When you write a column about the NBA’s Most Improved Players, things can get emotional.
As you can probably imagine, you start to adopt the guys you write about each week. It’s a common theme for those of us who chronicle the Most Improved Players in the league each season, and everyone I’ve ever met who does it feels the same way.
OK, so we’re the only ones who do it. But still.
You root for your guys, feel a sense of pride when they accomplish something and share in their disappointment when they fail.
You start to think of them like your own children, or even a Chia Pet. You want to see them prosper, and it’s cool when they impress your friends at a house party. Look at how much he/she/it has grown!
Still, there comes a moment in every parent’s life when they have to say good-bye. The season ends, and your little NBA Chia Pet player kid moves out of the house or grows enough to knock your mother’s $700 vase off the kitchen table.
But with this award, you tend to say good-bye to them once the season is over.
Once a guy is considered for Most Improved Player one seasaon, he’s almost ineligible for the award the next. Think about it. The player would have to take his game to a completely different level. It’s almost impossible. No one has ever won the award twice.
It’s like Paul George doesn’t want to leave the nest.
George has drastically improved his field goal percentage (47 percent, up from 42 percent), 3-point percentage (42 percent from 36 percent), free-throw percentage (85 percent from 80 percent), and naturally, points per game (24.1, up from 17.4 last season). He’s a legitimate MVP candidate (currently ranked No. 1 by Sheridan), and has carried the Pacers to a torrid 20-4 start.
Sure, his assist and rebounding numbers are down, but that’s because he has taken over as one of the NBA’s clear-cut alpha dogs, with more of a scoring responsibility on his shoulders.
He is playing at a LeBron level of efficiency, and had The King himself proclaiming, “He’s going to be great.”
I can’t put him back in the rankings yet. There are too many other deserving candidates.
It’s so tough to watch them leave.
On to the rankings.