ESPN.com's Marc Stein first reported Wednesday the Chicago Bulls swingman would win the award, beating out candidates such as Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Warriors forward Draymond Green and a host of others. The NBA made the official announcement Thursday, and USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt provided the voting results:
When the season began, Butler was an impending restricted free agent whose team offered him $30 million less than Thompson, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley, and the league may have viewed him as a defensive specialist who would never take the leap.
No one is questioning his value now.
Butler is the first player in Bulls history to win the award, which honors the player who made the biggest one-year improvement.
The former Marquette star averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, becoming a dynamic offensive threat amid sporadic Derrick Rose appearances. He's currently playing the vital role of shadowing LeBron James in Chicago's Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Butler noted Tuesday that he doesn't consider himself an NBA superstar, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com:
I guess I've gained a lot of respect around the league, I'm not going to knock that. But I think superstar is a push. I guess I was an All-Star this year, but still, I just want to play the game. I just want to win. I don't care what people label me as. Never will care. I think winning speaks for itself.
Superstar in his mind or not, Butler is set to be paid like one this summer. He'll become a restricted free agent in July and is expected to command a full max salary. In fact, Butler has become so well respected around the league that it might behoove him to eschew the long-term deal and re-enter free agency in 2016—when the NBA's new television deal kicks in.
As it stands, Butler's status as Most Improved Player has been preordained since his November breakout.
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