Ryan Anderson. Kevin Love. Tracy McGrady. Gilbert Arenas. Dana Barros. Kevin Johnson. What do these guys all have in common? They all won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
What are we taught as young players? The summer is the time to improve, right? If you’re not improving, you’re losing, right? Well, as great as the NBA’s MIP award is – and IT IS definitely great when you consider how many things need to go right for someone to have a shot at it – it doesn’t necessarily mean future greatness. In fact, it almost never does. Only 11 of the winners since 1986 went on to play in an All-Star Game.
But that won’t stop the 10 names on this list from taking advantage of their new opportunities. If I was putting money up, I’d bet one of these players ends up with his name on the aforementioned list next spring.
Today, we’re taking a look at the 10 guys – five from each conference – that I believe have the best chance to take home the MIP award in 2012-13.
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LOU WILLIAMS, Atlanta Hawks
Drafted directly out of an Atlanta-area high school seven years ago, Lou Williams is finally headed back to Georgia. The Atlanta Hawks signed the scoring specialist in July to help fill the 19-points-per-game-sized hole left by Joe Johnson. No other guard on the current Hawks roster averaged more than 13 points a game last season, so look for Larry Drew to rely heavily on Williams’ scoring ability.
Williams increased both his three-point attempts and three-point percentage each of the last four years and his 36 percent from downtown last season was a career-high. In an August interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Williams said he spent time this summer improving his catch-and-shoot game and he relayed his desire to play off the ball more. In Philadelphia, Williams was often paired with a non-ballhandler in the backcourt, forcing him to take up the task of initiating the offense. In Atlanta, Drew will pair Williams with point guards Devin Harris and Jeff Teague, allowing Williams to play to his strengths and focus on what he does best: scoring the basketball. In order to be in consideration for Most Improved Player this coming season, Williams’ scoring average will have to see a substantial bump from the 14.9 points per game he averaged last year. If Williams is ever going to be a 20-point per game scorer, it is going to be this season in Atlanta.