Tre Jones: Darkhorse candidate for MIP?
If you look at per-game stats for Jones, Brunson, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Markkanen, Jones is far and away the worst player. He is the only one of the bunch not to average 20 points, and he is the only one with a three-point percentage under 30%.
That being said, “most improved” does not mean “best.” If we look at the rate of improvement for Jones from last year to this season, the difference is astounding. He is scoring 128% more points, dishing out 88% more assists, nabbing 68% more boards, and his combined steal and block numbers are up a whopping 128%. Oh, and his usage rate is up by 31%.
Out of Jalen, Shai, and Lauri, Jones passes all of them in the rate of improvement in all those major categories, and it frankly isn’t even close.
Unfortunately, even though the math is sound and numbers don’t lie, they don’t tell the whole story. Per-game stats are an imperfect measurement. Jones has a less compelling case if we look at the rate of improvement per 100 possessions.
Lauri Markkanen leads the pack of leaders for the award with a 44% improvement from last year regarding points per 100 possessions and 30% more boards. Brunson leads with 27% more assists, and Shai leads with 23% more steals and blocks.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that Jones is in the middle of the back in all of these categories. His 25% improvement in points per 100 is solid, as are his 4% assist improvements and 14% steals and blocks. His 11% decrease in blocks is not that bad, as Lauri is the only one with a positive percentage.
All in all, huge-impact players and possible All-Stars like Brunson, Markkanen, and Gilgeous-Alexander are probably more deserving than a fringe starter, but Jones is showing that he can and will have a long and productive career in the NBA. Not bad for a 41st pick. If you want to see the breakdown of improvement rates for per-game stats and per 100 possessions, I’ve created a table on the next slide.