April 15, 2011
As far back as 2006, I was having conversations with Skeets and Tas about this award, and J.E. was already spittingly-dismissive over it. Kevin Pelton, about as reasoned and accomplished as basketball analysts come, decided to not even list this award on his ballot this week. It's the Most Improved Player award, and it's always a hot mess.
What else would you expect from an award that was created in order to do away with the Comeback Player of the Year award? This is a statue routinely given out to players who ended the season prior with the most improved consumption of Columbian Flake before getting clean the year after.
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It's a bit of a joke, and everyone has their questions. Is it for the most staggering good-to-great jump? The best overall jump? Are we lauding players for possibly being out of shape (like during Deron Williams'(notes) MIP candidacy in 2006-07) or unmotivated (Boris Diaw(notes), the same year) the season prior? Should we give it to second-year players? How much of an impact does minutes per game, unable-to-qualify defense, or role play? Why even try?
OK, it's settled. The award is a joke. But, really, these awards all are. So let's try to breathe into a bag a bit and give it to the guy who -- regardless of where he started or where he finished -- improved the most in my eyes. That person is Derrick Rose(notes).
Rose's defense, his leadership qualities, his ability to get to the free throw line, his long range shooting, and both screen/roll and transition passing have all improved by leaps and bounds this year. I think he's the most improved player in the entire NBA, due to his all-around gifts, in comparison to the year before. And I have no issue with giving this award to a superstar, just as I'd have no issue with giving this award to a middling rotation player who made a similarly-sized jump.
Like Memphis' Darrell Arthur(notes), who was John Hollinger's surprise choice for MIP. John's right, Arthur looked to be a D-League talent at best last year, and now he's a killer bench contributor for the Grizzlies. If we're working on a scale that goes from 1-to-100, Arthur's jump from 30 to 60 has to rank just as high as Rose's jump (and remember, Rose was a sieve on defense last year) from 60 to 95.
Kevin Love(notes) is also a viable candidate. Though his stats look best because his minutes shot up by over seven per game because Kurt Rambis finally got his head out of his tail (in only that particular regard, I should point out), Love's per-minute stats also shot way up in his third year. Toss in the 42 percent long range shooting (up from 33 percent) and you've got a worthy (and likely) Most Improved Player award winner.