The NBA’s Most Improved Player Award is perhaps the league’s worst-named honor. Let’s take a gander at the numbers posted by the last six winners in the season prior to winning the award.
Aside from Siakam, the five other winners were already full-time starters that averaged 15 or more points per game before winning this award. Many of them fended off contenders with far more modest backgrounds. Jordan Poole finished fourth a year ago despite rising from G-Leaguer to third-leading scorer on the champion. Devonte’ Graham nearly quadrupled his scoring output a few years ago. It didn’t matter. This award doesn’t honor the player who improves most. It honors the player who improves in a very specific way.
In short, this is the first-time All-Star award. Of the 11 active players to have won it, nine did so in their first All-Star season, and a 10th, Goran Dragic, missed the All-Star Game only to earn an All-NBA selection months later. The only exception to this rule was CJ McCollum, and in fairness to him, here were the 2016 guards selected to the Western Conference All-Star Team: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson and Kobe Bryant. The first three were MVPs. The next two were All-Star staples. Bryant was a fan vote in his final season. There wasn’t exactly room for newcomers.
In a sense, that makes this a fairly simple award to bet on. Figure out who you think is ready to become a first-time All-Star and back that player. While this is hardly an exact science, there’s typically a fairly straightforward formula here:
- Points and touches are the most important thing here. If a player finds himself on a new roster more willing to give him the ball, bet on him. If a player’s own