Most Improved player is kind of an award on top of an insult. The premise is awarding someone who sucked the previous season(s) and all the sudden turned their game around. Notable winners include Dale Ellis, Scott Skiles and Gheorghe Mureşan (Just kidding. If you know who he is, we’ll put you to work on this blog). This award has been handed out 24 times for the player that has done his best to improve his game. Let’s discuss who No. 25 is.
First, let’s start off with some guys that could be in the mix for the conversation. John Salmons was traded midseason from Chicago to Milwaukee. Chicago must be kicking themselves as his points per game has shot through the roof since the trade and he hasn’t had one game without double-digit scoring since the move. He has really helped turn the Bucks into a playoff team and brings some experience to this rather young squad. Tyrus Thomas could be mentioned in this argument as well. He was a part of a different trade that Chicago made this season but instead headed to Charlotte where his points per game rose dramatically. He too has been part of an effort that has helped turn a terrible team into one competing for a playoff spot.
Last season, Memphis won 24 games. The season before that, they won 22. This season, they are set to win more than both seasons combined. This great leap in success is not because of Hasheem Thabeet but rather Zach Randolph. Grant it, Randolph won once before when he was in Portland and should be at least mentioned in this season’s talk (this may be the one award that looks bad to win twice). However, he has turned his career around… again. His stats might not scream improvement but his career was on the cusp of disappearing. Playing for Knicks and the Clippers, his talent was being wasted. Now, Randolph’s game is being put to good use on a team that is doing nothing but getting better.
The obvious winner for this award is Aaron Brooks (go ahead Houston, clap. You wont get much love from us but here it is). To say he turned his game around this season is an understatement. Brooks has turned into a legitimate threat. His stats have risen from 11 points a game to over 20 a game. His assists have risen as well from 3 to 5 a game. This improvement can obviously be traced to the fact that he has more opportunities to get involved in the Houston offense. His amount of time on the court has increased by over 10 minutes a game. With Yao Ming out, Tracy McGrady sitting on the bench before getting shipped off to New York and Carl Landry getting traded, someone had to step up for Houston. The Rockets had completely different plans on how they were going to win and things rolled out differently. Brooks’ improvement along with bringing in Kevin Martin and Trevor Ariza will eventually help these Rockets compete again.
It isn’t the most glamorous award but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. The players that take the steps to improve their game are the ones that make the seasons unpredictable. They are the reason that teams can turn their luck around and turn into competitors. Their efforts should be recognized as they rebuild both themselves and their franchises.