Almost a Most Improved Player Prediction.

robert stevensonContributor IOctober 16, 2008


Most improved player award.


I started to write this with the intention of predicting this years most improved player.

I started by researching the existing list to see if I could see a pattern in either playing time increases, more starts or changes in situation could be noticed.

I ran into a dead end there as there is no discernible trait that all these guys have had. Some have been on their teams for years and just got better playing similar minutes, some got larger playing time and showed up, some moved teams and got recognised.

I just couldn't see any real pattern to link all or even most of these guys to have a crack at a prediction with any real confidence.

That's when I noticed something else!. How unlucky, unfortunate, or disappointing most of these players became after winning this award.

Salaries and contracts have not been factored into account because if I did I wouldn't have bothered writing it!.

I hope you know what I mean.


The list is as follows :



2006-07 - Monta Ellis, Golden State
2005-06 - Boris Diaw, Phoenix
2004-05 - Bobby Simmons, Los Angeles Clippers
2003-04 - Zach Randolph, Portland
2002-03 - Gilbert Arenas, Golden State
2001-02 - Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana
2000-01 - Tracy McGrady, Orlando
1999-00 - Jalen Rose, Indiana
1998-99 - Darrell Armstrong, Orlando
1997-98 - Alan Henderson, Atlanta
1996-97 - Isaac Austin, Miami
1995-96 - Gheorghe Muresan, Washington
1994-95 - Dana Barros, Philadelphia
1993-94 - Don MacLean, Washington
1992-93 - Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Denver
1991-92 - Pervis Ellison, Washington
1990-91 - Scott Skiles, Orlando
1989-90 - Rony Seikaly, Miami
1988-89 - Kevin Johnson, Phoenix
1987-88 - Kevin Duckworth, Portland
1986-87 - Dale Ellis, Seattle
1985-86 - Alvin Robertson, San Antonio



Lets start with the fact that none of the most improved award winners owns a ring.

In 22 years none of these players have played on a title winning squad, and only 3 have played in a finals series.

Those being Kevin Duckworth for the Blazers, Kevin Johnson for the Suns and Jalen Rose for the Pacers.

Now I don't mean to detract from some stellar careers here, there have been some amazing players to win this award, not to mention All Stars (Randolph, Arenas, O'Neal, McGrady, Barros, Johnson, Duckworth, Ellis and Robertson)

Scoring champs (McGrady), Defensive players of the year (Robertson).

Who also has the only quadruple double in league history to include steals instead of blocks. 20 pts, 11 rbs, 10 ast, 10 stls.

Then the all NBA team members (look that one up yourselves!),.


Then I noticed the injury history of most of these guys,

Last years winner (Turkoglu) has been unlucky already as he played on a Spurs squad on an even year so maybe he gets to buck the trend and get a ring, he's on a squad that could do it in the next few years.


The previous winner (Ellis) is easy, 30 days lost pay for a scooter accident, unlucky at best or dumb at least.


Diaw and Simmons had contract years that coincided with winning the award and have both regressed to role player/suck status.


Zach Randolph is the embodiment of this fans frustrations, got the talent and made it to the big time, then decided he didn't like teams sports but really likes the money it pays.

I don't know enough about his off court behaviour to comment (and can't be bothered looking) so he goes in the disappointing category.


Arenas, O'Neal and McGrady and Rose have all lost out to injuries that I don't feel I have to document these as the are all fairly recent, so unlucky guys.


Darrell Armstrong didn't do much after the award, one more good statistical season then seems to have been a back up. Lasted in the league for a long time so maybe coaching for him. I still don't know him and can't remember ever seeing him play, so disappointing.


Alan Henderson only played 38 games the season after he won the award, the following two he did play in 82 and 73 games. He never regained a starters job after that.


Isaac Austin played 2 seasons after being drafted then went to Turkey to play. He ripped up their league to the tune of 22.3 points and 13.9 rebounds and got the call home. He won the award with the Heat, was traded twice the following season but posted better numbers that got him a good contract with the Magic. Then he regressed and got traded again for a guy called Ben Wallace from the Wizards, who traded him to Vancouver before he retired.

Now I don't know about injuries but I hear he is a legend in Turkey still!.


