The 2013-14 NBA season has officially ended, so now it’s time for regular season awards before the real season starts on Saturday. There’s a lot of wiggle room before we’re able to name some of the winners, which is why for Dime‘s 2014 NBA Awards we had our writers and contributors provide their top-three choices in an abridged version of what the NBA does with certain media members. Next up is an unusual triumvirate our writers landed on in a difficult award to empirically measure: The Most Improved Player.
Players were awarded three points for first place, two points for second place and one point for third place. Their point totals determined their placement.
While these choices are strange, they do not reflect the opinions of everyone — including the author of this post. But we wanted to let our contributors decide, and this what they came up with, so we’ll do our best to show their reasoning for the selections.
3. Anthony Davis
This seems kind of crazy, since this isn’t the first top-3 finish Ant has landed on. While he’s made the case as the league’s next dominant big man, we’re not sure he’s improved, so much as gotten healthy. That being said, while he missed out on the ROY Award to Damian Lillard last season, he’s shown why his all-star selection in his second year was no fluke. His Player Efficiency Rating was fourth in the league at 26.5, trailing only Kevin Love, KD and ‘Bron. He’s also averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds a game this season and his per-minute averages far exceed his rookie campaign, so his increase in production isn’t just a case of more playing time. While he’s been a beast in stretches, we’re not really sure he’s the best choice for the spirit of the MIP.
Griffin is another odd inclusion in this list. He’s been a lightening rod for criticism since bursting onto the scene during his not-really rookie campaign in 2010-11 (he was out the previous season). People say he’s all flash and he does appear in an unusually high number of commercials, so much so that our lady friend constantly asks us what all the fuss is about. But Blake’s flourished under Doc Rivers’ tutelage this season, averaging career highs in PPG (24.1) PER (23.9), Win Shares (12.2) and Win Share per 48 minutes (.205). His net rating on the Clippers dwarfs everyone not named Chris Paul, and he was a large reason (plus the soft schedule and Jamal Crawford) the Clippers were able to handle the mid-season loss of CP3 as well as they did. He’s still a little late on defensive rotations, and gets flustered with physical forwards (Z-Bo especially), but he’s attacking more now even though his jumper has gotten pretty consistent until just inside the three-point line. He’s improved, we’re just not sure he’s improved enough to finish second in this voting. We always thought he was pretty good before, too. But our writers think he deserves this spot: three of them even had him winning the award outright. I guess more people like Blake than we thought.
1. Goran Dragic
Now this choice makes sense. The Dragon has been a delight, handling the burden left in the wake of Eric Bledsoe‘s injury earlier this season and getting the Suns ever-so-close to the playoffs in a tremendously hard Western Conference. He’s a fearless penetrator, and his step-back lefty at the elbow is like an inverted Steve Nash, who he learned under in Phoenix earlier in his career (you’ll often see Dragic dribble in a circle along the baseline and under the basket before going back north into the lane, swiveling his head the whole time; he picked that up from Nash). For the season, Dragic averaged career highs in PPG (20.3), field goal/true shooting/effective field goal percentage (.505, .604, .561) — despite taking more shots than he ever has, usage percentage (24.5) and the list can go on and on. Nobody benefited more from first year coach Jeff Hornacek’s blitzing style than Dragic, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll do with this Suns team next season.
1) Goran Dragic 1st place (4), 2nd place (2), 3rd place (2) = 18
2) Blake Griffin 1st place (3), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (0) = 9
3) Anthony Davis 1st place (0), 2nd place (3), 3rd place (1) = 7
4) DeAndre Jordan 1st place (1), 2nd place (1), 3rd place (0) = 5
5) Gerald Green 1st place (0), 2nd place (1), 3rd place (1) = 3
6) DeMarcus Cousins 1st place (0) 2nd place (1), 3rd place (0) = 2
6) Arron Afflalo 1st place (0) 2nd place (1), 3rd place (0) = 2
8) Isaiah Thomas 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 1
8) DeMar DeRozan 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 1
8) Lance Stephenson 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 1
8) Miles Plumlee 1st place (0), 2nd place (0), 3rd place (1) = 1
(H/T Dime contributor Matthew Hochberg for counting votes and doing research)
Who is this year’s Most Improved Player? Who will actually win?
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