Most Improved Player Rankings: The Oscars Edition

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The Oscars are over, and since I didn’t watch them or see any of the nominated movies, let’s get this Oscar-themed edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings under way!

Because nothing says “balanced sportswriter” like a column full of misinformed pop culture references!

The envelopes, please …

Best Actor: Anthony Davis. This award goes to the best player in our group, and Davis is the clear choice there. He’s already one of the league’s best big men, and Pelicans fans have already started counting down the days until he ditches them for a bigger market, so they can spend the following season winning 15 games and praying for a franchise-saving draft pick! Laissez-les bons temps rouller!

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Best Picture: This award goes to the guy on the best team, and that would be Lance Stephenson of Indiana. Like 12 Years A Slave, the Pacers haven’t been easy to watch. But they just may end up being the most important basketball team of the season – if they win the NBA championship. Imagine the social impact that a small-market team that plays defense and didn’t import all of its stars like Ocean’s Eleven would have if it actually won the title. Now that’s a dream worth dreamin’.

Also, Isaiah Thomas. That’s a nice picture there. His grandma has it hanging on her fridge, I’m sure.

Best Supporting Actor: Lance Stephenson. He’s playing Beta Dog to Paul George’s Alpha Dog, and he’s played it as well as that Somalian guy alongside Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. At least, what I’ve seen from the trailer. That was a powerful 30 seconds.

Best Foreign Language Film: Goran Dragic. He was the only nominee. He wins because his name sounds like a Game of Thrones character.

Best Breakthrough Performance: Goran Dragic. Does anyone realize he put up 40 on the Pelicans on Friday night? Forty! This is Goran Dragic we’re talking about, people! My lord!

Best Visual Effects: DeAndre Jordan. For making this look real.

Best Hair and Makeup: Anthony Davis’ barber. Imagine the incredible will power that this man has not to take a Norelco to Davis’ temple and rid the world of that jointed caterpillar he calls his eyebrow. What an inspired performance.

Standout Performance in a Crappy Movie: Andre Drummond. The 2013-14 Pistons are as bad as Transformers would have been without Shia LaBeouf. Unfortunately, in the Pistons’ season, no one ever blows up.

Best Column Written at 3 a.m.: Oh, come on, guys. You didn’t have to do that. I’m not a hero. I mean, I am my own hero - 10 years from now. 37-year old Kels is going to be one hell of a person. I can’t wait to see what I have in store for myself. Will I be an astronaut? An award-winning physicist? A Wal-Mart greeter? I guess I just have to keep living and we’ll find out.

Best Line of this Introduction: On to the rankings.

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Isaiah Thomas Takes Halftime Lead of Most Improved Player Rankings

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Isaiah ThomasWe’re nearing the All-Star break, and that means it’s just past halftime in the race for NBA Most Improved Player.

So far this season, we’ve discussed Eminem, Seinfeld, the genetic connection between twins, existentialism, John Lennon, Mars Blackmon, and un-seeing the Eastern Conference standings.

It’s been a great time, and I think we’ve all learned a lot.

I know I have.

But now, like middle school gym class, it’s time to separate the men from the boys. So let’s take a look at each candidate, and their chances of winning this most prestigious award.

THE FAVORITES: Isaiah Thomas and Lance Stephenson.

These two have emerged as the top contenders because they’ve gone from relative obscurity to All-Star level talents. Just two years ago, Stephenson was the bench-warming punk who gave LeBron the choke sign.  Now, he’s racking up triple-doubles like he is LeBron – posting four this season to the King’s zero. He’s also a terrific defender, capable scorer and willing passer on a team that prides itself on sharing the ball. Well, most of the time anyway.

Thomas has gone from second-round draft pick to one of the best point guards in the West. When DeMarcus Cousins looks down and sees only one pair of footprints in the sand, he knows that Isaiah has been carrying him. The Hustlin’ Husky has scored 38 twice this season and is putting up 24.4 points per game in February. He looks like the only guy on the Kings with a pulse.

THE LEGACY: Anthony Davis.

I like to think of Davis’ candidacy like a trust fund kid who flunked out of college and is now rising up the ranks in his daddy’s Fortune 500 company. Everyone knew he was going to be successful, so we shouldn’t act like we’re surprised. Sure, Davis had some issues with injuries last season, but at 6-10 with an (approximately) 500-foot wingspan and the mobility of a guard, it’s not shocking he’s doing well. Still, stats-wise, he’s clearly one of the most improved players in the league from last season, and that’s why he’s in the hunt.

THE BIG MEN: Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan.

Drummond and Jordan both rank at the top of the league in rebounding and field goal percentage. Jordan is also right there in blocks. Both guys had tremendous potential when they came into the league, but no one saw this kind of improvement coming this season. Drummond has been a bit more impressive because he’s only in his second season – and doing it on a mess of a Pistons team that just fired its coach.

THE SLEEPER: Paul George.

Don’t think that just because George won the award last season that he can’t come right back and win it again this season. He has taken another giant leap from Pacers alpha dog to MVP candidate and has become one of the game’s biggest stars.   

So bring on Bruno Mars and those shirtless 40-year old guys. It’s halftime in the race for Most Improved Player.

Oh yeah yeah! Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah…..

On to the rankings.

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Most Improved Player Rankings: Week 21

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Greivis VasquezIf you know the difference between a basketball and a bocce ball, you know that upstart Florida Gulf Coast has come out of absolutely nowhere to capture the nation’s attention and become the first 15-seed in NCAA history to advance to the Sweet 16.

What does this have to do with the Most Improved Player Rankings? Well, FGCU coach Andy Enfield called his team “the most improved team in the nation.” You know that caught our attention. That. of course, and Enfield’s wife.

Anyway, it’s great to be a part of the biggest story in basketball this week.

With that said, we’re down to the Final Four in the Most Improved Player Madness! Everyone is bursting with excitement to see who is going to take home the title!

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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 17

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Here at the Most Improved Player Rankings, we’re known for our hard-hitting journalism. We’ve been told that we make Anderson Cooper look like Ahmad Rashad. Woodward and Bernstein still wonder how we found out about Greivis Vasquez.

So in that tradition, I decided to go ahead and interview our top candidate for the Most Improved Player award, Magic big man Nikola Vucevic.

It hardly matters that Vucevic told me that he’s never heard of me or the column, or that he responded with dead silence when I tried to explain it to him. What matters is, he agreed to do the interview below.

Read it, or risk being uninformed.

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