NBA Power Rankings: Kevin Love and the Top 10 Candidates To Win Most Improved

Alex MonacoContributor IIFebruary 20, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Kevin Love and the Top 10 Candidates To Win Most Improved

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 27:  Monta Ellis #8 of the Golden State Warriors holds up his 'Most Improved Player' award before Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Dallas Mavericks during the 2007 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena on April 27,
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Every year in the NBA there are awards for the players who stand out the most.  There's the obvious MVP, the Defensive Player of the Year, the 6th man, Rookie of the Year, and then there's the most improved player.  

    When you're the most improved, you know it's an honorable award.  You've been recognized by the NBA for your ability to come back and evade adversity.  

    Let's take a look at this year's candidates for the NBA's most improved players...

10. Dorell Wright

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  Dorell Wright #1 of the Golden State Warriors competes in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest apart of NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansez
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Dorell Wright has gone from a role player in Miami to a starting small forward for the Golden State Warriors.  In his first season in the Bay, Wright is posting career highs in points, assists, and rebounds. 

    He's gone from a 7.1 points per game average to 16.5 and leads the league in three pointers made with 135 total. 

    Wright's minutes per game are at an all time high (39.2) and impressively enough, he has maintained a clean bill of health, starting in all 55 games he's played in. Without a doubt, 2011 has been a breakout year for this Los Angeles native.

    2010-11 Stats: 16.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.2 APG, and FG percentage .430   

9. DeAndre Jordan

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 5:  DeAndre Jordan #9 of the Los Angeles Clippers makes an alley oop dunk against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center on January 5, 2011  in Los Angeles, California. The Clippers won 106-93.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    DeAndre Jordan: 6.9 PPG and 7.10 RPG.  

    DeAndre Jordan has stepped up this season with the absence of Chis Kaman at center.  Jordan, who's in his third year with the L.A. Clippers, seems to be coexisting well with former Big-12 rival Blake Griffin. 

    Jordan's been contributing both on offense with points, and on the boards with 7.1 rebounds per game.  At 6'11', 265, Jordan is an interior defenses nightmare.  If he and Griffin stay healthy, they could be the Clippers 4 and 5 for years to come.  

8. Roy Hibbert

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    MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 08:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat is fouled by Roy Hibbert #55 of the Indiana Pacers during a game at American Airlines Arena on February 8, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by do
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    In his third year with the Pacers, Hibbert is reaching career highs in more than one category.  The 7'2 Queens New York bred Center, is finally learning the value of spreading the basketball and creating opportunities. 

    Hibbert is only averaging 2.3 assists per game, but it's an improvement.  Defensively, he's reeling in 5.4 rebounds a game and as a whole 7.8 rebounds a game, both career highs. 

    Hibbert has the ability to be as forceful of a Center as he wants to be at 278 pounds.  If he continues to improve in the areas of the game that are considered "dirty work", the Pacers could finally make the playoff push that they've been ever so patiently awaiting.  

7. Andrea Bargnani

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    TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 16:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors fires a pass in a game against the Miami Heat on February 16, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Heat defeated the Raptors 103-95. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    Someone had to step up with the absence of Chris Bosh this season for Toronto, and on offense it's been Andrea Bargnani. 

    Bargnani has been a force for Toronto this season averaging 21.9 points per game, a career high for the fourth year player out of Rome, Italy. 

    This 7 foot shooter has been averaging 8.3 field goals a game, and shows no signs of slowing down.  Most improved?  I think so in Raptor land.

6. Mike Conley

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 02:  Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts after making a shot against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center on January 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Grizzlies defeated the Lakers 104
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Slowly but surely, Conley has emerged as one of the most consistent point guards over the last several seasons when it comes to all around play. Conley is averaging career highs in points per game, and field goal percentage so far this season.  

    He's reeling in 3.1 rebounds a game and averaging 1.8 steals a game.  Conley's shooting the highest field goal percentage thus far in his career, and at 13.7 points per game is proving he's an elite scorer as a point guard. 

