'm not really loving "The Brow." FIBA seems to do wonders for certain individuals, although it may be unfair to put too much stock there; I have a feeling Davis was going to see this kind of improvement regardless.
Related GSOM reads:
Ranking the Warriors' assets: Klay Thompson, #3
Although his contract says he's the most valuable player (per season) in franchise history, GSoM voted Klay Thompson as the Golden State Warriors' third-most valuable asset.
Related GSOM reads:
3. Klay Thompson, Warriors (Min -2.2, Pts +5.2, 3P% +5, FT% +9.4, FTA +3.7, Ast +1.1)
Klay has been showing a lot more emotion these days (along with the rest of the team), having awoken from some kind of hibernation. Who knows if it was the FIBA factor that snapped him out of it, but we certainly appreciate it. He was on an NBA.com MVP top 10 list ahead of Curry recently, which probably raised eyebrows. All this "best 2-guard in the NBA" talk is more and more substantiated as the days roll by, especially with the recent Kobe matchups. I have to say, I'm most impressed with the free throw attempt increase; that's just filthy, Klay. Time to never mention Klayup again.
4. Draymond Green, Warriors (Min +9.8, Pts +6.7, FG% +6.7, 3P% +8.6, FT% +12.5, Reb +2.2, Ast +0.9)
Notice how there's only one name on this list that requires 2 lines for their stat jumps? Not a coincidence. Draymond has more than doubled his point output, with just a 45% increase in minutes. His 3-point improvement appears to be real, and his free throws are a pleasant surprise as well. For a player who is known for his defensive tenacity, energy and grit, his improvements on the offensive end are just icing on the cake -- a lot of icing, that is. In fact, it's kind of like having a second cake altogether. Thanks Draymond!
5. Harrison Barnes, Warriors (Min +0.3, Pts +2.3, FG% +14.2, 3P% +13.4, FT% +6.3, Reb +0.9)
Ooooof, look at those percentage increases! I admit I bought into the concern of starting Barnes over Iguodala, but my fear of developing bad chemistry is swiftly being replaced by elation with Barnes' improvement. He's also been looking better in transition, and his increased confidence is palpable. The rebounding is a plus, as we know that's been an area he's been working on. The Black Falcon rises!
6. Iman Shumpert, Knicks (Min +0.9, Pts +6.5, FG% +14.5, 3P% +19.6, Ast +1.9)
The new triangle offense is paying off for Shumpert. His efficiency appears to be skyrocketing. Maybe he can share the secret with J.R. Smith now; Shumpert's improvement might be more relevant if the team as a whole wasn't going through the wringer.
7. Brandon Jennings, Pistons (Min -5.1, Pts +0.9, FG% +6.9, 3P% +13.4)
Usually known for padding his point stats despite subpar field goal percentages, Jennings has had a spectacular start under Stan Van Gundy. I'd be surprised if we would have seen this kind of improvement without the new coach in town, but we still have to give props to Brandon.
8. Gordon Hayward, Jazz (Min -2.2, Pts +2.5, FG% +5.9, FT% +6.9, TOs -0.7)
Hayward is probably one of the few names casual NBA fans will recognize on the Jazz roster. Looks like his game has reacted well to the 4-year, $63 million contract he received in the off-season. With slightly decreasing minutes, he's been scoring more (and efficiently) while cutting back his turnovers.
9. Marreese Speights, Warriors (Min +0.6, Pts +3.4, FG% +19.1)
Mo' Speights, Mo' Buckets. Did you really think I'd only have 3 Warriors in the top 10? Please. Kerr had something to say recently on this topic: "He's my new favorite player, Mo Speights." Join the club, coach. His field goal percentage increase is beyond impressive. Sure, he takes fewer contested jumpers now that we've moved on from an isolation-heavy offense, but is that really what Speights has been smiling about? Despite the nice ring, it's time to drop the "Speights Cadet" moniker.
10. Courtney Lee, Grizzlies (Min +7.9, Pts +5.3, FG% +8.6, 3P% +25)
The 3-point percentage increase is not a typo. Let's see how long that lasts. He's on a team that could certainly use a lift in that department, although the Grizzlies haven't been doing so bad overall ... I'll always have a soft spot for Memphis after they announced they'd be giving out Blake Griffin and Chris Paul flip-flops as a promotion. Just brilliant.
Kelly Olynyk, Celtics (Min +6.4, Pts +4.1, FG% +12.6, 3P% +12.7, Reb +1)
Brandon Knight, Bucks (Min -0.8, 3P% +6.6, FT% +5.8, Reb +2.3, Ast +1.7)