Most Improved a Three-Man Race
As always, there are many players who deserve consideration for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Throughout the league, some players in contention seemingly came out of nowhere to make an impact on their team, while others garnered bigger roles due to trades.
Dorrell Wright from the Golden State Warriors, Kyle Lowry of the Houston Rockets, DJ Augustin of the Charlotte Bobcats or Nick Young of the Washington Wizards all deserve consideration. So do DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors, Wesley Matthews of the Portland Trailblazers and Kris Humphries of the New Jersey Nets.
You can make a fine case for any of these players for the Most Improved Player award, but it truly is a three-man race.
The regular season awards almost always go to a sexy pick, someone well-known, no matter how well their team performed around them. With that in mind, the three-man race is between MVP candidate Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls, Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves and LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers.
With that in mind, what’s the case for each player in the race?
Derrick Rose is finishing up a simply stellar season, averaging 25.1 points, 7.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 45% from the field and 33% from the three-point line. While the Bulls had high expectations entering the season, very few—if any—expected them to obtain the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, especially in a season where the Boston Celtics were ready to claim the throne yet again or the great expectations of the Miami HEAT’s "Big Three" entering the year.
Here we are with the post-season beginning shortly and the Chicago Bulls hold the number one seed. Rose’s abilities keeping the team afloat during the lengthy absences of both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. In crunch time, it is Rose leading the charge, taking over games like few have done this year. That is why he is nearly a lock for the MVP award and his play was and is so remarkable, he has completely elevated himself beyond the Most Improved Player award into that much higher stratosphere.
Averaging 20.2 points, a league-leading 15.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, Kevin Love took another large step in his career in the 2010-11 season. His string of double-doubles—an amazing streak, but not a NBA record—was remarkable, making some state there are only two things guaranteed in Minnesota: snow and Love gathering double-doubles. Making his first All-Star game this year as David Stern’s pick to replace the injured Yao Ming, Love did something people in Minnesota aren’t used to. He put the team on Sportscenter and national media jumped on the bandwagon to keep track of the double-double streak.
However, Love’s Minnesota Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA. While nobody expected them to contend for an NBA Championship or even a playoff berth in the 2010-11 season, they were expected to be better than they are. The Timberwolves had injuries and they had personal issues which had players missing games, but so does every other team in the league. While team success or failure should not be a factor in individual awards, it is a subconscious factor whether those voting want to admit it or not. Because of that, it would be surprising if Love does, in fact, win the Most Improved Player award.
Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge had a great season, as did the other contenders. His 21.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.498 shooting percentage were all career highs. Although the jump in his statistics is not as great as the others, they also do not give him the credit he deserves for being a major factor in Portland’s playoff berth. With injuries to key players such as Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby, Aldridge put up MVP-type numbers in mid-season, helping to hold his team together during some rough times.
In this one season, Aldridge went from a number two option to a franchise player. While Rose is also a franchise player, he was closer to achieving that status than Aldridge last year. The big man made great strides throughout the year after working his tail off during the off-season and, don’t forget, he is playing at this high level against the Western Conference. Each night, he faces Pau Gasol or Zach Randolph, Kevin Love or Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan or Dirk Nowitzki.
It is interesting how the two players battling it out for David Stern’s selection for Yao Ming’s All-Star injury replacement now find themselves battling it out at the end of the year for this award. In the end, it should be LaMarcus Aldridge hoisting the award over his head.
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