    Some guys make an immediate impact at this position, some emerge slowly.  Conley has improved and improved and improved.  He deserves some recognition.   

5. Darko Milicic

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 03:  Darko Milicic #31 of the Minnesota Timberwolves tries to get around Shaquille O'Neal #36 of the Boston Celtics on January 3, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
    Elsa/Getty Images

    It's rare you see a player brought back to a team they've played with once before.  With Milicic, that happened twice.  He's been on 5 different teams but played with Detroit, Orlando, and Minnesota twice. 

    Now that he's back with the T-Wolves I think Darko's finally found a home.  He's upped his points per game average this year to a career high 9.4. 

    Defensively, he's come out of the wood-work, and is averaging a career high 2.3 blocks per game.  If Milicic can keep up the good work, he may finally become a consistent starter in this league.   

4. JaVale McGee

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  JaVale McGee #34 of the Washington Wizards dunks in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest apart of NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
    Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

    JaVale McGee has been a huge asset to the Washington Wizards this year.  In his third year with the team, McGee is posting career high numbers.

    His field goal percentage is tops on the team at 54.7%, and his 9.1 points per game is a career high.  McGee is also second in the league in blocks with 121 on the season. 

    He's young and if he remains productive, can really help this team as they continue to mature.  

    Oh by the way, he knows how to throw it down...Sprite gave McGee an endorsement deal are you kidding me!

3. Tyson Chandler

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    PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 17:  Tyson Chandler #6 of the Dallas Mavericks puts up a shot over Robin Lopez #15 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game at US Airways Center on February 17, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mavericks defeated the Suns 112-106. NOTE
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With most players in the NBA when you're talking about improving, you look at the basics: Increase in points, rebounds, accuracy, etc.  But for this 10 year center, there hasn't been an improvement, statistically speaking. 

    Where I believe Chandler has improved is with his mental toughness. 

    Granted, 10.5 PPG, and 9.4 RPG are his best numbers since 2007 in New Orleans. I still think it's a mental thing for Tyson. 

    For a guy who just learned what it was like to compete for his country this summer under Coach K on the USA team, Chandler has been a one man wrecking crew down low for the Mavericks.  They're second in the West, and it's a mind over matter mentality for this veteran Dallas Mavericks team.

2. Serge Ibaka

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks the ball after he grabs a stuffed animal with his mouth in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest apart of NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los An
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Just a year ago, Ibaka was a defensive specialist for a Cinderella like Thunder team against the Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs. 

    Fast forward half a season and a dunk contest later, and we have a full stat sheet to talk about for the second year player out of the Congo. 

    Ibaka is averaging just short of 10 points and 7 boards per game at 9.4 PPG, and 6.9 RPG.  He's improved his field goal percentage, his free throw percentage from 63 percent to 75.4, and his 2.1 blocks a game are the icing on the cake. This 6'10 forward-center is going to be a premiere player for OKC in no time.  

    Oh by the way,  if any kids out there need some stuffed animals, just ask Serge and he'll go up and get them for you.  Ridiculous effort at the Dunk competition.

1. Kevin Love

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    BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 03:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves takes a shot as Glen Davis #11 of the Boston Celtics defends on January 3, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Timberwolves 96-93. NOTE TO USER: Us
    Elsa/Getty Images

    No player has improved more in his element than Kevin Love.  In just his third year in the league, Love has emerged as one of the premier young power forwards in the NBA. He's solidified an NBA All-Star slot, and rightfully so with career highs in multiple categories. 

    Love has improved his points per game from two touchdowns to three (14 to 21) in just one season.  On the glass, Love is reeling in a ridiculous 15.5 boards a game. 

    If only he had a supporting cast...

    At one point, K-Love had 38 consecutive double doubles this season.  I couldn't even pull that off at Jack in the Box and this guy's doing it in the league.  If K-Love doesn't win this award we will all be shocked.