This column is soft.
Every other week, we talk about the Most Improved Players in the league like we’re a modern-day Little League. We’re always telling everyone how great they are and giving them Fruit Roll-Ups, and letting them draw dinosaurs in the infield dirt during the game because they’re just creative and artistic and they’ll grow out of it and “everybody gets a trophy because look at how much you’ve improved!”
Well, I’m sick of it.
It’s time to come down hard on these guys. This is the NBA, for crying out loud. WHAT DID YOU THINK THAT STANDS FOR, THE NO-BOO-BOOS-ASSOCIATION?
Sorry, I just watched “Full Metal Jacket” for the first time today.
But seriously, how can you truly know who’s most improved if you don’t first take a look at who has improved the least? Confucius said that.
It’s like the Yin and the Yang of life.
And, as the great poet 50 Cent once said: “Sunny days wouldn’t be special, if it wasn’t for rain. Joy wouldn’t be feel so good, if it wasn’t for pain.”
So, in this edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings, we’re flipping the script, and taking a look at the Least Improved Players in the NBA.
(Kobe, I’m sorry…this hurts me more than it hurts you).
So, without further yelling or quoting of sages, let’s take a look at the list:
5. Sasha Vujacic, G, Knicks: OK, this probably isn’t fair to Sasha. He’s always been awful. But still…here’s a three-point specialist who is shooting 26 percent from three-point range. I’m starting to think that the only reason he’s on the Knicks is because Phil Jackson felt bad for him after he broke up with Maria Sharapova.
4. Tayshaun Prince, F, Timberwolves: It’s not a good sign for Tayshaun that I had no idea he was still in the league. It’s a worse sign for the Timberwolves that Prince has started 36 games. He’s averaging 3.2 points and 1 assist in 21 minutes per game, is shooting a robust .167 from deep, and just .545 from the free throw line. His player efficiency rating is 6.57, which would be better if it were his ERA. That ranks 7th-worst in the NBA, just ahead of Kostas Papanikolaou (common pronounciation).
3. Mike Miller, G, Nuggets: Again, he’s had a great career, but I was unaware that Mike Miller was still in the league. I feel like this deserved its own press release. He’s playing a career-low 8.5 minutes per game and averaging a career-low 1.3 ppg. I feel like I could do those things.
2. Vince Carter, G-F, Grizzlies: I love VinSanity as much as the next guy, but these days, he’s less Half-Man, Half-Amazing, and more Half-Man, Half-Yo-Vince-Carter’s-in-this-game-what-are-the-Grizzlies-doing?-I-didn’t-even-think-he-was-still-in-the-league-Isn’t-he-like-70?
1. Kobe Bryant, G, Shirts, in pickup game at the Y: I hate to do it to him, but everybody knows this now: Kobe looks like a guy who should be playing at the local ‘Y’ instead of the NBA. I get why he wanted to hang around–the old dudes in the locker room at the ‘Y’ let everything hang out, and every time you walk in there, it’s like you’re just praying you won’t see something that you can’t un-see. But it’s hard to un-see some of Kobe’s jumpers these days, and this move, I mean, WHAT IS THIS?
Kobe really bout to move-in with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air ???????????? pic.twitter.com/eEhSnNnnmJ
— Mike McCray (@yomike) January 24, 2016
On to the (other) rankings.
1. Draymond Green, F, Warriors: Draymond still leads the way after putting up 22 points and 11 boards against Indy and then 11, 9 and six assists in the Dubs’ smashing of the Spurs. The way he’s playing, it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing him right now. Green has usurped Klay Thompson as the second-best player on the best team since the ’95-’96 Bulls. We’d love to see that hypothetical matchup between him and Dennis Rodman.
2. C.J. McCollum, G, Blazers: He’s still flying under the radar despite having put up 25, 28 and 28 in three games last week and pushing his average to 20.7 points per game. McCollum and Damian Lillard are quickly becoming one of the best backcourt combos in the league, and it’s crazy to think that these dudes came from Lehigh and Weber State, respectively.
3. Danilo Gallinari, F, Nuggets: The sweet-stroking Italian is having one of the best months of his career, putting up 23.5 points per game on 45% shooting. He was the best player on the court in the Nuggs’ win over the Wizards on Thursday, knocking down 4 of 5 three-point attempts. We think he’s got a big finish to the season ahead of him.
4. Gary Harris, G, Nuggets: It pays to play for Tom Izzo. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that two former Michigan State teammates ended up on this list, as both Green and Harris have defended, bought into their systems, and done all the little things well. Harris has also added some unexpected scoring punch for Denver, putting up 11 points per game, up from 3.3 per last season.
5. Stephen Curry, G, Warriors: Gotta keep Steph in the top five, even though there’s no way he wins the award the year after winning MVP. That’d just be Steph-overload. Still, he continues to amaze us by getting better even when you didn’t think it was possible. He’s draining 3s from near-midcourt, and he could probably knock a few down from 3/4 court (a shot he practices), if it were socially acceptable to do so in a game. By this time next year, he’ll probably be throwing down 360 dunks, collaborating with Drake on the most fire album of 2017, accepting an Emmy award for his daughter’s hit TV show, and giving a stirring speech at his presidential inauguration. At least one of those things will happen.