Divvying out a consensus for an award like Most Improved Player is arguably tougher to do than Most Valuable Player. With the MVP, the timeless debate comes down to: is the MVP indispensable to his team’s success, or should the MVP be the player with the best statistics across the board? Or some variation of that trope?
It’s been hashed out, recycled, and replenished into our daily media intake for years. For my money, the MVP is the player who had the best season, period. From that point of view, we can run into a trend of monotony with consecutive MVP’s à la #6 on Miami, currently. While it may be boring to see LeBron winning over, and over, and over again, that fact remains – he should (although this year will be fun with KD).
Having said that, MIP doesn’t really have any boundaries or criteria for what makes a player worthy of winning the award other than the implicit tag in the title of the award – the player got a lot better. There’s a myriad of players who require serious consideration this season, but all for separate outlying factors other than simply improving his play.
Take Gerald Green of the Phoenix Suns. To this junction of his career, his story is quite remarkable. From being gawked at as being the typical high schooler admitted to the No Boys Allowed league far before his maturation; to actually being kicked to the curb and out of the NBA entirely. Provided a revitalization opportunity in Brooklyn, Green garnered enough attention that Phoenix traded for his essentially rotting carcass on the Indiana bench, a move that now looks like the move of the offseason.
Some of his stats this season? 15.9 PER, .57% True Shooting, and 5.3 Win Shares. Oh, and per 36 minutes he’s scoring 19.5 per game. What a story. But that’s the thing, Green’s story as much as his play will factor into whether or not he’ll win the award, and I for one would support that notion.
Then you look Anthony Davis down in New Orleans. The 2013 MIP winner, Indiana’s Paul George, became an undoubted superstar across the league from there on. Davis, an All-Star this year has played frighteningly good for a guy only in his second season. He’s on the verge of continual dominance year-after-year, so this may be the only time where this award will apply in his career. Plus, of importance (although I slightly disagree) when looking at MIP is health. Davis was somewhat hampered sporadically by injuries his rookie year playing 64 games, which is to say I don’t think an MIP should gain more consideration over another for simply having better fortune in the health department.
But…it almost makes me want to retract that statement about overcoming an injury as a non-criterion for MIP when I mention Shaun Livingston’s case. I know you know about the knee injury. Everyone knows about the knee injury. It’s time to stop talking about the knee injury. The fact of it is, Livingston’s played the most NBA minutes he’s ever played in his eight professional seasons (basketball reference lists eight years of exp). If that isn’t enough to win your heart and smile over, know that he’s producing the highest PER (14.8) he’s ever produced in his career. Livingston’s been a vital piece off the Nets bench for a pretty darn formidable Nets team. I’d have no problem with Livingston winning the award.
The list goes on with guys like Lance Stephenson from Indiana, Goran Dragic in Phoenix, and Isaiah Thomas with Sacramento. But where does DeMar DeRozan fall on the list? Surely, Kyle Lowry’s play has been wonderful for Toronto, but DeRozan was the All-Star. DeRozan became the guy once Rudy Gay was shipped out of town. DeRozan is the guy now that it’s his team, unquestioned.
I don’t think DeRozan stands a realistic chance of winning, if for anything else – there’s just a great class of players to pick from this year; there’s really no wrong choice. But someone has to be responsible for the best right-under-your-nose story in the NBA this season, the Toronto Raptors.
Felt pretty good to type that, can’t lie. It’s been a pleasure watching Toronto develop so quickly this season, and if there’s any tangible reward available for a Raptor to win, I’m going to be unabashedly support that cause.