While there’s been some movement on the lower rungs and a new contender emerged, the NBA Most Improved Player Ladder 2.0 still looks the same at the top.
In the four weeks since we debuted the NBA Most Improved Player Ladder, there has been movement on the list. A new contender has broken out and one player has fallen off the ladder entirely.
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But one thing remains the same and that is the view at the top two rungs. Those two players were separated significantly from the rest of the group four weeks ago and they remain separated now.
Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic, an unlikely candidate at age 27 and in his eighth NBA season, had been fifth on the last MIP Ladder, but he’s fallen off his rung entirely after his pace slowed significantly over the last four weeks.
In the intervening 13 games, Fournier averaged 18.5 points per game on a .466/.372/.721 slash line. That was down from 19.7 points on .487/.444/.843 shooting over his first 22 games, with his assists per game falling from 3.2 to 2.9.
It wasn’t so much that Fournier played poorly, however, as it was some other players — in particular our newcomer — stepped up their performance level in a big way.
When attempting to quantify “improvement,” it can be easy to be deceived by significant spikes in a player’s per-game averages that are merely based on a significant spike in minutes. These rankings to attempt to filter out that noise as much as is possible, if for no other reason than it’s not called the “Hey, I Played A Lot More” award.
Two of the players on the list may encounter a bias from voters that have traditionally veered away from lottery picks in their second seasons, simply based on the logic those players were supposed to be really good based on their draft position.
But sometimes, a player’s development is so rapid it can’t be ignored — remember that in 2018-19, De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings was a finalist for Most Improved Player honors in his second NBA season.
Indeed, five of the players on this edition of the latter were top-five picks. But there is also a former second-round selection and a player who went undrafted, because ball — as Rasheed Wallace put it so poetically once upon a time — don’t lie.
With that, let’s dive into the rankings.