Gheorghe Muresan had numerous injury problems due to growth condition, which was a pity because his stoats were good. Interestingly he played in a game in march 2007 where he wasn't the tallest player. That was Sun Ming Ming listed at 7 feet 9 inches and weighing 350 pounds.

Sun was quoted that day as stating, Shaq meant, “little one” in his local and obscure version of mandarin.

I unfortunately couldn't confirm this but feel free to make “suns” jokes. A prize of absolutely nothing goes to the winner.


Dana Barros won the most improved award the same year he was an All Star. It was also the only year he started all 82 games and played over 40 min per game. He recorded 20.6 points per game, 7.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds. Great year by any standard and soundly recognised by a nice big free agent contract from the Celtics.

After that he never started consistently, his scoring dropped to 13 points per game, assists to 3.8 and kept declining. Not a bad career considering this list and his short stature but no ring.


Don Maclean went from scoring 6.6 points per contest to 18.2 in his big year. Its also big because its the only year he played in 75 games. He started in 69 of those games that year, not bad considering he started in 38 the rest of his 7 year career.

Oh and he had a steroid scandal of some description that caused Charles Barkley to defend him by saying “I've seen Don MacLean naked, and he doesn't use steroids”.

Now I have no facts here however I'm sure Zach Randolph doesn't either but Chuck's been quiet on the issue!.


Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf bucks the trend, his production jumped when he started and got more minutes, it stayed high and he seems to have suffered no major injuries and started reasonably regularly.

He did create some controversy by refusing to stand for the national flag claiming it was a “symbol of oppression” and clashed with his Muslim beliefs.

The league suspended him for one game but compromised and allowed him to close his eyes and dip his head and recite a prayer whilst standing.

He is still active in his home town community and I cant find any real misfortune or bad luck, in fact he overcame tourettes syndrome to play Professional Sports.

(can someone forward this to Josh Howard, he might want to see it!)


Pervis Ellison went from “never nervous pervis” in college to “out of service pervis” in the pro's.

He had one great season of 66 games in which he posted 20 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

Injuries wrecked his career after that. Pity because he was a number one pick and was the only freshman to win the most outstanding award whilst winning a national championship, until Carmelo Anthony did it in 2003.


Scott Skiles won the award when his minutes jumped from 20 to 34 with Orlando. After that he was durable, reliable and capable without ever being great.

I don't want to detract from a 30 assist game in any way Scott so please don't make me run suicides!.

He never got a big contract or a big injury. He played for 5 teams in 10 seasons without a ring or trip to the last dance.


Rony Seikaly seems to have had a good career and I remember him as the guy who replaced Shaq in Orlando and didn't suck all that much. He seemed durable enough and his numbers increased slightly after he won the most improved award. No ring but other than that, nothing fit to print.


Kevin Johnson was one of my favourite players. A little guy who dunked on big guys. His lefty dunk down the lane on Hakeem still makes me smile.

What can I say about K.J.? Another to dodge the bullet of misfortune.

Injuries seemed to have slowed him in his late twenties as he missed between 20 to 30 games per season until he was 30 and played in 70. Oh he recorded 20.1 points 9.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game that year, so nothing career threatening by any stretch. Oh and he did make the play-offs every year after his rookie season.

No ring although one hell of a player.


Kevin Duckworth is on the list but I would hate to offend anyone by trying to link him to a tongue in cheek piece like this. RIP big fella.


Dale Ellis. Great career, amazing stroke, no ring. Oh and he looks kinda like Monta a little bit!. Nothing implied just an observation.


Alvin Roberson had a good career, no real injury worries and was productive every year he played.

He also had numerous off court trouble, mostly relating to domestic abuse.

A very good player and terror on defence but still didn't get that ring.


So after all that I have a list of players I would like to win for one reason, (I like them) and another couple of players for another reason, (I don't like them)


In all seriousness predicting this is a crap shoot but here goes.

Rodney Carney, Amir Johnson, Thaddeus Young, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Al Thornton, Andray Blatche and Mike Conley all came to mind. The playing time increases I see here should put them all in the hunt.

I was going to suggest Gerald Green as he will be running with Jason Kidd but I don't see the minutes for the kid but you never know.

I will enjoy tracking these guys this year albeit with crossed fingers they don't get hurt, busted, you tubed, married to Madonna, praised by Charley Rosen or any other such career harming mis hap.