Let's take a break from Tracy McGrady. He's beginning to gain Favre status among Houston gossip tycoons, which is terrifying.
Instead, I'd much rather focus on someone who is actually providing a positive influence on the Rockets, such as our new golden boy, Carl Landry. Though Carl is a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year award, he is also a prime candidate for the Most Improved Player award. Perhaps I'm the only one who thinks that the latter is a head-scratcher, primarily because Carl Landry, aside from becoming the Rockets' most reliable free throw shooter, hasn't really changed much.
As strange and confusing as that statement may sound, the fact that Carl has not regressed in his per-minute statistics from the past two seasons is quite an astounding accomplishment.
(click on photos to enlarge -- via Hoop Data)
Here are Carl's basic statistics. If you look solely at this chart, then Carl should be a lock for the MIP award. But let's open up the floodgates for a second, and see what we can collect from some advanced statistics, scoring statistics, and shot locations:
If you look at the advanced stats, you notice that Carl's PER (player efficiency rating), his WS and AWS (win-shares and average win-shares), and his EFF (overall efficiency) have shot up. A small portion of this can be credited to improvement, as Carl has become an even more efficient player this season. But most of it is due to increased minutes.
The incredible aspect of the advanced stats is that while Landry's usage rate has increased dramatically, his PER, WS, AWS, and his EFF have increased as well. Prior to the start of the season, many people feared that as Landry's usage increased, his efficiency would drop. That hasn't been the case; in fact, it's had the opposite effect. With all of that said, it may appear as if Carl's increase in efficiency and win-shares relates to his overall improvement as a player. That's not entirely the case.
Take a peak at Landry's FG%, effective FG%, true shooting percentage, and free throw rate. Nothing has changed, and if so, by the slightest bit. Despite this, his points per game average is much higher than in years past.
Looking at Landry's shot locations, he is shooting the same percentage from close to the rim, and while he has improved his jump shot between 10 and 15 feet, his jump shot from 15-23 feet has regressed. In other words, as far as the numbers are concerned, not much has changed, except for the fact that his mid-range and long-range jumper have essentially swapped.
So, what does all of this mean? It means that Landry has been doing the same thing that he has done for the past two seasons, at least in terms of his per-minute production. Amazingly, despite seeing increased minutes and usage this season, none of those statistics have decreased. The argument can be made that Carl must have improved his game somewhat in order to keep his per-minute statistics at such an intimidating level, but to what degree? Had Landry been featured more last season, perhaps he could have put up similar numbers.
Whatever the case may be, we should all be glad that the Carl Landry who we have grown to know and love hasn't changed a bit. However, if he should improve so much as to become a 20 point per-game scorer someday, I don't think any of us would mind.