Mar. 10, 2017
The NBA's Most Improved Player
This year, there were a lot of players that took the next step in their NBA careers and improved on their games. But there are 4 guys that, I think, improved more than anyone in the game and are rightfully competing for the Most Improved Player award: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Myles Turner and Avery Bradley.
Giannis has been in the league for 4 years now, showing steady improvement over the course of his career. But from last year coming into this year, he's taken a major leap into superstar status, leading his team in all 5 major stat categories, ala Lebron James. He's a 6'11" PG that can do everything on the floor, and is helping his Milwaukee Bucks fight for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But, Giannis was predicted to be great by a lot of people, so this improvement isn't as much of a surprise as it is reward for the Bucks organization. And as much as Giannis has improved since last season, I don't think he is the most improved player in the league.
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets is also in a similar position, trying to help his team solidify their playoff spot in the West. In Jokic's 2nd season in the league, he is almost averaging a double-double with 5 apg, leading the Nuggets to some unexpected victories. He also has his fair share of triple doubles on the year, with 5 on the season so far. This is very impressive, especially from the Center position, which has become less and less vital as the league has evolved. Jokic is obviously the best player on the Nuggets, and will be a force for some time now, but he showed flashes of his potential all throughout his first season with the team. He has taken that next step into becoming a star for his team and should be a cornerstone for the franchise for the near future. But he is not my most improved player.
Myles Turner came into the league last year as a defense and rebounding specialist. He can rebound at a high rate, defend the paint and block shots with the best of them. He was not known to be an aggressive scorer, but in the first half of this season, he showed that he could be just that. He exploded with a 30 point outing in the opening game of the season, and has kept up a very good season from then. He hasn't been scoring as much lately, averaging about 15 ppg only, but he is one of the main factors for the Pacers midseason resurgence into the playoff race. He is ranked 4th in the league with 2.09 blocks per game, and he's only 1 out of 5 players that average more than 2 per game. He is, no doubt, going to develop into one of the best Centers in the league. But he hasn't gotten there yet, and he is not my most improved player of the year.
Avery Bradley of the Boston Celtics is my most improved player of the year. This is Bradley's 7th season in the league, and it's his best one yet. Throughout his career, both at Texas and in the NBA, Bradley has been known mostly for his effectiveness at the defensive end. He can stay in front of some of the best players in the league, and is very good with his hands, able to disturb the ball handler with ease. The Celtics always have him or Jae Crowder defending the oppositions best player. But for as much of a defensive player he is, he has improved his offensive output in almost every season he's played. His ppg jumped from 15 last year to 17 this year, but that's not why he is the most improved player. The reason I like him as the Most Improved Player in the league is because of his effectiveness rebounding the ball. With Al Horford and Jae Crowder missing large chunks of the season in the beginning, Avery Bradley took it upon his 6'2" self to help in the rebounding department with those two missing. For the first 3 months of the season, he was averaging 8 rebounds per game, one of the highest rebound averages for a guard in the league. With some of those injured players back, that average has dropped, but not significantly, dropping only to 6.2 rpg, which is still a lot of rebounds from the guard position. His ability to help literally all over the floor has really helped the Celtics as they sit in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference. Although Isaiah Thomas is the unquestioned leader of the team and can take over any game, I think with the Celtics being very team oriented, they don't win as many games as they do without Avery Bradley in the lineup. For this reason, I think Avery Bradley will win the NBA's Most Improved Player award this season.