Report: Rocket's Aaron Brooks to be named NBA's Most Improved Player

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nba_brooks_250.jpgIt is the most nebulous of all the NBA post-season awards, the hardest to define and usually the one where the worst choice is made — Most Improved Player. All too often it goes to a guy who didn’t really get better as much as finally got his chance, then played about the same as always with a lot more minutes.

Meet Aaron Brooks. He is your NBA most improved player this year, the Houston Chronicle is reporting.

He is a guy who made a massive jump in minutes this season. But he’s also a guy who saw his per-minute and efficiency stats improve this season, something that usually decreases (or at best stays flat) when there is a huge jump in minutes.

A few weeks ago, the insanely well-respected people at Basketball-Reference.com (including by me) all but said voting for Brooks was a mistake. They ran the statistical breakdown of how much players outperformed what should be their statistical expectations, and they came up with Kevin Durant as your MIP (with Luke Ridnour second and Quentin Richardson third).

Brooks came in at 106.

Believe it or not, Brooks has actually played a bit below his expectation. Now, I know the argument: Brooks has managed to maintain his efficiency while increasing his minutes by about 10 per game. That’s true, but that does not mean that Brooks has actually improved. There are two possibilities:

1) Brooks should have seen a decrease in efficiency given an increase in his minutes, and the fact that he has been able to maintain that efficiency is evidence of improvement. 2) Brooks has not improved beyond what we would expect from a player his age, and his per game numbers are up simply because of an increase in minutes played.

Quite frankly, there is no way to prove whether (1) or (2) is correct. I tend to believe that the answer is a combination of the two, but more (2) than (1). Regardless, the fact that we can argue this point should make it clear that Durant should be the winner, as we are certain that Durant has shown remarkable improvement.

I’d have no problem with Durant as MIP, although my guess (based on things like this) is that most media voters threw him out of the running here because he is in the MVP running. That is not fair. There is no reason that a guy making the leap to superstardom can’t be the guy who improves the most. Heck, there’s no reason the league’s best player couldn’t be the guy who improved the most.

But lets not just throw Brooks under the bus. I think B-R was just a little dismissive of what he did this season. His minutes jumped 10 per game — that often means a decrease in efficiency — but his eFG% jumped from 47.6 percent to 51.1 percent, his True Shooting Percentage jumped from 52.1 percent to 54.9 percent, three-point shooting improved, his points per minute improved, his assists per minute improved.

These are not little things. Brooks did improve this season, and the fact that players his age (this was his third season, he is now 25) should improve to me does not negate those factors. I would not have voted for Brooks for MIP, but to suggest this was a terrible miscarriage of justice is just overstating the case. The guy did actually improve. That’s better than some years.

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.