As the NBA season approaches the end of its first four weeks, NBA fans have seen quite an eventful month. There have been plenty of entertaining lowlights and highlights. During the offseason, last summer, plenty of stars moved locations, including Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Malcolm Brogdon, Kemba Walker and plenty of other key role players moved locations as well.
As we move into the second month of the NBA, there are already plenty of insights that can be made about the season so far. Who has improved? Who has regressed? Let’s take a look:
Second-year player and last year’s Rookie of the Year, Luka Dončić has made the most significant strides in improving his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and his Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48) as shown in the graph above. While these specific stats are not perfect, they are effective at measuring a player’s overall performance to his team. These stats include both offense AND defense, so one-dimensional players in either category tend to be lower in these categories since they only provide value on one side of the court. Moreover, we are only one month into the season, so all-encompassing cumulative stats like VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) cannot be used in this case.
Circling back to Luka, his performance this season has been awe-inspiring so far, building upon his fantastic rookie campaign. Luka is averaging around 30 PPG, 11 RPG and 9 APG, which are MVP-type stats for the young 20-year-old from Slovenia. Dončić has been imperative to his team’s early successes so far this season, and they will be counting on him going forward to lead them into the playoffs. If Luka stays with Dallas his whole career, it appears likely that he will surpass Maverick (and NBA) legend, Dirk Nowitzki, as the best player to ever play for the Dallas Mavericks. Regardless, he is the most improved player so far this season and has established himself as one of the best players in the NBA at 20 years old.
Next, we have Andrew Wiggins. Some may be surprised to see him on this list. After all, he has been labeled a bust after being the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, receiving a max contract and then playing poorly. Wiggins has always been able to score the ball, but it seemingly comes with a cost of low offensive efficiency and poor defense on the other end of the court. While the defense hasn’t been that much better this season, Wiggins has been shooting the ball more often and at a much higher percentage from both the mid-range and the three-pointer. Compared to last season, Wiggins has improved his effective field goal percentage by 14.2% as of Nov. 19, 2019. Minnesota will be depending on him going forward as they look to make the playoffs for only the second time since 2004.
With Kawhi Leonard leaving the Toronto Raptors and joining the Clippers, the Raptors have needed someone to step up and help replace the gap that Leonard left behind, and OG Anunoby has done just that so far this season. While Anunoby has always been a great defender (the Raptors previously had him guard LeBron James during the playoffs of his rookie season in 2018), OG has stepped up on the offensive end this season as well AND improving his defense to an even higher level. OG was given a significant role to step into, and while he won’t play like Kawhi Leonard, he’s kept the Raptors among the best teams in the NBA as well as made a name for himself so far this season, which is why his PER and WS/48 have jumped positively the way they have so far.
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