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Biggest Differences Between a Player’s Best & Second-Best Seasons

Posted by Neil Paine on October 5, 2010

This is a quick hit-n-run/data dump post, but I was listening to Mike Pesca's trivia question on the Hang Up & Listen podcast, and I was curious about the NBA equivalent...

The question was: "Among NFL receivers with more than 12 TDs in a season, who has the biggest difference between their best seasonal TD total and their 2nd-best seasonal TD total?" The NFL answers are, according to the Hang Up Facebook page, Elroy Hirsch, Braylon Edwards (for now), and Patrick Jeffers.

My NBA equivalent would be: "Among NBA players with 10 Win Shares in a season, who has the biggest difference between their best season and their 2nd-best season?" The answer, after the jump...

Player #1Season MP WS #2Season MP WS Diff
Kevin Durant 2010 3239 16.1 2009 2885 7.9 8.2
Dana Barros 1995 3318 12.7 1998 1686 5.6 7.0
Luol Deng 2007 3071 11.3 2006 2604 6.5 4.8
Kenny Anderson 1997 3081 12.4 1996 2344 7.7 4.6
Brent Barry 2002 3041 12.1 2000 2726 7.5 4.6
Brandon Roy 2009 2903 13.5 2010 2419 9.1 4.4
James Donaldson 1987 3028 10.4 1988 2523 6.2 4.2
Gail Goodrich 1972 3040 12.3 1973 2697 8.1 4.1
Al Horford 2010 2845 10.9 2009 2242 6.8 4.1
Mike Riordan 1973 3466 11.1 1974 3230 7.0 4.1
Christian Laettner 1997 3140 11.6 1998 2282 7.5 4.0
Tracy McGrady 2003 2954 16.1 2001 3087 12.2 4.0
Horace Grant 1992 2859 14.1 1991 2641 10.3 3.8
Kevin McHale 1987 3060 14.8 1990 2722 11.1 3.7
James Posey 2004 2451 10.0 2008 1821 6.2 3.7
Richie Guerin 1962 3346 12.1 1959 2558 8.4 3.7
Anfernee Hardaway 1996 3015 14.4 1995 2901 10.7 3.7
Chet Walker 1972 2588 14.5 1973 2455 10.9 3.6
Tom Owens 1979 2791 10.4 1980 2337 6.9 3.5
Wesley Person 1998 3198 10.3 2002 2793 6.9 3.4
Kenny Sears 1959 2498 13.3 1958 2685 10.0 3.3
Peja Stojakovic 2004 3264 13.5 2003 2450 10.1 3.3
Dennis Rodman 1992 3301 12.6 1990 2377 9.3 3.2
Oscar Robertson 1964 3559 20.6 1967 3468 17.4 3.2
Stu Lantz 1971 3102 10.5 1972 3097 7.4 3.1
Dave Bing 1971 3065 11.7 1973 3361 8.6 3.1
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1972 3583 25.4 1971 3288 22.3 3.1
Paul Arizin 1952 2939 16.0 1959 2799 13.0 3.0
Alonzo Mourning 2000 2748 12.9 1996 2671 9.9 3.0
Ron Harper 1989 2851 10.2 1998 2284 7.2 3.0
Bernard King 1984 2667 12.1 1981 2914 9.1 3.0
Grant Hill 1997 3147 14.6 1996 3260 11.7 3.0
Byron Scott 1988 3048 10.7 1987 2729 7.7 2.9
Neil Johnston 1954 3296 18.3 1955 2917 15.4 2.9
Jack Sikma 1982 3049 12.6 1983 2564 9.8 2.9
Sam Jones 1965 2885 12.8 1966 2155 10.0 2.8
Jose Calderon 2008 2484 10.2 2009 2333 7.5 2.7
Frank Ramsey 1958 2047 10.0 1962 1913 7.3 2.7
Ray Allen 2001 3129 13.7 2009 2876 11.1 2.6
Bob McAdoo 1975 3539 17.8 1974 3185 15.3 2.5
Detlef Schrempf 1995 2886 12.9 1998 2742 10.4 2.5
Sam Cassell 2004 2838 12.1 2003 2700 9.6 2.5
Rudy Tomjanovich 1974 3227 12.8 1977 3130 10.4 2.5
Kirk Hinrich 2007 2839 10.1 2006 2955 7.6 2.5
Andrei Kirilenko 2004 2895 11.6 2003 2213 9.2 2.4
Mookie Blaylock 1997 3056 12.5 1994 2915 10.2 2.3
Doug Collins 1976 2995 10.0 1975 2820 7.7 2.3
Sleepy Floyd 1987 3064 10.0 1989 2788 7.7 2.3
Bobby Wanzer 1952 2498 11.4 1954 2538 9.1 2.3
George Yardley 1958 2843 12.3 1957 2691 10.0 2.3

The answer, as of this very moment, is Kevin Durant, your real 2010 NBA Most Improved Player... However, I don't think this is going to be true after about midseason of the 2011 campaign, which means Dana Barros' 1995 season will likely be immortalized once more as the biggest fluke season in NBA history. Check out Barros' stats in that season vs. every other season of his career:

Year P/36 TS% A/36 R/36 TO/36 ST/36 BK/36
1995 18.3 63.2 6.7 3.0 2.6 1.6 0.0
All Others 16.1 56.0 4.9 3.0 2.2 1.3 0.1

Also note the sad presence of Tracy McGrady, who had an all-time great year in 2003 but never really put together an all-time great career.

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4 Responses to “Biggest Differences Between a Player’s Best & Second-Best Seasons”

  1. Sam Says:

    I'd be interested to see how many of these 1st and 2nd greatest seasons were in contract years.

  2. Max Says:

    Barros's 1995 season was less of a fluke and more of an issue of playing time. If you look at his numbers per 36 min that season they are just slightly above his career averages, which is to be expected of someone hitting his prime season. The major difference that year was the fact that he played 40.5 MPG that season as opposed to a career average of 22.9 MPG, or 21.0 MPG not including that season.

  3. Robert August de Meijer Says:

    This thread reminds me of the 1991 Michael Adams seasons, where he went from 18 ppg and 6 apg to 26ppg and 10 apg. His PER also jumped from 17-ish to an impressive 22.3. But for some reason, his Win Shares stayed roughly the same. I didn't watch the Nuggets that season and I bet his lack of (defensive) Win Shares has something to do with his teammates, but whenever I think of a player that had one season that stuck out, it's Michael Adams.

  4. P Middy Says:

    Great call, RADM. I also remember Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf doubling his rebounds and assists from 91-92 to 92-93. I believe that was the same year he came out publicly about his OCD.