The NBA’s 10 most improved players in 2009-10

In order to win the basketball media’s version of “Most Improved Player” you must have been considered (by consensus of the basketball media) a mediocre player who performed (meaning “scored”) better than “expected”. 

In order to win CourtsideAnalyst’s “Most Improved Player” Award, you simply have to be the NBA player who made the most substantial gain in Win Contribution Rating from the prior season.  No politics or preconceived notions. 

Thus my list includes players who were already considered good players, but who produced better this season than they did last, or who were coming off “down” seasons and corrected themselves this past season.

My list does not have anywhere on it the name of “Aaron Brooks” of the Houston Rockets, the media’s “Most Improved Player”.  In my book Brooks “improvement” was relative at best.  By Win Contribution standards, he merely went from a “really bad” player to a “slightly less really bad” player.  His Win Contribution Rating was (-0.189) in 2008-09 and “rose” to a still ugly (-0.133) in 2009-10.  Not my idea of “improved”.

The player who wins this season’s award, and who improved the most by Win Contribution standards was Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, and it really wasn’t close.  The arc of his career so far has been astonishing.  He has gone from a below average player to an elite player in three short seasons.  (If you click on Kevin Durant’s name in the rankings you can see a chart that breaks down, statistic by statistic, Durant’s incredible ascendance from one of the NBA’s most harmful players to its second most valuable). 

Most of the other players on the list will surprise you as well.  Not because they are unknowns, but for precisely the opposite reason.  Most of them are established players.  Some, like Zach Randolph, improved dramatically after switching teams.  Others, like Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, stayed on the same team but played better.  The one name that might surprise people is Matt Barnes of the Orlando Magic.  He switched over from Phoenix and was Orlando’s second best player.  His injury against the Celtics really hurt the team’s chances more than most realized.

Here are the 10 most improved players for 2009-10:

1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City (+0.519)
2. Carlos Boozer, Utah (+0.366)
3. Marcus Camby, LA/Port (+0.313)
4. Zach Randolph, Memp (+0.293)
5. Matt Barnes, Orlando (+0.288)
6. Deron Williams, Utah (+0.277)
7. Josh Smith, Atlanta (+0.244)
8. Udonis Haslem, Miami (+0.222)
9. Steve Nash, Phoenix (+0.208)
10. Jamal Crawford, Atlanta (+0.192)

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