For most, this Los Angeles Lakers season feels like something of a let-down, especially after that 10-10 start that feels like literally forever ago. As that feels like the case, progress can sometimes get lost in the muck.
Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal begs to differ.
According to Fromal, D’Angelo Russell (honorable mention) and Julius Randle (sixth) belong in the conversation of most improved from last year to this season — across the entire NBA.
Here’s how their equation breaks down:
Looking at all players who logged at least 1,200 minutes in both 2015-16 and 2016-17 (essentially weeding out those who improved for no reason other than newfound opportunity), we're grading players by how much they improved in two different overarching statistics:
ESPN.com's real plus-minus, which gives credit to those who are efficient in smaller roles and doesn't always reward volume.
NBA Math's total points added (TPA), which requires volume to earn higher scores by approximating value added per possession and then weighing in possessions played.
The first thing to point out is how much players tend to improve from their rookie to sophomore years in the NBA. Technically speaking, Randle got to make that leap, but with his body being a full year more matured than most in such a situation.
Most voters won’t consider sophomores for the award, which should, in my opinion mean we should change the name of the award to Most Improved Players From Their Third Year On, but here we are.
Still, in a season that probably never figured to be particularly pretty, seeing any kind of progress from the young core is very important. That their improvement belongs among the biggest leaps across the entire league is reason enough to keep this season in perspective.
What remains to be seen is whether that improvement is enough to convince the front office that this rebuild is worth sticking with. All reports point to Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka & Co. staying the course, but you just never know with these things.
The Lakers have plenty of huge decisions to make in the coming months. They’ll be doing so with the last few months of strong improvement on the part of all their lottery talent.