Hello everyone. Please take your seats.
I’d like to start this column off with a moment of silence for our friend, Jimmy Butler.
Ahem…god, this is tough…ahem. Ahem. Sorry.
What can you say about a guy like Jimmy Butler?
Jimmy was more than just a basketball player to most of us. He was maybe the most improved basketball player of the 2014-15 NBA season.
His life was short, indeed, but in such a short time, he touched so many others.
Colossians 1:17 tells us that…..wait, hold on….I’m getting a phone call here. Sorry everyone.
Oh, it’s Chris Sheridan. Sorry, I have to take this.
“Hey Chris, what’s up? I’m kind of in the middle of something here. I’m helping Bulls fans grieve….wait…what was that?
…Wait, he’s—he’s not dead?
Oh…OK, then. OK, I will. Oh, the rankings? Yeah…go ahead…just. Yeah, you can post them. OK, see you later.”
Well this is awkward.
I’m sorry, everyone–I–I thought Jimmy Butler was dead. I truly apologize for that. I don’t know who this guy is in the casket. Oh….you’re family? OK, yeah go ahead. I’m just going to step down now, and walk away.
Well, that was awkward.
I really thought Jimmy was dead. You know, it kind of seemed like that over the past couple of days. The Bulls were all grieving, feeling sorry for themselves…I mean, how else do you explain a 14-point loss to the Pacers?
You know what, this isn’t my fault. This is theirs. 98-84 at Indiana…give me a break! Of course I was going to think he was dead, I mean what else—-
Oh…you know what?
This next part is going to be awkward, too. You see, once Jimmy was dead, we couldn’t just sit on our hands. We had to make a move.
We figured voters wouldn’t just hand him the Most Improved Player Award because he was dead like he’s Heath Ledger or something. This is a very instant-gratification society. Everything happens fast. We move on quickly now.
So, without further adieu, here are the top five non-Jimmy Butler candidates for this year’s award.
Sorry Jimmy. R.I.P.
I MEAN…rest your elbow in peace. Give it plenty of rest. And ice. Make sure it heals right, so you can come back in time. And maybe get back on this list.
OK, on to the rankings:
1. Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat. 18 points, 25 rebounds, 5 blocks. That was Whiteside’s stat line against the Lakers on Wednesday. Not in 2K. In the real game. And two games before that, Hassan ripped down 24 rebounds in a two-point loss to Atlanta. Throw in a 10-rebound performance against Phoenix in between, and that’s 59 rebounds in three games. Those are my-co-workers-in-Pop-A-Shot-numbers. (Not mine, though. I cash every shot). Now, if the guy can cease becoming the Second Coming of Rasheed Wallace/DeMarcus Cousins, he can save himself enough technical foul fine money to make it rain Benjamins.
2. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors. Klay-Mation got back on the wagon with 21 points on a 9-for-13 shooting performance against the Clips on Sunday. He had been suffering through his worst shooting stretch of the season, knocking down just 37% of his shots in March, but he seems to have, ahem–rebounded–very nicely. Great segue, huh?
3. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz. Speaking of big-time rebounding numbers, the Freaky Frenchman (a.k.a. Stifle Tower) has been off the proverbial chain lately–he himself pulled down 24 boards in a win over the Grizzlies last Tuesday, and followed that up with 16 and 15-rebound performances. He’s averaging 16.5 boards per game this month, which just for a little perspective, is two more than league-leader DeAndre Jordan is averaging for the season. Just saying. Rudy also ranks third in the league in blocks per game at 2.3 per.
4. Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis scored 29 points, had 3 steals, 3 blocks, 4 assists and 5 rebounds against the Pelicans on Monday night, though his Bucks still found a way to lose the game. (I’m not even mad…that’s amazing!) No wonder he’s thought of as one of the highest-ceiling young players in the league. And here is the good news for Knicks fans. There is another one just like him, playing in the D-League. Of course, Giannis’ brother will not get a call-up because that would inflate his free agency value when Phil Jackson’s Zenmasters are competing for championships.
5. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors. Everybody loves Draymond has cruised through a very productive week, having gone off with 23 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals against the Bucks last Wednesday and then following that up with a 23-point, 6-assist showing against the Clippers on Sunday. He’s having his best stretch of basketball of the season. Our only caveat is that he should toughen up in post-game interviews. Sometimes they can be bumpy.
NEXT FIVE: Miles Plumlee, F-C, Brooklyn; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Detroit; Dennis Schroder, G, Atlanta; Robert Covington, G, Philadelphia; Alexis Ajinca, F-C, New Orleans.
Kels Dayton is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in SLAM Magazine. You can check out more of his work at RoundballDaily.com and SportzEdge.com. Follow him on Twitter @KelsDayton.