Don’t Call it a Comeback
And the winner for Most Improved Player is…
As the NBA regular season winds down, uncertainty still reigns supreme, especially when it comes to figuring out who’s going to win the Most Improved Player award. There’s so many candidates, so little time to talk about all of them.
Nevertheless, let’s give it the old college try.
Should be interesting, one way or the other.
Before breaking down the front-runners for the honor, here’s a quick look at some of the guys that were crossed off the list from the jump.
Rajon Rondo, Gerald Wallace, Josh Smith and David Lee received their fare share of consideration, no doubt. A good argument could be made for each cat given the fact they’ve all managed to step up and take their games to the next level.
While we’re at it, might as well throw Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook into the mix. Both have been on an absolute tear this season. When you think about it, a case should be made for Chris Kaman and Zach Randolph as well.
Thing is, in order to have a legitimate shot at winning the award, the recipient has to seemingly come from out of nowhere and deliver a breakout effort. If you’re one of those well-known and established types, forget about it.
You’ve got no chance.
For whatever reason, it’s always been one of those gray areas. Think of winners past: Danny Granger (’08-09) always had huge potential, finally realized it and he was rewarded accordingly. Same goes for Monta Ellis (’05-06). Gilbert Arenas (’01-02) too, well before his troubles with the law.
Get the picture?
That should take care of the trip down memory lane. Time to get into it. It’s time to start talking about who’s going to take home the Most Improved Player of the Year trophy by season’s end. Remember, thinking outside of the box, venturing off the beaten path, is key.
Aaron Brooks | G | Houston Rockets
Winner, winner, chicken dinner. With numbers up across the board, Brooks is the best bet to win the award. Several experts thought he should’ve been selected to the All-Star Game this season. Count me among one of the many so-called pundits who backed Brooks and believed he was worthy of receiving the nod over someone like Kaman. Brooks’ resume speaks for itself. Don’t believe us, see for yourself:
’08-09 per game statistics: 25 mins., 40.4 FG pct., 11.2 pts., 3.0 assts., 2.0 rebs., 1.6 3-ptrs made.
’09-10 per game statistics: 35 mins., 43.3 FG pct., 19.6 pts., 5.2 assts., 2.6 rebs., 2.5 3-ptrs made.
Any questions? Didn’t think so. Enough is enough. Stop with the childish games already. It’s getting old. Just give Brooks what rightfully belongs to him, the MIP hardware, and move on. What’s right is right.
Andrew Bogut | C | Milwaukee Bucks
Riddled by various injuries in the past. In fact, he’s played 82 games, a full season, just once in five years in the League, his rookie campaign. Hit rock-bottom a season ago when he managed to step out on the court a mere 36 times. However, the big man has been able to avoid any serious setbacks this time around, although he missed six games back in late November. Still, Bogut is averaging 15.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, stats that are well above his career averages. Numbers aside, he’s been a key factor for Bucks’ sudden resurgence in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. For that reason alone, Bogut figures take away some votes from Brooks and maybe make things interesting.
Joakim Noah | C | Chicago Bulls
Earlier this season, he made headlines when a hometown columnist ate a headline. Seriously, dude ate a headline. Let us explain. As the story goes, for those who haven’t heard it, Rick Morrissey of Chicago Tribune once said if Noah ever became a productive NBA player that he’d literally eat the critical story that he wrote about Noah. In November, Morrissey stuck to his word. He had no other choice. Noah put up double-doubles in eight of his first 12 games of the year. Monster double-doubles, mind you. Before suffering a foot injury, his points and rebounds increased by nearly four points in each category from last season. Ask Morrissey, send him an e-mail, he can tell you all about Noah’s qualifications.
Brook Lopez | C | New Jersey Nets
Best player on the worst team around. How he’s been able to stay focused is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the fact that Lopez has been playing with a chip on his shoulder after slipping in the NBA Draft best explains the sudden spike in production. Nine individuals were taken ahead of him in 2008, and as a result, he‘s been on a warpath ever since. As a rookie, Lopez was a good source of rebounds and blocks. But no one expected him to emerge as a reliable scoring option so soon. His 18.9 points a night, on 50 percent from the field and 81 from the free-throw line, is a good indication of some rapid development. There’s a couple problems though. For one, second-year players typically find it tough to win MIP. Secondly, Lopez picked the wrong time to peak.
Marc Gasol | C | Memphis Grizzlies
In the same boat as Lopez, unfortunately. And having to emerge out of shadows of his older brother, Pau, certainly hasn’t helped matters. Can’t imagine it being easy to make a name for yourself when your sibling is considered one of the premier post players in the game and a three-time All-Star. One of the go-to-guys for the Grizzlies in the middle, Gasol hasn’t done anything particularly spectacular in terms of offensive production. For what it’s worth, there’s been a gradual up-tick in his field goal percentage, points, boards and assists. That said, his efforts don’t figure make a major impact on the race, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t end up mentioning the overall improvement made by Gasol in a short period of time.
As much as we’d like to go into great detail about the rest of the players worthy of a shout-out for MIP, it’s not going to happen.
We’d be here forever.
Carl Landry continues his never-ending quest toward becoming one of the League’s more consistent scorers and rebounders around. His minutes are up, 10 a game in fact, and he’s totaled better all-around numbers as a result.
The thing hurting him is, Landry was garnering consideration for the Sixth Man of the Year honor before Houston traded him to Sacramento. Nowadays, he’s locked in as a starter, a position he’d likely trade for any type of award.
Channing Frye deserves a look for reinventing himself.
His scoring in Phoenix is up from a season ago, 4.2 points per game to 11.3. And his three-point shooting is off the charts. A 44 percent clip from way downtown has enabled Frye to make 149 bombs thus far. In comparison, he entered the campaign with only 20 buckets from beyond the arc in a span of four years. Think about it, that’s crazy.
Can’t forget to mention Rodney Stuckey. The Pistons, after all, shipped Chauncey Billups out of Detroit, with the consensus being that Stuckey was capable of taking over. And he’s done just that, to the tune of 17 points per game this season.
The list goes on and on: Trevor Ariza, Kevin Love, Andrea Bargnani, Andray Blatche, George Hill, etc. Sure we’ve missed someone along the way.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, a pair of players, Aaron Brooks and Andrew Bogut, have the most realistic shot at winning the Most Improved Player award. Who knows, perhaps Brook Lopez will come out of nowhere and surprise everyone.
The official announcement from the NBA figures to made at some point in mid-May. In the meantime, in between time, go ahead and let the debating begin.