Most Improved Player Rankings: Tony Wroten jumps into the table

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RoseIf you’re anything like me, you still can’t shake the Derrick Rose injury.

It sticks with you like a gas station burrito, refusing to leave you alone no matter how badly you want to forget it.

Every time I turn on League Pass, I’m reminded that one of the most explosive and entertaining players of this era is gone, and his career is probably never going to be the same.

It’s pretty depressing.

Fortunately, in times like these, we’ve got the Most Improved Player Rankings to keep us going. Much like mint chocolate chip ice cream, old-school video games and Barry Manilow, the Rankings have become an international symbol of comfort. They’re here to heal.

You see, this column can be thought of as the yin to a season-ending injury’s yang, the new life that springs from sudden disappointment.

There’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Take Sixers guard Tony Wroten. He’s not really a fish, but my point will probably still make sense.

Wroten spent last season with the Grizzlies and only got off the bench when Marc Gasol’s gas station burrito returned to its natural, gaseous state. Or when somebody spilled something.

This season, Wroten is a key rotation player with the Sixers, averaging 25.6 minutes. He’s gone off for 10 double-digit scoring efforts, or nine more than he had all of last season. He had a four-game stretch last week in which he averaged 19.5 points and even posted a triple-double in a 123-117 win over the Rockets on November 13, putting up 18 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds).

Overall, the Hustlin’ Husky (as Kings broadcaster Jerry Reynolds might call him) is averaging 12.6 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 boards.

Of course, he did go down with a back injury on Friday against the Bucks. Is love even real?!!

Hopefully, he’ll be back soon, because we don’t deserve that kind of pain.

On to the rankings.

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Week 22

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Omer AsikThere are less than three weeks left in the NBA season. Three weeks. And I’m having a breakdown.

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.

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Week 19

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Paul GeorgeIt’s Week 2 of possibly the most ill-conceived bracket columns in sports history — the prelude, not the rankings.

Last week, we introduced you to Most Improved Player Madness with a special three-page blowout edition of the Rankings. I sense a lot of excitement out there about Week 2.

So without further adieu, we present to you the Most Improved Sweet 16! Let it fill your senses with indescribable excitement and joy!

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Week 18

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Larry SandersIt’s March. And for those of us basketball junkies, that means it’s the most glorious month of the year.

March is filled with sneaker-squeaking, pizza-scarfing, mini-hoop jamming madness. It’s a time when we fill out brackets until the blood from our paper cuts advance to the Sweet 16. We place an inordinate amount of self-worth into our clicker skills, hear buzzers sounding in our sleep and showcase Usain Bolt speed in media timeout fridge runs.

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Week 16

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Much like President’s Day or Halloween, the All-Star break is a time for reflection.

It’s a time when loved ones gather ’round to watch the greatest basketball players on Earth take part in an exhibition not bound by trivialities such as defense or traveling violations.

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