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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Who is the Most Improved Player in the NCAA Tournament?

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2014-finalfour-logo_400As the sun fades into the North Texas sky (not sure why we can’t call it Arlington) on Saturday evening, college basketball will take center stage on the American sports landscape.

Everyone except Chris Bernucca will settle in for the Final Four, where some of the NBA’s future stars will duke it out in a titanic stadium not meant for basketball with everything on the line.

It is a spectacle that deserves America’s attention. And that is why we’ve decided to lend America’s favorite column to it, at least for a few paragraphs.

Because everyone has room to improve (cheesy smile).

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From the Clouds: This Week’s Most Improved Player Rankings

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MikeFrancesa2008

A well-proportioned, wise Italian man with a radio show in New York once told me and a listening audience of probably hundreds that the NBA “goes into the clouds” in February and March. I can’t really remember his name, OK? So let’s just call him Ike Manfresca.

Manfresca’s quote has always stuck with me, because:  (a) it was so strange and (b) it’s the perfect way to describe the seasonal malaise that rolls in around this time of year, like a warm front heading northeast from the Great Basin.

In March, the NBA exists in a dream-like state, as players shuffle through the hazy backstretch of the season, traveling from city to city to city almost on muscle memory.

They box out, fill fast break lanes and take contested jump shots without even thinking, like you getting off that exit you always get off on your way to work. You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you sit there and think, How did I get here this morning? I don’t remember anything from the minute I remote-started my car.

It’s the same with coaches, who will complain to referees and shout nonsensical jargon at their players without using the frontal lobe of their brains.

How did we end up in a 3-2 zone?, they wonder. I don’t even remember anything I said in that second quarter timeout.

For fans, March is the time when you stop listening to the guest speaker and start to wonder how many bananas you’ve eaten in your life.

Casual fans have already turned their attention to college basketball, which is infinitely more exciting this time of year. It’s easy to tune out the professionals and happen upon scores while looking up at TV screens at the bar, or by accidentally clicking “NBA” instead of “College Basketball” on your smartphone app.

Sure, many teams are fighting tooth and nail for the posteason, and some, like the Pacers (who have lost four in a row), might be sleepwalking as home court advantage – and ultimately the Larry O’Brien Trophy – slips through their fingers, eyes glazed over.

But for most fans, the games have gotten repetitive and redundant. Bobcats-Nuggets in November is exciting and intriguing. Bobcats-Nuggets in March i

Sorry, I lost interest in that last sentence.

It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just that the NBA season is like a movie that waits too long to get to the climax. We get it. The East sucks, LeBron is awesome, Kevin Durant might win MVP, and Kels Dayton is an up-and-coming sportswriter.

Enough cheeky dialogue. Get to the part where people start jumping out of planes!

It’s going to happen soon, but first we have to take a trip through the clouds. Call it the calm before the storm. Or call into Ike Manfresca’s radio show.

Wake me up when we get to April.

Until then, I’ll be watching the MAAC championship.

On to the rankings.

 

 

Whoa….how did we get here? I don’t even remember typing any of that.

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Which ‘Office’ character is each of the Most Improved Player candidates?

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Rainn Wilson The OfficeIt’s part of my nightly routine.

First, I sit on the couch and watch hours of NBA basketball, blankly staring at the screen like a zombie or Kevin from The Office.

Then, after the final buzzer sounds on the last West Coast game, I flip over to channel 7 and zone out during a late-night mini-marathon of Kevin and all of his friends on The Office.

It’s gotten to the point where last night, I dreamt that Dwight crashed the Most Improved Player Rankings by going for 26 and 11 against the Clippers.

Still … it’s awesome.

And as Kevin might say, “Why not take two awesome things and make them into one???!”

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Slam Dunk Contest Decidedly Unimproved

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dunksThis column is supposed to be about improvement, so let’s start it off by declaring that Saturday night’s Slam Dunk Contest was without a doubt the most un-improved thing in the history of All-Star Weekend.

Seriously, what the hell happened there?

After Paul George, John Wall and Damian Lillard – three bona fide stars in the league – actually decided that being considered one of the world’s best dunkers wasn’t beneath them, the league chucked a Snuggie into the Atlantic Ocean and then wrung it out all over the historic Smoothie King Center.

Wet blanket. That’s what I’m trying to say. It was a wet blanket.

And to think, I was excited for the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night!

I rushed home from work, shunned the Olympics and the Florida-Kentucky game and flipped on TNT for what I thought was going to be a night of high-flying dunks, excessive laughing and 7-footers in expensive suits falling all over each other.

You know, the usual.

I would have been better off watching bobsledding.

It was like looking forward to a the party of the year at the lax bros’ house and then walking in to find out that they were playing Monopoly and serving 7-Up. Where’s the beer pong? Where are the keg stands? WHERE’S THE IRONIC DANCING TO MILEY CYRUS???

Who decided that a “team format” would make the contest more exciting? I mean, does anyone really care which conference is better at dunking?

I guess ESPN’s DJ Gallo was the only one who truly appreciated the new format:

 

To be honest, that was my favorite part, too.

The rest of it was pretty awful. The entire thing lasted a total of about 15 minutes. There were two rounds, the first of which resembled a layup line. It was unclear whether or not the players believed that round was just a warmup.

The second round pitted East vs. West and consisted of a total of six dunks, the last of which was the only exciting one in the group. Wall’s only individual dunk attempt of the night was pretty cool. Magic Johnson said it brought the dunk contest back.

And then the lights went out.

And it was over.

This tweet from Kings forward Jason Thompson pretty much summed it up:

 

 

One memorable dunk. And the trophy came out. Just when “Party in the USA” started playing.

Yo, Adam Silver:  Not cool, bro.

On to the rankings.

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