NBA’s Top 5 Most Improved Player Candidatesby John Devereaux April 18, 2021 0 comments
The NBA Most Improved Player Award goes to the standout who has the best comeback season. Whether returning from a year-long injury, or demonstrating a significant leap of production from the prior year, most winners of the award are younger players. These competitors struggled early on in their career but have had a breakout season.
Many who have won the award eventually take another step into becoming the NBA’s next big star. Players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George received this award before becoming superstars. There is a long list of past winners that would become All-Stars in their careers.
Honorable Mentions for 2021
There are always a bunch of players that contend as possible candidates to win this award. Most are always improving and this season is no different, as many players could be considered a good choice.
There are a few honorable mentions that just missed out. Lonzo Ball and his improved offense will make a good case for some voters. Although, Ball missed many games to a hip injury which would likely mean his contention is limited.
Nikola Jokic and Zion Williamson are the other two honorable mentions. Many betting sites and other publications have these All-Stars in the race. Though their numbers are improved from last season, they both have already been dominant players.
The Top Choices
There have been five players who have had career-changing years and are more deserving than the three above.
#5 T.J. McConnell, Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have been lackluster this season, although through the patch of dust a rising player has emerged: McConnell, who has taken over the NBA, defensively. A defensive change to a player would rarely consider them as a candidate. However, this emergence needs to be recognized. His defensive frenzy has elevated his game and the Pacers as a whole. This surge in potential has given McConnell a fresh of breath air as he was on the end of the bench in recent years.
With a large jump from 0.8 steals a game to 1.7 steals a game, the guard has found himself as the sixth man of the team that hid him on the bench one season prior. Defense is not the only stat boost that the guard has improved, but his shot efficiency has improved. From a dreadful 29 percent from the field to a now respectful 32 percent is the kind of improvement that a team loves to see. Although it is still not great, it is still a large improvement to a player who struggled last season.
#4 Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Randle has been one of the most inefficient scorers in the NBA since his sophomore year in the NBA. In the five seasons prior, Randle shot 49 percent from the field, and 29 percent from three-point range. This is also a player that loves to attack the rim. His career arc was attached to that of Josh Smith; during his time in Detroit. A player with potential that is shooting too much from three and seemingly inefficient with the ball.
However, in his second year with the Knicks, Randle has taken a step forward. The forward is now shooting 40 percent from three and has started to become a better finisher at the rim. His play this season, along with his team performing well alongside him, granted the forward his first All-Star appearance.
#3 Christian Wood, Houston Rockets
Wood started to blossom in Detroit last season when he was given the starting role halfway through the year. The forward in his first five seasons played in a total of 51 games and saw most of his time spent grinding in the G-League. Then when the Pistons started rebuilding they gave the journeyman a starting role in a prove it or lose it a year. Well, the forward proved it, as he showcased what he was capable of doing in the NBA. Which would turn out to be a very talented big man.
In his first full season on an NBA roster as a starter, Wood is averaging 21.2 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks on a 53-37-64 shooting split. Wood has been nothing but a bright spot for a struggling franchise that had lost so much talent in a matter of a few months. Even with the team not being good, Wood is still able to contribute dominant numbers. The only reason that Wood is not higher on the list is due to his absence with an injury that sidelined him for nearly 20 games.
#2 Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
Porter is the third option on the Denver Nuggets. Porter has been nothing but an offensive machine that has helped Denver become one of the best offenses in the league. The biggest improvement from Porter this season is his shot attempts. From only receiving several attempts last season to attempting twelve this season. It was undeniable that Porter would become this good, but many did not believe it would come so soon.
(Michael Porter Jr.) is the biggest hope for Nuggets fans. There is a lot of anticipation that the talent seen in flashes last year is what he can consistently be this year. The hope is that he can be the third piece on a contending team and ascend to where he can push this Nuggets team over the top and win a championship. –Zach Gotlieb, PTST
Porter is now averaging 17.5 points in Denver, which is an eight-point climb from last season when he averaged 9.3. His shooting efficiency has also increased with more attempts. Scoring is not the only improvement for Porter, as his rebounds and offensive rating have seen drastic inclines. If the forward were on a team without Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray he could be one of the highest scorers in the league.
#1 Jerami Grant, Detroit Pistons
Although the Pistons were engaged in trading the forward before the deadline, Grant has been nothing but spectacular. Former teammates with Porter, Grant would leave in the offseason to prove to the NBA that he could be more than just a third option in the league.
Last season, Grant averaged 12.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists with Denver as the third option. As the first option in Detroit, Grant is averaging 22.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. The only statistical decline from the year prior is his shooting splits. But to be fair, the nephew of Horace Grant is now attempting more difficult shots, and has doubled his shots from last season.
The forward bet on himself as he left a dream scenario to showcase that he was more than just a third. Grant is proving every doubter wrong and was even considered an All-Star snub to some. Nothing but improvement across the board for a player who was once considered a role player. He now sees himself as a viable option for a franchise and is the leading candidate for the Most improved Player Award by a landslide.