Nets' D'Angelo Russell on Most Improved Player Award: 'I'm Gonna Win That S--t'

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 5, 2019

Brooklyn Nets guard D'Angelo Russell (1) drives down court during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in New York. The Wizards defeated the Nets 125-116. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets point guard D'Angelo Russell isn't concerned about his chances of winning the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

"I'm gonna win that s--t," the 23-year-old told Anthony Puccio of SportsNet New York. "Watch. Put it on record. I'm gonna win it."

The 2019 All-Star's mind did not change even after Puccio threw a couple of contenders Russell's way: "I'm telling you, I'm winning it!" 

Russell has made a great case, averaging 20.4 points on 43.6 percent shooting and 36.6 percent from three-point range. He's also registered a career-high 6.8 assists for a 33-33 Nets team that has won five more games than it did last year despite having 16 more contests left this season.

And that's the best argument for Russell: He's the top player on one of the league's most improved teams. The Orlando Magic are the only other team to have beaten its win total from last year by five or more already.

The Nets are also going to the Eastern Conference playoffs barring a late-season collapse, which is an impressive feat considering the team has averaged 23.0 wins per game over the past three full seasons.

But Russell isn't the Most Improved Player of the Year front-runner.

That would be Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who has more than doubled his points-per-game average from 7.3 to 16.3. He's also shooting 55.0 percent from the field, or 4.2 percent better than 2017-18. Per Oddschecker, Siakam is the clear betting favorite over Russell, who is listed second on the ledger.

But Dan Feldman of NBC Sports made a great case for Sacramento Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox, noting that he had the NBA's 11th-biggest box plus-minus leap year to year since 1973-74 as of Feb. 21. He also wrote on Tuesday that "Fox's win shares (4.0, from 1.3) and box plus-minus (+2.8, from -0.4) are up significantly this season from previous career highs."

One can't really go wrong choosing between those three, but Russell may have some more work to do to convince voters.