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When we made our 2017 NBA Awards picks here at Ball Don’t Lie, every one of us picked the same player for this year’s Most Improved Player award. Evidently, the bulk of the voting bloc agreed with us — nobody took a bigger leap forward this past season than Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The Greek Freak” topped two other deserving finalists — Utah Jazz rim protector Rudy Gobert, and Denver Nuggets playmaker Nikola Jokic — in voting results unveiled at 2017 NBA Awards show in New York on Monday night. Antetokounmpo took home 80 of a possible 100 first-place votes for the award, nearly tripling up second-place finisher Jokic:
Giannis couldn’t be in attendance in Manhattan, but the first Most Improved Player winner in Bucks history offered a brief thank you speech via the team:
In his fourth NBA season, Antetokounmpo became a do-everything superstar for the Bucks. He didn’t just average career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks; he led his team in all five of those categories, too, and finished in the top 20 in the NBA in each one, as well.
He made his first All-Star appearance, his first All-NBA appearance and his first All-Defensive Team appearance, developing under the watchful eye of Jason Kidd into a 6-foot-11 point-center matchup nightmare who’s borderline unstoppable in transition, can get from half-court to the rim in about two steps, and who can punish just about any kind of defender you put on him while also wreaking havoc on gifted scorers on the other end. The scariest thing? He’s still just 22 years old, and seems to be just scratching the surface of his potential.
The same might be said of Gobert, whose Defensive Player of the Year-caliber work in the middle helped propel Utah back to the postseason, and Jokic, whose ascent into the starting lineup in mid-December pushed Denver into the ranks of the NBA’s most unstoppable offenses thanks to his efficient scoring and preternatural playmaking gifts. But while both of those players looked like potential All-Stars this year, Giannis looked like an MVP in the making, and that difference … well, it’s all the difference, really.
Antetokounmpo is the second Buck to take home an individual trophy at the NBA’s first-ever Awards show. Earlier in the evening, teammate Malcolm Brogdon was named the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year.
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