We have almost reached the midway point of the 2017-18 NBA season, which means it is a good idea to take a look at the five point guards who have improved their game the most from last season to this season.
Over the next three or four weeks, I will take a look at each position from point guard to center. This will help round out the candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Last season, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks took home the hardware. The “Greek Freak” played almost the same amount of minutes from 2015-16 (35.3 to 35.6). But he scored almost six more points per game (22.9 to 28.5).
Fast forward to this season and Antetokounmpo is an MVP candidate on a Bucks team that ranks sixth in the Eastern Conference and only two games behind the fourth-place Miami Heat.
Stock Watch: 5 Most Improved Point Guards
This article will look at point, assist, steal and block production +/- averages for players listed as point guards, according to hoopsstats.com. In addition, we will look at their Eff rating, which Hoops Stats uses to measure a player’s overall efficiency at both ends. Other stats including effective field goal percentage (eFG%), which weighs three- and two-point baskets differently and true shooting percentage (TS%), which combines a players’ field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free-throw percentage to more effectively measure shooting prowess, will be utilized.
But, eff rating measures players overall contributions. Therefore, that stat will determine their ranking.
Stock Watch: 5 Most Improved Point Guards
No. 5: Spencer Dinwiddie – Brooklyn Nets (+5.7 eff rating)
The Nets have missed DeAngelo Russell for the last two months while he recovers from arthroscopic left knee surgery.
But Dinwiddie has played so well that many do not see how Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson could decrease Dinwiddie’s minutes when Russell returns.
The 24-year-old Dinwiddie has played 5.5 more minutes this season and has taken full advantage of more playing time. His scoring has increased from 7.3 to 13.4 points per game and he is dishing out about three more assists per game. His 49 eFG% and 54 TS% are also solid.
No. 4: Shabazz Napier – Portland Trail Blazers (+6.6 eff rating)
Napier has gone from a potential first-round bust to a fringe starter this season.
The 26-year-old was drafted 24th overall in 2014 by the Charlotte Hornets, but he appears to have found a home in Portland. In his first season with the Trailblazers, Napier has doubled his career per game scoring average of 5.3 to 10. He is on pace to set new career highs in eFG% (55.2 percent) and TS% (59.4 percent). Finally, his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) has increased from 13.6 to 18 this season.
Napier needs to improve his passing ability, but Napier has started to establish value in the NBA.
No. 3: Jarrett Jack – New York Knicks (+7.3 eff rating)
The Knicks guaranteed Jack’s contract last week, and this payday is well deserved.
The 34-year-old Jack beat out Ramon Sessions, who was waived on Saturday, for a spot on the roster and has started 39 of the 40 games he has played this season. He leads the Knicks in assists (6.1 per game) and after averaging only 3.0 points per game last season, Jack has averaged 7.8 points per contest this season.
Jack has played 10.4 more minutes per game this year, and it seems like he is always having fun on the court. Jack, who is in his first season with the Knicks after spending last season in New Orleans, appears to have found a home.
No. 2: Isaiah Canaan – Phoenix Suns (+8.7 eff rating)
The Suns signed Isaiah Cannan to a contract on Dec. 13, and he has flourished in Phoenix.
The 26-year-old Cannan has seen his minutes (+6.8), points (+4.9) and assists (+3.9) all increase despite only playing in 10 games. He is currently injured.
The Suns’ bench has recorded a 110 offensive rating over the last 15 games, the majority of which have come with Cannan as the floor general.
The fact that Cannan has played in so few games and made this big of an impact says a lot about his current abilities and future ceiling.
No. 1: Kris Dunn – Chicago Bulls (+10.4 eff rating)
Of the 31 point guards that currently own a positive eff rating over last season, Dunn has seen the largest increase in minutes (12.1) and points (+10.1), and he is tied with Cannan in assists (+3.9).
The 23-year-old has a strong case to win the Most Improved Player Award. He has been one of the most improved players, not just among point guards, but at any position. Dunn’s production would make him a candidate by himself. But he was also the fifth overall pick and after a horrid rookie campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves, many wondered if he was a bust.
But given the chance to start more games in Chicago after being traded there last June, Dunn has broken out in a big way. His eFG% (41.1 to 46.8), TS% (43.2 to 48.8) and PER (8.1 to 15.4) have all substantially increased, and he has become a leader on the court.
It appears all Dunn needed was a change of scenery.
*All stats are accurate through games completed on Jan. 13
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