Editor’s Note: Today we take a look at five players who are gunnin’ hard for that number one spot. Which number one spot, you ask? The number one Most Improved Player in the NBA — that’s what. These guys have all picked up their game as compared to last season and look to legit to quit.
Trying to “hook” into the MIP race
Even though including a sophomore is unusual, Marc Gasol has increased his numbers across all major categories and is in the top five in the league in FG% (58%). His scoring has gone from just 12ppg to almost 15ppg (21% increase) , his rebounding from 7.4rpg to 9.4rpg (21%), and his minutes played from 30 to 36 per game. And all this within an offense that has gone from bottom five in the league in scoring to top five (and league leader in offensive rebounding). Besides the scoring and rebounding numbers, at 7’3″ he is a good defensive center who also is a great passer out of the post.
“Hey, Brandon, have you heard I’m second in MIP… no offense, 2nd-place ROY?”
The Milwaukee Bucks are not all about the John Salmons trade, as they have been a playoff contender thanks to Andrew Bogut. His scoring has improved by 4.2 per game to 15.9 PPG (24% increase), and his blocks are at 2.5 after just 1 per game last year, a huge 150% increase. And this is despite the main scoring threat Michael Redd being down with a season-ending injury.
Pointing towards rebounding as important in the MIP.
The Chicago Bulls improved last season with Derrick Rose, but this year’s inside game has been the “Arc of Noah“. That has him improving from 7.6 rebounds per game to 11 RPG, making him in the top 5 of the NBA’s bounders in only his second season. And unlike others like M. Gasol and A. Bogut, he is the “sole provider” of rebounds (10.7 RPG, a 35% increase) down-low as Chicago is comparably weak inside. The scoring has gone up (10.3 PPG, a 35% increase) as well, and the Bulls are still a playoff contender. Noah this year makes a strong run as a young, third-year player who averages a double-double.
“Charging” towards a strong MIP finish
Almost 26 PPG? Seriously, those numbers are MVP-type. So it’s no surprise he should be in the Most-Improved-Race. Last year 19.0, this year 25.5 PPG (21%); not to mention assists up almost 2 a game to 5.4 APG(38%). Even with a team that’s crazy-wild with offense, that’s still an improvement (Golden State Warriors were wide-open last year, too, so the numbers are a valid comparison).
Strong drive towards the finish..
The speedy “Mr. Brooks” has compiled great numbers on an injury-decimated team that was supposed to be a basement-dweller this year. With Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, both perennial all-stars, hurt this year the Rockets needed more punch and Brooks delivered. His assists numbers through the roof (5.2 APG, a 42% increase) and his scoring numbers a career high (19.7 from last years’ 11.1, 43% increase) With his speed to the hoop and great talent for finding teammates in a good spot to score, Brooks can almost single-handedly take credit for Houston’s unexpected run towards a playoff spot. He’s my choice from the combination of huge statistical increases, a depleted supporting staff, and a good record which at least contended for the playoffs.
What do you think? Do you have another candidate for Most Improved Player attention? Let us know in the comments!
All Statistics through Sunday’s (March 28) games.