Most Improved Player: Lin’s to Lose?
There are many players throughout the NBA who have improved their individual games and, therefore, are helping their respective teams. While there are countless other players who fit into this category, HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the five who may very well be in the running for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Evan Turner – Philadelphia 76ers
After his rookie season, many were questioning whether Turner was worthy of being the number two selection in the draft. His rookie season was underwhelming to many, but averaging 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2 assists per game isn’t as bad. What was a concern at first was Turner’s play didn’t seem to improve to begin his second season in the NBA, despite the obstacle of improving during the lockout.
Yet, as the Philadelphia 76ers became an early storyline in the NBA with their surprising play and winning percentage, Turner slowly began to turn it around, finding his niche on the team. While his stats for the season haven’t improved dramatically from his rookie season—he now averages 8.8 points, 6 rebounds and 2.6 assists—he has come up big for his team in crunch time recently. His play has been solid enough as of late to have those who questioned the selection now making the case he should be the player with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
Kyle Lowry – Houston Rockets
Lowry was already a solid player, but his stock grew to a near All-Star level in 2012. When the NBA nixed the deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Rockets were placing a lot on the shoulders of the sixth-year player. They were banking on Lowry, his work ethic and his ability to improve. Although the deal didn’t happen, Lowry still was able to show the Rockets they were correct in placing that amount of faith in his game by averaging career-highs in most categories.
Currently, Lowry averages 15.9 points, 7.2 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. There was a valid case to be made that he should have represented the Rockets in the All-Star game this year, but Lowry shouldn’t worry. All-Star games are going to be a part of his future soon.
Paul George – Indiana Pacers
The second-year guard/forward for the Indiana Pacers has really taken the next step in his development during this lockout-shortened season. George has so much potential that some have a difficult time accepting the “limited” amount of production he gives to his team now, as they expect him to be a superstar right away. It takes time to develop into a complete player, but George has shown the work ethic to improve this year and there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to do so going forward.
That is, if averaging 12.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 steals per game while helping your team to a record of ten games over .500 is something to improve on. His athleticism is extraordinary and as he continues to learn what he is capable of accomplishing, his numbers will continue to rise. George should be a fixture in Indiana for years to come.
Nikola Pekovic – Minnesota Timberwolves
Entering this season, the Minnesota Timberwolves pretty much expected nothing out of Nikola Pekovic. During his rookie season, Pekovic could barely stay on the floor, always in foul trouble, averaging only 13.6 minutes and not finding a way to adjust to the NBA game. The expectations for Pekovic were so low that the Timberwolves continued to list both Anthony Randolph and Darko Milicic above him in the rotation.
Then, something funny happened. Rick Adelman figured out Darko Milicic wasn’t the answer at center and in a “what the heck” sort of move, started Pekovic and “Pek” took full advantage of the opportunity. He is averaging 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds on 56% shooting from the field. Pekovic’s play in the post has been nearly a perfect complement to Kevin Love’s game, helping the Timberwolves to their best season in years.
Jeremy Lin – New York Knicks
Is there really any question as to who will come away with the Most Improved Player award this season? Jeremy Lin essentially came out of nowhere, the NBA took notice and the world came to know a new term in “Linsanity.” Correction, it wasn’t just the NBA world who took notice; it was anyone who had access to a television, radio or internet connection.
Since truly receiving a shot to show what he’s capable of on Feb. 4, Lin has proven nearly all the doubters wrong. The stats have come back to Earth after the initial explosion, but 14.6 points, 6.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds are fine numbers, especially for a player who came out of nowhere. While Linsanity has died down slightly, Lin is still a vital piece to the Knicks’ attack and their attempt to remain in the playoff race. As the pressure builds, Lin will need to be one of the main players to step up and lead them to the postseason.
Quite simply, the Most Improved Player award was Jeremy Lin’s to lose mid-February and he hasn’t done anything to lessen his grip on the award.