Generally speaking, Jackson is a good man. He respects all of his players and treats them as equals. He would never speak ill towards any of them and never utters a curse word – not easy to do when you’re involved with the game of basketball.
It was a lost weekend that would have made Ray Milland proud.
I spent huge chunks of Saturday and Sunday at an AAU tournament and missed several games. When I finally got home and turned on the TV, I wished I was back at the AAU tournament.
If you didn’t watch the NBA playoffs this weekend, you didn’t miss much. All eight road teams lost Game 1, the first time that has happened since 2004. In that season, three first-round series ended in sweeps, four more ended in five games and the lone series that went the distance saw the home team win every game.
This weekend’s road teams lost by an average of 16 points, making it hard to tell whether they didn’t show up or couldn’t wait to get home. The Houston Rockets, who don’t play Oklahoma City again until Wednesday, actually did go home after Sunday night’s debacle.
The three games that aired on TNT on Sunday were decided by a combined 69 points. Yes, We Know Drama, and This Isn’t It.
This is the final edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings and I—
I’m sorry … I … told myself I wasn’t going to cry. (sniffle)
It’s been an amazing run here at the Most Improved Player Rankings. We’ve talked about donut races, wildebeests, and Andy Enfield’s wife. We’ve made fun of just about every basketball announcer out there and also Jim Nantz.
But now it’s finally time to get down to the business of naming the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Playoff teams missing key players.
There are very few teams who will be at full strength when the playoffs start two weekends from now. But two of those teams are last year’s NBA Finals combatants, which could make for a relatively mundane postseason.
It’s up to me to rank the Most Improved Players in the league this season, but I might as well be tasked with coming up with the goofiest Lopez brother, the dumbest “Real World” contestant, or the craziest old lady on “The View.”
Here’s the thing: I just can’t decide which of the candidates have risen above the rest. There are so many players who have improved so much over the course of the season, it’s almost unfair to have to pick only one.
And yet I must. It’s not a charge I take lightly. I swore an oath when I took this column. Either that, or I’ve been watching too many episodes of Game of Thrones. (I’ve been proofreading this column in an English accent).
Either way, I decided to write down the case for each of the candidates. Because talking (or writing) is often the best therapy:
The case for Nikola Vucevic: The Vucevator began as a bench player in Philly and has become a double-double machine in Orlando, averaging 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds this season. He came from nowhere, and he’s become a solid young center with All-Star potential. He’s had some monster games, and ranks third in the league in rebounding.
The case for Omer Asik: He went from stiff to starter and incredibly productive big man, emerging as a rebounding virtuoso in Houston, averaging 11.6 per game. He was also a borderline All-Star and ranks second in the league in rebounding.
The case for Paul George: He’s everyone’s favorite, and has stepped up and become the alpha dog on one of the best teams in the East, and maybe one of four teams who wouldn’t get absolutely steamrolled by the Heat in the playoffs.
The case for Jrue Holiday: The Jruth arguably has had the best season of anyone on this list. He’s in the top 10 in scoring and assists, and has singlehandedly carried the Sixers this season, although not very far. And he was arguably the best player on this list last season, too.
The case for Greivis Vasquez: The Hornets made his case pretty well, putting together this montage for Greivis. It looks like a movie reel. You’ve got to admire their dedication.
The case for Kemba Walker: He went from adequate player on a crappy team to terrific player on a crappy team. He’s been a big-time scorer for the Bobcats this season, and without him, they probably would have won three games this season.
The case for Larry Sanders: He went from buried on the bench to starting and becoming one of the league’s best defensive players. His offensive numbers also have greatly improved, as he put up 24 points to go with 13 rebounds in a Monday win over Charlotte.
Honestly, all of these guys have a legitimate claim to the
throne award. But only one will win. Unless two of them win, and it’s a co-Most Improved Player Award. But then they’d have to give out two trophies. So I think it’s just going to be one.
As it stands right now, one man has risen above the rest. I chose him because of how irrelevant he was last year, and how much of a force he’s become today.
You will find out his name soon enough. Actually, why don’t we just take a look now? Yeah, that sounds good. Well actually, let’s wait until the next line break.
On to the rankings.