Familiar Names Highlight Most Improved Player Rankings

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Reggie_JacksonImagine for a second that this column is a talk show.

It’s easy if you try.

Now, imagine I told you that Isaiah Thomas and Reggie Jackson were going to be on it. Imagine all the people who would watch that show.

Yoo-hoo, oooh.

You’d be pumped, right?

Isiah Lord Thomas. Zeke. One of the greatest basketball players in history. And Reggie Jackson. Mr. October. The man who hit three home runs in a World Series game?!

What a show we’ve got for you tonight! 

You’d be glued to the TV. Or, at least, you’d DVR it.

And then your face would sink slowly as you realized that I didn’t mean “Bad Boy Pistons” Isiah Thomas. I meant “Pizza Guy” Isaiah Thomas. I didn’t mean “Straw that Stirs the Drink” Reggie Jackson, just “Russell Westbrook backup” Reggie Jackson.

What is this, the Pete Holmes Show??

That’s what this edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings feels like – The Pete Holmes Show. Or at least, Tavis Smiley.

Normally, this is the spot where NBA players make names for themselves, arriving on the Sheridan Hoops stage before they are recognized by the national hoops media at large. Paul George did that last season.

But this season, some guys are making the same name somebody else already made. Thomas isn’t Zeke, but he is playing like a guy Zeke would trade six consecutive draft picks for.

Jackson may not be the Straw that Stirs the Drink, but he could be the Splenda that makes the 27-7 drink taste a little better. (I don’t know. I haven’t had my coffee yet).

Both namesake point guards have energized their teams and accounted for nearly as many TV double-takes as an Andre Drummond throwdown. Thomas has taken over as Sacramento’s full-time starter, averaging 19.3 points and six assists. He’s been the Kings’ most important player this season, and is one of the reasons for hope in the future.

Jackson filled in when Westbrook was hurt at the beginning of the season and again now that Westbrook is out until at least the All-Star break. He has continued to play with confidence, putting up 27 points in Sunday’s home win over Boston. He has added some much-needed backcourt depth to a team that can be too one-dimensional at times. There’s no way OKC has the best record in the West without him.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But they’re not the only ones.

Anyway, it’s time for our musical guest. You guessed it…John Le…gend. Sorry, I hit the ellipses button there.

That’s our column for you. Goodnight everybody!

On to the rankings.

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Drummond Still a Bright Spot for Dreary Pistons

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Andre DrummondAs the sun sets over 2013, and the meters of our lives continue to run inexorably with no quarter slots, there is one thing in this crazy world that we can know for sure.

Andre Drummond is balling, dude.

Though the rest of his Pistons teammates seem to be lost in an existential paradigm (What’s the point of playing defense; we’re all just going to die anyway?), Drummond has taken control of his destiny as much as one can in our world.

He’s become a double-double machine (again, without quarter slots), averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds and shooting dunking 61 percent from the floor. He ranks 18th in Player Efficiency Rating at 21.90 and has become the only consistent force on a team whose talent clearly exceeds its paltry 14-19 record.

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Bledsoe grabs top spot

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Markieff  & Marcus Morris Suns People have short attention spans.

Milk eggs cheese buttuh … Was there anything else on that list?

Sometimes we get really excited about things after small sample sizes, and start declaring them the Greatest Thing since that last Great Thing we can’t remember anymore. It happens too often.

Take “Call Me Maybe.” Or Jeremy Lin. Or that “What does the Fox say” video that I wish I could un-watch like I took the blue pill in The Matrix.

So when Markieff Morris (twin brother of Marcus) came out of nowhere and put up 17, 23, 28 and 23 points in four games, well … Let’s just say I was exuberant. It looked as though Morris was going to have a breakout season, and I thought he’d be a fixture here in the Most Improved Player Rankings.

I’m here to say that I overreacted.

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Bernucca: Title contention a bridge too far for troubled Knicks, Nets

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brooklyn bridgeThe Brooklyn Bridge is one of the great landmarks of our country.

And right now, it connects the home boroughs of perhaps the NBA’s two most disappointing teams this season.

Remember all the back-and-forth this summer between members of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets? Jason Kidd retired from the Knicks to coach the Nets. Raymond Felton questioned his Knicks being ranked below the Nets. Paul Pierce said it was time for the Nets to start running the city. J.R. Smith called Pierce “bitter” about having to leave Boston.

All fun stuff to help fuel a rivalry that already had a pretty good fire raging over which was the best team in New York.

Now? Given the way the Knicks and Nets have started the season, the best team in New York might be the Gauchos.

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Most Improved Player Rankings are back: Markieff Morris at No. 1

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Eminem

Give me the beat, Obie! Time to channel Eminem.

Guess who’s back.

Back again.

Dayton’s back. Tell a friend.

Guess who’s back … guess who’s back … guess who’s back …

I’ve created a monster. ‘Cause nobody wants to see MVP’s no more, they want the Most Improved Player Rankings.

Well if you want most improved, this is what I’ll give ya. A little bit of me mixed with some hard Snickers. (They’re stale. But I need the sugar rush).

These rankings will jump-start your heart quicker than a shock when you found out Markieff Morris was the Player of the Week. Amazing! Or when you’re quoting decade-old Eminem songs in this column space–hey!

You’ve waited this long, now stop debating. Is it Morris, Bledsoe, or Turner maybe? Who’s the most improved in the league? We know one thing – it sure ain’t Jeff Teague!

****

OK, I’ll stop.

The Most Improved Rankings are back, and as Eminem’s daughter might have said 10 years ago, “I think they’ve gone craaaazy.”

If you thought last season was nuts, this season has been downright certifiable, and we’re only through seven games.

It’s mostly because of the Phoenix Suns.

Coming into the season, nobody thought the Suns were going to make much noise in the Western Conference. In fact, most basketball experts picked Phoenix to finish with more ping-pong balls than wins. They were one of many teams thought to be Riggin’ for Wiggins, or Parker, or a Harrison twin.

Instead, the Suns are 5-2 and own wins over supposed playoff hopefuls New Orleans, Portland and Denver. How have they done it? Improvement, of course!

Forward Markieff Morris has undermined my entire understanding of genetics by transforming into an MVP candidate in the first eight games.

I thought he and his twin brother Marcus were supposed to be the same person. I didn’t realize twins could have different ability levels, or that they could even say different things.

Point guard Eric Bledsoe was a hot commodity last offseason, and the Suns won the sweepstakes for him by shipping Jared Dudley to the LA Clippers as part of a three-team deal. But not even his closest homie would have predicted that Bledsoe would average 21 and 7 while leading the Suns to a 5-2 start.

And Miles Plumlee? That dude was as useless as a boating license in Indiana, but he has averaged 12 and 10 for the Suns early on.

There are some players outside of Phoenix players who have made big jumps as well. Anthony Davis has been historically good in New Orleans, and Lance Stephenson is making everyone forget that Paul George made everyone forget about Danny Granger in Indiana.

But as Eminem himself would say, it’s all about the Suns, son.

Peace out.

On to the rankings.

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