This year’s Most Improved Player award was a mixed bag with the Chasing 23 writing team, with 4 different players receiving votes from our writers.
Brown Mamba: Ryan Anderson
Opponents of the Ryan Anderson for MIP bandwagon will note that Anderson’s per 36 minutes number were virtually identical (and in some cases, slightly worse) than last year. This is an unfair comparison however, as Anderson performed at nearly the same efficiency but with 50% more minutes (33 MPG vs. 22 MPG last year). The more noticeable impact however is that Ryan Anderson was perhaps the one player this year (outside of Jeremy Lin, whose season was just too short to qualify) who really stepped up from being an NBA unknown to a guy we heard about night in and night out. Even in the face of Dwight Howard’s inconsistency, Anderson was a key factor in keeping the Magic out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference and emerged as the reliable option on a solid playoff team (unlike alternate MIP candidate Greg Monroe, who performed his good deeds playing for an NBA doormat).
As a runner-up, I would vote for Andrew Bynum, who blossomed from oft-injured, full of potential young center into the definitive 2nd best center in the NBA (and perhaps best on the offensive end), All-star game starter, as well as the Lakers’ no. 2 option. Bynum did not get much love in the MIP voting because so much has been expected of him over the years, but this should be noted as the year the future superstar finally grew up.
Honorable Mention: Andrew Bynum
Sean Cribben: Jeremy Lin
Sure, he played in only 35 games and started in ten fewer, was less effective when Amare and Carmelo returned, and was exposed relatively quickly by opposing defenses. Yet Lin’s superhuman run, no matter how brief, is enough to qualify him for an award as ill-defined as Most Improved Player. For not only did he rescue a team that was flirting with collapse at the time of his arrival, but he also somehow managed to transcend his status as a mere sports curio and emerge as a full-fledged pop culture icon. Not too shabby for a guy
Perhaps that shouldn’t matter, especially when considered in a context exclusive to everything else but basketball
Honorable Mention: John Lucas III
Daniel Douglas: James Harden
Before getting his clock cleaned by Ron Artest’s elbow, Harden was looking as though he could succeed as the primary option of his own squad. It never seems to work that way though but I still talked myself into Harden being the first bench player to dominate on his own since Tracy McGrady left Toronto. Harden’s scoring improved by over four points per game (12.2 to 16.8) as well as his shooting. He improved his three-point shooting from .354 to .390 and looked, while he was out there, like a leader and an anchor.
Honorable Mention: Greg Monroe
Bruce Blitz: Greg Monroe
This is always a fun award to contemplate. As we all sit there on our couches, feverishly watching game after game after game, it’s always fun to see who’s performing at a much higher level than last year. There are a handful of guys who come to mind with this award. Let’s start with the obvious contender: Jeremy Lin.
There was a point in time where most of us thought Jeremy Lin would be the runaway winner of this award. Jeremy Lin certainly had the most captivating story of the year, but let’s keep it “real”, there are others who drastically improved and displayed that level of play for a longer period in time. Nikola Pekovic would be a fantastic choice as well. Pekovic has come on strong at the end of the season, and he’s given Minnesota Timberwolves fans something to watch with the injuries to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. Pekovic is what the Timberwolves need beside Kevin Love, another solid rebounder who can stay inside on the offensive end for potential offensive rebounds. Pekovic averaged nearly 4 offensive rebounds per game this season.
Ersan Ilyasova has probably been the NBA’s best kept secret this season. Ilyasova has improved in many different areas to his game, along with an improved consistency. Unlike Pekovic and Jeremy Lin, Ilyasova has done it for most of the season. To me Ryan Anderson has made the second most compelling case for the NBA’s most improved player. Ryan Anderson is getting proper due respect for his 3 point shot this sea
son, and he’s led the league in 3 point shots made. Ryan Anderson’s scoring has jumped and he’s doing an amazing job on the glass as well compared to last season. I just can’t give this award to anyone else other than Greg Monroe though. Greg Monroe is the definition of a most improved player. Monroe has improved his free throw shooting, passing, rebounding, and scoring. Anyone who’s watched Detroit Pistons basketball games this year knows that Greg Monroe is their best player, and he’s been there all year night in and night out producing at a very high level. Monroe is a very efficient player, and he brings a high basketball IQ to the court. Monroe is also a solid defensive player as well. Nobody has improved this season as much as Greg Monroe
E-Dog: Lamar Odom
Bad joke. He would be a unanimous winner of Most Regressed Player if there was an award for this.
The real Most Improved Player: Greg Monroe
It’s tempting to pick Harden for this honor as well, but Brown Mamba and The NBA Realist are no doubt expecting a more detailed explanation for my pick than “ditto”. Bynum has a strong case for this honor, as he experienced a break-out season, averaging nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds per game, and making his case to be the Lakers’ “alpha dog” sooner rather than later. However, Bynum also displayed confounding bouts of immaturity and selfishness on the court, and in any event, a good deal of his improvement this season has to be traced to good health (for a change) and increased playing time.
That leaves Monroe, who with only a slight bump in playing time per game from last year (less than for Harden, significantly less than for Bynum) went from averaging just over 9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game to 15.5 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game. He also improved his assists by one per game, and his free-throw shooting went from just over 62% to nearly 74%. All in all, he progressed from being a promising but raw rookie, to a mainstay (and potentially more than that) on a team that needs more of them. He is not as good as Harden or Bynum (at least not yet), but he improved more than they, or (in my view) anyone else, did this season, and that’s why he gets my vote here.
Honorable Mention: James Harden, Andrew Bynum
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