Yesterday, this forum was devoted to discussion of the Defensive Player of the Year, and there was a ton of support for Tyson Chandler and LeBron James, with some love for Tony Allen and Paul George sprinkled in.
Today we turn to the Most Improved Player award, which is somewhat of a wide-open field this season.
I have an official NBA ballot to vote for the award, and I had been leaning toward Ryan Anderson throughout the season. I remember covering the Magic early in the 2009-10 season after they went to the finals and lost to the Lakers, and I commended Otis Smith for heisting Anderson from the New Jersey Nets for Courtney Lee.
At the time, Smith wasn’t so sure. At least that’s what he told me.
But that trade has been an absolute heist for the Magic, one of the primary reasons they considered themselves a legitimate title contender before Dwight Howard went out with a herniated disk and their season went to hell.
Anderson leads the NBA in 3-point makes with 164 entering tonight’s game against Charlotte, hitting them at a .396 clip (25th in the NBA in accuracy). But Anderson played 64 games last season and made 134 3-pointers at a .393 clip, so there is not the quantifiable improvement that merits a first-place vote.
Goran Dragic is another candidate that merits a hard look. I got my first look at the Slovenian point guard while covering the 2009 Eurobasket in Madrid, where the Team USA scouts were drooling over him (one of them, Todd Quinter of the Phoenix Suns, convinced his GM to trade up in the 2010 draft to select Dragic before the Pistons had a shot at him.)
Daryl Morey in Houston got the Suns to trade him Dragic along with a first-round pick for Aaron Brooks (another heist), but Morey also was prepared to send Dragic to the Hornets as part of the aborted original Chris Paul trade. But when Kyle Lowry went out with a viral infection in mid-March, it was Dragic who stepped in and led the Rockets on their playoff push — albeit one that came to a crashing halt over the past two weeks. He averaged 18.4 points and 8.2 assists in his 27 starts.
A year ago, he averaged 7.5 poins and 2.9 assists for the Suns and Rockets.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are making a p.r. push for Nikola Pekovic, who went from obscurity to a beast — but whose candidacy is hurt by the fact that he sat out 19 games because of injuries.
Columnist Chris Bernucca makes a case that James Harden (a lock to win the Sixth Man award) is worthy of consideration, improving his shooting percentage to .491 from .436, and his point production from 12.2 to 16.8. You want quantifiable improvement from a playoff-bound difference maker? There you have it.
But then what about Steve Novak? The former Marquette Warrior went from making 26 3-pointers all season with Dallas and San Antonio this year to making 126 for the Knicks. Not only that, he leads the NBA in 3-point accuracy at .468.
What do y’all think? Any glaring omissions? (Jeremy Lin?)
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