Most Improved Player Rankings: And the winner is….

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This is a tough column to write.John-Boehner-SC-1024x641

It’s the last edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings, and like John Boehner at an eighth grade science fair, I’m about to lose it.

I uhh…I just want to tell you all how much you mean to me. (Voice cracks)

It’s been another incredible year in this column space.

We’ve talked about Ike Manfresca, the OscarsSeinfeld, the genetic connection between twins, existentialismJohn LennonMars Blackmon, and un-seeing the Eastern Conference standings.

We even compared every candidate to a character in ”The Office.” That was one of my favorites.

Now, sadly, the hourglass that is the NBA season is down to its last few kernels of sand. (Kernels, that’s a thing, right?) It’s time to choose a winner.

There were a few players who probably didn’t get enough respect in these rankings during the course of the season. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors, Robin Lopez of the Blazers, and James Johnson of the Grizzlies all showed up in the “Next Five” category once or twice, but they never actually crashed the table.

There were a ton of players who made quantum leaps this season. But in this man’s expert opinion, a few stood above the rest.

DeAndre JordanClippers center DeAndre Jordan went from unremarkable to a modern-day Wilt Chamberlain (you know, without the 50 ppg), dominating the league’s rebounding and field-goal percentage categories. He went from averaging just 7 rips to pulling down 13.7 per, and dunked shot an unheard-of 67.5 percent from the field. He deserved a spot in the table all season long.

Pistons big Andre Drummond made a similar leap, nearly doubling both his scoring and rebounding outputs. ‘Dre went from 7.9 points per game to 13.4, and 7.6 rebounds per to 13.2, which put him second in the league behind Jordan. His mug was a fixture in these rankings.

Guard Isaiah Thomas of the Kings went from Greivis Vasquez’s backup to borderline All-Star and arguably the best player on the team, averaging 20.6 points and 6.3 assists. Not bad for the 60th overall pick in the 2011 draft.

Anthony Davis made “The Leap” from project with a great future to superstar with an unlimited one. Like Stephen Curry last season, Davis became one of the league’s best players, but he won’t win the award because everyone expected him to be great.

Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, Markieff Morris and virtually every member of the Phoenix Suns organization made incredible strides this season, and what was considered a ragtag bunch of misfits nearly crashed the playoff party.

In the end though, the race for this award came down to two men.

Indiana’s Lance Stephenson and Phoenix’s Goran Dragic.

Stephenson was terrific for the Pacers all season long and punctuated his arrival with a Sir Lance-A-Lot video that history will never forget.

Dragic spent some time in Sheridan’s MVP Rankings, carrying the Suns with one footprint in the sand when former rankings leader Eric Bledsoe went down.

So, which of these very deserving borderline All-Stars will take home the hardware?

You’ll have to click “Next Page” to find out.(It helps us with page views).

And isn’t that the kind of capitalistic attitude that makes America great? Oh boy. Here come the—waterworks—

(Sobbing)

On to the rankings.

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Tweet of the Night: Paul George tries politicking for more free throws

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Paul georgeThe Indiana Pacers, finally, brought home a big win.

During a two month slump that has caused the league, media, fans and Pacers themselves to question their capability, Sunday’s 102-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder should help them sleep easy.

At least for a night.

With the win, the Pacers positioned themselves to successfully claim home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Despite Friday’s crucial loss at Miami, because the Heat slipped up against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, the Pacers control their own destiny.   

SH Blog: Pacers and Heat collide for top seed; Warriors say championship or bust; Carmelo has dead shoulder

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lebron-james-hibbert-foulThe Miami Heat will host the Indiana Pacers Friday night in a game that will likely determine who finishes the regular season with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference.

It has been a long, strenuous, and often confusing journey for these two teams, but it will all come full circle tonight in Miami. 

May: Frank Vogel is Glad He Is Not a New Jersey Devil

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aprilfoolsBack on April Fools Day, Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, the hosts of ESPN’s popular ‘Pardon The Interruption,’ opened the show with a segment speculating that Larry Bird was about to come down and replace Frank Vogel as the head coach of the reeling Indiana Pacers.

They talked about how the team was sliding and that something needed to be done. Bird, who had coached the Pacers before – albeit more than a decade ago – had been critical of the team, saying it needed to be tougher.

Then, after tantalizing its viewers with this possible coup d’etat, Wilbon and Kornheiser announced that it was all an April Fools Day joke.

Hmmmm.

Here’s the thing about April Fools Day ruses: They only work if there’s a degree of believability to them. Had Wilbon and Kornheiser announced that Larry Brown was coming back to coach the Pacers, and leaving SMU, well . . . OK, that’s probably not a good example. But you get the drift. The reason the joke worked was because it was credible.

Nothing has changed in the last nine days to make it any less credible; the Pacers are 2-2 heading into Friday night’s biggie in Miami.

PODCAST: Better to Finish 2nd than 1st in Eastern Conference?

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Would you sacrifice the possibility of hosting a Game 7 at home in the Eastern Conference finals if it meant a smoother path toward getting to those Eastern Conference finals?

That is a question the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have to be asking themselves with seven days left in the regular season.