NBA / Apr 16, 2009 / 1:58 pm

Dime’s 2009 Most Improved Player

Super-Granger (photo. Stephen Hill)

Super-Granger (photo. Stephen Hill)

With 82 games in the books and the playoffs getting started this weekend, Dime presents our ’08-09 NBA regular-season awards. These are the consensus picks from our editorial team; not necessarily who we think is going to win, but who we think should win.


Before I get into why my dude Danny Granger deserves this award, there’s something I need to clear up: Everyone understands the NBA doesn’t have a Comeback Player of the Year award anymore, right? I feel like every year around this time, when people are picking their award-winners, Comeback Player is always included. Just yesterday I read this in Bill Simmons’ column on ESPN.com:

If the Birdman doesn’t win “Comeback Player of the Year” for (a) bouncing back from a drug violation so seedy that they wouldn’t even tell us what happened, and (b) giving Denver superior bench play this season (6.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg in 20.5 mpg), then let’s dump the award and not have it anymore.

I’m hoping Simmons was joking, because he and everybody else who gets paid to write about basketball should know that the NBA did dump the Comeback Player award. 23 years ago. They haven’t given it out since 1986, when Stern realized it usually going to guys whose comeback involved a coke addiction. (Which makes the push for Birdman winning this imaginary award even more ironic.)

Anyway, that matters now because the Comeback Player award was basically infused with the Most Improved award, which is way more beneficial to the NBA because instead of highlighting recovering addicts, it highlights up-and-coming stars. Most Improved is typically a young man’s award; since its inception in ’86, only two winners — Darrell Armstrong and Hedo Turkoglu — were older than 27 at the time they won.

It continues this year with Granger. In his fourth year in the League, “Senor Buckets” (who turns 26 next week) went from a promising talent to a legit star, finishing fifth in the NBA in scoring at 25.8 points per game while adding 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks. He made his All-Star debut in February, and ranked fourth in three-pointers made with 182 (40.4%), despite missing 15 games with nagging knee and foot injuries. While the Pacers finished in the Lottery, they had more close games than any team in the League, with Granger carrying them to wins over contenders (L.A., Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Orlando) and having them on the verge in a lot of down-to-the-wire losses.

As a rookie Pacers fan, I got to watch most of Granger’s games this year, and I’ve already covered how good he is in this column a while back and in this feature from Dime #47. Good to see the rest of the world is catching on.

G – Devin Harris, New Jersey
G – Brandon Roy, Portland
F – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
F – Danny Granger, Indiana
C – Nene, Denver

G – Allen Iverson, Detroit
G – Jerry Stackhouse, Dallas
F – Mike Miller, Minnesota
F – Luol Deng, Chicago
C – Rasheed Wallace, Detroit

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  • Dee

    can’t disagree with this one…he deserves it

  • Tom

    Biased knick fan but what about D-Lee?

  • Tha Boddy “Agent Zero Still DMV Hero”

    I don’t agree with Stackhouse being on the least improved team seeing as though he was told he was not in the teams future plans even though he coulda won them 5more games with his skill set in the SG position

  • Brown

    I’ll never get over the Raptors picking Joey Graham over Granger. Ever. That pick would have stolen the Vince Carter trade by a landslide.

  • fiyaman

    the least imporved list is so onpoint its not even funny

  • G

    theres a pretty good case for Devin Harris tho

  • http://www.espn.com Sho-Nuff

    DG is why the Nets STINK!!!! now.

    Had a chance to take Granger, but NOOOOOOO!!!..who do we pick, some effing no name Antoine Wright from A&M. Supposed to be a shooter but can’t shoot. ARRRGGHHH!!!

    What could have been. Granger spotting up while Kidd hits him with the perfect pass……EFF U ROD THORN! YOu are why I didn’t renew my season tickets….

    Ok…I’m off the soap box now. It had to be said. Vince, Harris, Lopez and Granger…c’mon man….

  • JP

    Bargnani over nene though.

