NBA's Most Improved Player: Why Two Detroit Pistons Should Be Considered
Since winning the award, Kevin Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas and Danny Granger have all gone on to have highly productive careers.
Last year's winner Kevin Love is well on his way.
It should also be said that this award has had its fair share of one-hit wonders as well—Pervis Ellison, Don Mclean, Isaac Austin, and Bobby Simmons, for example.
The Pistons have shown improvement as of late, but they are still cellar dwellers (although they are neck and neck with Cleveland in their division). With a poor record and no chance of reaching the playoffs, they have no national relevance. This hurts Monroe and Stuckey's chance for recognition.
That doesn't mean they don't deserve it, though. These are my arguments supporting their cases.
At first glance, you might argue that Rodney Stuckey's numbers this season are not that different from last year.
Statistically, you would be accurate. He is only scoring one point more per game, and his rebounds and assists have slightly decreased.
However, he has improved his field goal and three-point shooting percentages.
When compared to potential MIP award candidates on other teams, these improvements might seem minor. For instance, Kyle Lowry, Houston's point guard, has significantly improved in multiple statistical categories.
While it may be tied to a clear increase in playing time, it does not change the fact that there is numerical evidence of improvement in Lowry's game.
So how can I consider someone for this award when there is little evidence of improvement?
What really makes me consider Stuckey is his performance of late. In his last eight games, his scoring average has increased by nearly 10 points.
In fact, in his last 20 games, he's beaten his season scoring average 14 times, often by 10-or-more points.
His scoring outbursts have come against stiff competition as well. In a win versus the Lakers he scored 34 points, in two victories over the Celtics he had 25 and 16 points, and in two victories against the Kings he contributed 35 and 36 points. He also added 29 points in the recent loss to Utah.
He has improved his assists over the past four contests as well, dishing out nearly seven per game.
I realize these improvements are based on relatively small samples, but if he continues this torrid pace, who knows what his season numbers will look like.
My point is this—if he continues to score at this rate, and the Pistons keep beating good teams, then he should be considered for the award.
Monroe has been a beast for the Pistons this year—there is no doubt about it.
There is also no doubt that he has taken huge steps forward in his development. His numbers speak for themselves—16.6 ppg, 10 rpg, 2.5 apg and 1.2 steals per game. When compared to his rookie year, he has improved his scoring by seven points a game and rebounding by three per game.
His impact on the game has also dramatically changed.
Last year he was a rookie. He was just learning the ropes and trying to find his identity on his team. He was only on the fringes of the team turmoil involving ex-coach John Kuester.
He is not on the fringe any more. His game has quickly taken off, and he has willingly taken on the role of team leader and resident alpha dog. That's impressive for only a second-year player.
Monroe would be very much in the discussion if he played on a better team. As I said, the Pistons' record will impact his chances.
Strictly based on numbers, there are only four players that compare with Monroe when considering the MIP award: Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Ryan Anderson and Andrew Bynum.
Lowry, Teague and Anderson are enjoying great years in large part because they are finally getting consistent starter minutes.
Bynum is finally healthy and is having his best year. He's improved his scoring by six points per game and he is pulling down three more rebounds per game.
I see Bynum as the favorite because of his performance, but also because he's a Laker, and that means he is automatically the most recognizable of the bunch.
Regardless of the outcome, most Pistons fans will not remember who wins this award five years from now.
What they will remember is that both Monroe and Stuckey had great seasons and gave fans hope for the future of the Pistons franchise.
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