Why the NBA's Most Improved Player Race Is Not As Close As You May Think
The Most Improved Player race is not as close as you may think.
Yes, its All-Star time, and we all know how much us fans love to comment on the various snubs etc that the fan-voting system/coaches picks give us.
For now, lets have a break from that. Personally, i'm all complained out about the David West/Al Jefferson scenario.
So let us think of something we also love to comment on: The NBA awards.
Out of the main awards (MVP, ROY, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Sixth Man and MIP) the Most Improved Player award is probably the least coveted and least hyped.
That might change, at least for this year, as this award has one of the tighter races going on.
Lets consider the candidates.
Devin Harris, New Jersey Nets
Last year: 15.4 PPG, 6.5 APG, 1.4 SPG
This Year: 23.1 PPG, 6.6 APG, 1.5 SPG
Harris appears to be the runaway leader for this award, and with good reason. The other half of the Jason Kidd trade has become more of a star than anyone could have foreseen two-and-a-half years ago in the NBA Finals.
He has become a huge scoring threat, and the drive behind the Nets offense.
Though the team is still fighting for a playoff spot, they are overachieving from what critics previewed at the beginning of the season, and Harris is one of the main reasons for this.
Although he has cooled off from the scorching start, he is undoubtedly a great player now, and that has been recognised this week.
If Devin wins the award, he'll be the first M.I.P. to play in an all-star game since Gilbert Arenas in 2003.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Last Year: 19.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG
This Year: 25.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, 1.4 BPG
Just a few months ago you could have made a very worthy argument that Granger didn't belong in this list. A whole heap of game-winning buzzer-beaters and some unbelievable scoring later, he has to be the biggest challenger to Harris.
Granger has jumped all the way to fourth on the NBA scoring list, and emerged as the undoubted spark of his Pacers team. He is all that keeps people interested in this team who so far have earned the 'giant-killers' award for the season.
The more amazing stat for Granger? He's doing this all on 36 minutes a game.
Granger's play has been so amazing, his team's woeful record wasn't enough to keep him off of the Eastern All-Star squad this year.
Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz
Last Year: 8.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 0.9 BPG
This Year: 16 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Don't we always love to see a second-round pick do well?
No, the stats don't jump out at you as much as Harris or Granger, but No. 24 from Salt Lake City is a regular 20 and 12 man, having some monumental games for the Jazz ( I know, he's on my fantasy team, and believe me, I am glad!).
All while being no higher than the third option on his team.
Carlos who? Millsap has made the Jazz faithful basically forget about the big man's injury woes and contract issues.
Though he did miss games recently, he (along with Deron Williams) are all that is keeping the Jazz afloat.
Believe me, things would be a lot worse if Millsap wasn't around.
Jeff Green, Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Year: 10.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 27% three-point percentage
This Year: 16.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 40% three-point percentage
Green is one of the quieter, more underrated players in the league, and there is of course a good reason for that.
Kevin Durant (who could also be on this list, having grown from a simple scorer to a leader and all-around player) is of course the face of the franchise, and a particular all-star snub who people aren't talking about as much, and rookie star Russell Westbrook also plays on this team.
When you group those two with Green, the team doesn't actually look all bad. They were on pace for the league's worst-ever record earlier this year, but they have had some great games, and are now actually equal with the Sacramento Kings.
Green is a huge part of this success.
His stats have increased incredibly, and I am personally amazed at the increase in his three-point percentage. Hardly any player in the league has that type of shooting increase.
Let alone a sophomore.
I have become a fan of this up-and-coming team, and I am definitely a fan of Green's game.
Even if he doesn't share the limelight as much as his teammates do, he gets the job done.
Von Wafer, Houston Rockets
Last Year: 2.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 27% three-point percentage.
This Year: 10.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 40% three-point percentage.
Whoah, hang on, bare with me.
I realise Von Wafer has an incredibly low chance of winning this award, and if you compare him to any of the four players you can't really argue with that decision.
I still wanted to mention the guard who, in his fourth pro year, has only played in 75 games (including in '07, playing just one minute for the Clippers) but who has improved tremendously either way.
On a team with as many big names with the Rockets, nobody noticed the new guard.
He was, in fact, added to the roster during training camp merely to make up the numbers, but since then he has proven he belongs.
When T-Mac went on his own mini training camp recently, it was Wafer who stepped up with some really huge games, and some excellent shooting, to keep the team together.
It remains to be seen if Wafer's great play was merely a streak, but it doesn't do anything to diminish what he has achieved this year.
While announcing a Rockets game recently, Rockets Legend Clyde Drexler put it perfectly.
When asked where the Rockets would be without Von Wafer, Drexler responded
''We'd be in trouble''
The M.I.P. is definitely one of the more interesting awards of the year.
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