  • calvin brodus

    birdman here for sure. he didn’t even play in the league at all the past two years. not a single game. then he rises from the ashes like a phoenix (get it? im talking about birdman, phoenix is a bird, ha ha) and goes into beast mode.
    granger was in the league that whole time bird was sweating out his drugs. birds hill was much steeper to climb. therefore, bird has the greater improvement.

    mile high!

  • BxBaller

    What no love for Nate Robinson he went from 12.7 ppg to 17.2 ppg or David Lee who went from 10.8 ppg & 8.9 rpg to 16 ppg & 11.7 rpg, and led the league in double-doubles.

  • mavid

    I agree with your list, but will add one more:

    Marvin Williams.

    Dude has really expanded his game this year.

  • Gerard

    T-Mac for least improved

  • mavs all the way

    sorry, but devin harris will win this award.

    jerry stackhouse shouldn’t be included in the list as he only played 5 games? give him a break.

    put nate, david lee, bargnani in there.

    birdman unfortunately won’t be considered as he wasn’t even in the league last season.

    marvin williams who? he’s still in the league? you crazy…

  • SJ

    Granger deserves this award.

    Devin Harris is a strong candidate and has amped up his game nicely, but you have to take into account the fact that he only played 25 games last year.

  • Ian

    austin i know it has nothing to do with the article but this if for you

    Jemele Hill: I realize Tony Parker is a former Finals MVP, but I still think he’s very underrated and consistently overlooked. Parker has quietly had a magnificent season, and with Manu Ginobli out for the season, some people are going to be surprised at what a prolific scorer Parker can be this postseason. People have handed Deron Williams the title as second-best point guard in the league behind Chris Paul, but it’s actually Parker

    Scoop Jackson: No disrespect to CP3, but I’ve always said TP is the best point guard in the league. The fact that Parker has a Finals MVP, and CP3 hasn’t gotten to a Finals yet, trumps almost all arguments to me.

    jalen rose said the samething scoop said i guess we are not that crazy after all.

  • MoxWestCoastRep

    Josh Smith deserves some least improved love…

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    I’m glad Jalen agrees with me.

  • GayforRudy

    So… Devin Harris plays so well that the “Jason Kidd trade” is often referred to as the “Devin Harris trade” and that doesn’t make him most improved? Interesting…

  • http://dime sure

    Put tony parker on the hornets. They don’t make the playoffs. Put Chris Paul on the Spurs they’re in the finals ever year and win with a healthy Ginobli. CP3 is a pg and tp is scoring guard that ocassionaly passes. That’s the difference. They might take this year if they made that trade. Ginobli is like Pippen very underatted. No 6 rings for mike w/ out Scottie who wasn’t even a sidekick. He was a H.O.F. damn near 1st team all leaguer himself. Also Mo Williams and Ronnie Brewer need some love as well.

  • Ian

    lol loved that what if and that amazing drop off of the hornets with parker read your post again i think youll laugh also.

    so hornets with parker no playoffs
    spurs with paul win every year
    sure my man sure

    so its like parker is tj ford and paul is magic this is the type of silly drop off you are talking about if you hate the man its ok but dont make up weird stuff like that.

    parker ocassionaly passes you say parker takes ONE more shot per game than paul and avgs 7 assists on a system that not even john stockton would crack ten you need to get your facts straight.

    how can i get a man that never seen a conference finals and sub him for a 3 time champ and get a SURE trip to the finals??? yeah sounds dumb right

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @sure — The “If” game is pointless. Would Scott even run the same system if he had Parker instead of Paul? Would the team draft the same way if they’d had Parker for the last X-amount of years instead of Paul? You can’t just play mix-and-match like that; it’s all guessing.

    Besides, Parker gives it to CP just as much as CP gives it to Parker. If you think Parker only “occasionally” passes, than you don’t watch Spurs games.

  • SJ

    I’m really liking the TP love here. He has done so much this season with all that has been going on with the Spurs. He definitely deserves MVP consideration. Watch how these playoffs go and I have a good feeling he will have a tremendous impact (MVP caliber).

