Most Improved Player Rankings: Week 10

I’m going to start this column by doing what I do best: quoting Keri Hilson.

Sometimes Nikola Vucevic comes around, and he knocks you down. Just get back up when he knocks you down.

Further, as the modern poet Ne-Yo put it, “I never thought I’d hear myself say, ‘Y’all go ahead, I think I’m gonna kick it and watch the Magic today.’” But this Vucevic guy…he shot me out the sky. And now I’m crashing. I don’t know how it happened, but I know it feels so damn good. You get it.

Vucevic has burst onto the scene like the new girl in sociology class, and all you can do is sit and stare, and wonder where in the world this 7-foot, 240-pound beauty came from. (Well…something like that.)

Vucevic is everything I’ve ever wanted in a Most Improved Player. He averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds as a rookie with Philadelphia last season, when his best scoring game was 18 and his best effort on the boards was 13. Neither happened often. Most nights, Vucevic was a member of Club Trill, which for you non-Mark Titus readers, is for players who crack the box score in minutes played only.

But having moved on to Orlando as part of the blockbuster Dwight Howard deal, Vucevic has been a revelation this season.

He put together a Conan-the-Barbarian like performance on New Year’s Eve, scoring 20 points and ripping down an absurd 29 rebounds against the Heat, surpassing Howard and Shaquille O’Neal for the franchise record. He followed that game with a 20 and 12 against the Bulls and 11 and 18 against the Knicks. On Monday, he went for 17 and 13 against the Blazers.

I’m gonna admit: I had never heard of him a few weeks ago. Dude was a complete non-factor, and all of a sudden, he’s Moses Malone. Or Adriana Lima. You know, in a manner of speaking. (Vucevic is hairier).

So, the Magic big man has burst into this week’s rankings at No. 3. Can’t let him know I like him too much, y’know?

And before this gets any weirder, I’d like to move on to the other new guy in the rankings: Greivis Vasquez.

When Vasquez was at Maryland, he was one of those guys who seemed like he had been in college for seven years. He was a fan favorite, and everybody loved him. He bounded up and down the court, pumping up his teammates, screaming with the crowd and slapping his hands on the floor. Vasquez singlehandedly led the Terps to upset wins over Duke and North Carolina, restoring the fear in the turtle and keeping Gary Williams around a few more years.

In the NBA, Vasquez had been forgettable. He was a benchwarmer in Memphis and a backup in New Orleans last season. This season, however, he has emerged as the rock-solid leader of the Hornets. He has taken over the point, acted as a true floor general and energized an otherwise dreadful season in the Bayou.

Vasquez is averaging 14.0 points and 9.1 assists, which ranks third in the NBA. He is bounding up and down the court again, pumping up his teammates, screaming and slapping his hands on the floor. He may even restore the Hornets to respectability … someday.

It’s nice to see Greivis playing like Greivis again.

On to the rankings.

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  1. Ryan says

    Steph Curry shouldn’t be on any most improved list. Please don’t confuse more production with more minutes for improvement. He’s shooting at the lowest percentage of his career, his assist percentage dropped from last year, his PER is lower than his two prior years, and his rebounding, assist, steal, and block percentages are all at their lowest rate of his career.

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