Forget MVP, the Best Race Is for Most Improved Player

Sean StancillSenior Writer IApril 4, 2008

The MVP race may be hailed by some as the most important race aside from the playoffs in the NBA today, I disagree with that. While selecting an MVP will take deep consideration, you only choose from 2 people. This year for example. Everyone knows its going to come down between Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, not Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, or Dwight Howard. Those are all just extra names that were thrown into the mix to make the general public believe that its going to be anybody's race. On the otherhand, for the MIP award, there are at least 10 candidates worthy of that honor every year and this choosing really does take some thought.

Number one, there's a longer list of choices for the MIP award.

Number 2, this award isn't really wrapped up until maybe the last week of the season, whereas the MVP award is locked in with a month ago with the exception of this year.

Also the team's record has proven to be a deciding factor in the voting as well. Here are the last 5 reciepients

Monta Ellis

Boris Diaw

Bobby Simmons

Zach Randolph

Gilbert Arenas 

What do they have in common? None of their teams had over 45 wins the year they won it. So that automatically eliminates most contenders with the exception of the proven ones.

Anyway, here's a list of players that I felt have the best chances of winning the coveted Most Improved Player Award

1.Hedo Turkoglu

The clear cut winner this year. Hedo's grown out of his Sacramento clothes and shown the NBA he can compete with the best of them. By transforming his game, he's become Orlando's 2nd-3rd scoring option and an automatic threat for the one defender that has to single handedly guard him.

He's having career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and minutes per game. A big reason why the Orlando Magic are in the #3 seed this year Not to mention his timely game winning shots.

The most significant: A three pointer over Paul Pierce to beat the Boston Celtics on January 27, on ABC Sunday. Hedo Turkoglu averages 19.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 4.9 APG.

2. Al Jefferson

After coming over via the colossal Kevin Garnett trade, Jefferson has transformed into one of the Western Conference's most elite centers.

In only his 3rd season as a pro, he ranks 2nd in the NBA in double-doubles with 50 behind Dwight Howard. Career highs in points, FT percentage, rebounds, assists, and steals per game can't hurt his resume either. Averaging 20.9 PPG, 11.2 APG, and 1.5 BPG, Al is definitelt turning heads around the league

3. Dwight Howard

The only reason Howard is not at the top of this list, is because everyone expected him to be a beast coming out of South West Atlanta Christian Academy.

Superman is posting 21.5 PPG, 14.5 RPG , and 2.3 BPG.

The last Orlando player to have numbers anywhere close to that was the Old Superman Shaquille O'Neal.

Points, rebounds, blocks, and minutes per game at their highest they've ever been and capturing at least the #3 seed is a boost to his cause. Howard leads the NBA in double-doubles, dunks, rebounds, and free throw attempts. A beast is an understatement for this kid.

4. Kenyon Martin

This may look funny to mant but it all makes sense. He's improved his free throw shooting from 25% a year ago to 57.5% this year, his blocks per game average have been the highest since 03-04 season, his assist total is the highest since 05-06, along with his points per game average, his steal average the highest since 04-05, and he's having a career high in FG %.

The Most Improved Player of the Year award is all about working on your game and how its improved from the previous years , thus reconstructing it. Well considering Kenyon only played in the first 2 games of the year, I say job well done. Martin has had a couple of knee surgeries and we understand he won't be flashing back to his New Jersey days.

He's played 65 games this year, becoming more durable and hasn't played in this many games since his first year in Denver. His 4 20+ point games in February don't look bad either. Martin is averaging 12.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.2 BPG.

5. Mike Dunleavy

Playing in a dusty corn populated town like Indiana is tough especially with the Pacers not getting any good viewings since Reggie Miller once donned the yellow and navy blue. Mike Dunleavy Jr. has however been the team's bright spot in a year where Indiana's two best players in Jamal Tinsley and Jermaine O'Neal missed over 30 games apiece (Jermaine over 40), and has managed to carry them into playoff contention. 

He's started his career over again, after his rocky days in the Bay Area. Mike was apart of the trade that sent Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington to Oakland.

His field goal percetage, three point percentage, free throw percentage, assists, steals per game, and points per game are all on the rise. Mike also averaged 21.6 PPG for the month of March and shot over 55% from downtown. A month that included 6 20+ point games and 3 30+ explosions.

Dunleavy has come a long way from being in the shadow of his dad Mike Dunleavy Sr. and the current coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is averagin 18.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 5.1 RPG, and shoots 41.5% from behind the arc.

My pick this year is Mike Dunleavy Jr. . I am impressed with the way he's handled himself and the Indiana Pacers team.

Honorable Mention

Peja Stojakovic

Tyson Chandler

Andrew Bynum

David West

Yao Ming

Josh Smith

Kevin Martin

John Salmons

Andre Miller

Lamar Odom

Lamarcus Aldridge

Ron Artest

Jason Maxiell


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