  • Shrink This

    I love Granger’s ‘old man’ game. I think his play is mature beyond his years. I think he has a long and successful career ahead of him.

    Now if the NBA could only rid itself of the Dunleavys, the Clips and Pacers could save a ton of money and improve in the process…

  • dagwaller

    Completely agree with everything but Nene. He and Bargnani should tie. Nene is kind of like a comeback player, since he’s been injured/sick for the last few years. Bargnani became a legit player and shut up all the people that said he shouldn’t have been a #1.

    Devin Harris? Dude is overrated big time. He’s definitely not very much “improved”, since he was just as good in Dallas as he is in NJ. Are his totals up? Naturally, since he’s become more of a featured player. But his percentages are down across the board, and it’s not like he led his team to a better record…since the Nets have the exact same record this year as they did last year.

  • c$money

    Simmons was obviously joking. if you ever read his stuff, you’d know there’s a very sarcastic undertone to that paragraph

  • c$

    Roy on most improved list???

  • http://www.twitter.com/austinburton18 Austin Burton, “T.M.P.”

    Maybe you’re right, but I know earlier this year BS predicted Shaun Livingston as his Comeback Player when listing all the other NBA awards:


  • The Truth

    I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again. Danny-Mothaeffin-Granger is a beast. Imagine him playing for a contender. More people will know who this dude is. However, Devin Harris will probably win the MIP given that he is the more prominent name. Remember the Bron-Melo ROY fiasco? One will surely win the award two people should have won together due to the name.

    With that being said, I’m just waiting for my Granger jersey to be shipped.

  • springz

    Grant Hill – Comeback King! No drugs needed.

  • SKD

    Kevin Durant. No question. Made “the leap’ at the age of 20? Crazy. 4th in the league in scoring behind Bron, Mamba and Flash.

  • Chicagorilla


    Posting that crap is only showing that you are part of the heard of sheep that can not make decisions based on their own opinions. There hasn’t been a better Pg than Cp3 since John Stockton was at the top of his game. That includes Nash, Payton, JKidd, Parker, DWilliams and any other PG you can fart out. He makes David West into an All-star player. Helps Tyson Chandler justify his 70million or whatever he is getting. Byron Scott looks like a Genius. CP3 is the truth.

    Great Parker won a couple Chips great, even won a Finals MVp (which he should have given to Duncan as soon as it hit his hands) wonderful, but you would have to be an idiot to say he’s a better PG because of it. Stockton never won a finals MVP, JKidd, Payton, Tim Hardaway, Allen Iverson, Mark Price, Michael Adams, Tiny Archibald and Earl Monroe didn’t either. Does that make Parker better than them. Does winning a chip and a finals mvp (he was only GIVEN because DStern is trying to sell the NBa overseas) put him on the levels of Magic, Isaiah, Bob Cousy, Walt Frazier and those guys. HELL NO! So please stop with the Wins = Talent BS that has been brought on ever since Stern f-ed up and forgot to add Dominique Wilkins to the Greatest 50 team.

  • Mark

    calvin brodus: Andersen didn’t play for two years because of violation of the drug-policy, not because he “improved”.

    Dictator Stern will likely take that into consideration for the final awarding.

  • doc

    Yeah TP second best because Jemele said so.Please.Im rocking with Granger for most improved.I would nominate my man Thad Young also.

  • jace

    no thaddeus young fans here?

    i thought he should at least be in SOME talks. led the sixers in scoring for a portion of the year. you’ve seen how poorly they play without him.

  • Jim


  • 84RR5


    I agree Rondo deserved MIP last year (lead Celtics to a championship) and probably deserves it this year also.

  • 0811rd

    i agree with jim, rondo is getting better especially when garnet is out. he also deserves it.. what a game in the playoffs!!!

  • wanchu

    it good bargnani was not on those list yet.he gonna win next year n hes allstar