This year’s candidates for the Most Improved Player are a hodge-podge of player pedigrees. They’re all names that we’re familiar with and statistically, a feasible argument can be made for every single player. Who do you think is the most legit candidate?
With the mysterious infection that plagued Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic has become the main facilitator for the Rockets. He’s run the point in 25 games since March 10th and has been a revitalizing piece on this team. Granted, they’re on a 7 game losing streak as this is post is being written. But that doesn’t negate the productivity the Rockets have received from Dragic. Taking over, he had 4 doubles-doubles and 3 out of those 4 games were Rockets wins. He’s shot close to 50% and 41% from beyond the arc; both improvements from last year. Increased playing time almost always means increased stats, but it’s a rare thing for a backup PG to come in and be a consistent scoring option. He also had a season-high 26 point game against the Lakers.
The Pacers have quietly snuck into the 3rd overall spot in the East heading into the playoffs. Their youth and lack of superstars have allowed them to play every night with a point-to-prove sense of urgency. Statistically they’ve done that, part in parcel to Paul George’s defense. He’s avoiding the sophomore slump with improvements across the statistical board. But the stat that jumps out at me is his defense. In a win against 1 of the toughest defenses in the league, George grabbed 16 boards! Unfortunately, his scoring has been very inconsistent (he had a 30 pt game against the defending champs in Dallas, but didn’t score at all in a home game hosting the Cavs). He’s also a major liability at times with the turnovers. But compared to other sophomores, he’s doing many of the right things.
The Hump is playing in a way that’ll reward his pockets very handsomely after July 1st. His FT shooting has improved, he’s grabbed 50 steals, and he’s put up 27 double-doubles. The health of Deron Williams has allowed the Nets to go inside more. Humphries is very agile for a big guy and he’s managed to stay healthy, despite many of the league’s elite big men being hampered with back/knee/foot injuries.
The Magic could’ve had it all. Wait, not they couldn’t. But Ryan Anderson is having the best year of his career! In spite of all the personnel woes the Magic have been going through, after D12, Anderson has been the prime scorer in many games. He’s the 2nd leading scorer on the team, averaging 15 and 7. He’s also bested his free throw shooting at 87% and is leading the league in 3 pointers (36). Much like Humphries, Anderson is making a strong case for other teams to pay him more than the $2.2 mil the Magic are currently giving. He reminds me of Peja Stojakovic because he moves alright without the ball. And out of all the players I’ve listed, I personally think he’s the closest to actually win this award.
I was torn between Marcin Gortat and Marc Gasol as the final seat for my considerations. Primarily because without them, their respective teams are out of the playoff conversation. Zach Randolph didn’t play for a huge chunk of the season making Gasol the lone ranger in the paint. He’s had 24 double-doubles with 115 blocks. In terms of offensively though, he’s very streaky like his brother. Gortat, on the other hand, has improved strictly off the fact that he’s starting with Steve Nash and Jared Dudley, whom I’ve recently discussed in previous posts. Although he’s getting the ball more, Gortat’s shooting % is close to his career. But this is his 1st year of averaging a double-double and it’s hard to ignore his relevance to the Suns’ organization at this present time.