In the case of youth players in almost every sport, at least in Ireland anyway, the most improved player award is considered to be more an insult than an acknowledgment of improvement, highlighting the player’s previous lack of ability which has improved just enough for them to be considered applicable to the line-up. I feel, personally, that this is not the case in any sport, particularly in a league as tough as the NBA. The Most Improved Player (MIP) award is a genuine acknowledgment of a player’s hard work and dedication to improve their game in the off-season, and is, without a doubt, an extremely prestigious award, which plays a major role in motivating rookies and newer players to work hard. In the case of these 3 players, their improvement has caught my eye to the point where I find myself watching their games closely, whereas if it weren’t for their new and improved game, I would certainly not flick to the games on a regular basis. So let’s get into it!
3. Seth Curry
Seth Curry, the hairband-wearing Steph, has been flat out balling since the All-Star break, and even sparked some conversation regarding MVP. This, obviously, is a ludicrous statement, and, to be quite honest, is completely delusional, but you get the sense that Seth has improved dramatically over the course of the season. Naturally, Seth flies under the radar for most NBA fans, overshadowed by his brother Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. He is basically a poor man’s Steph, and, trust me, that’s not a bad thing. He’ll give you sharpshooting consistently, excellent ball handling, and a clutch game which most would argue is lacking in Steph’s game. He’s a beast in 2K, with his shooting ability being matched to his brother’s, so that’s quite a plus for those who don’t want to fork out 200K on a sharpshooter. This season alone, Seth’s had 10 20+ point games, as well as a fantastic 31 point performance against the Timberwolves, in a game they still LOST, which is a great set of stats considering Seth only cracked the starting line-up since the return from the All-Star break. The fact that he didn’t start for the majority of the season, makes up for his mediocre 13 PPG, which is proven by his 18 PPG average since February. I genuinely feel bad for Seth, putting in solid work on a team surrounded by an old-age Dirk Nowitski and inconsistent Harrison Barnes, with a coach who refuses to allow the struggling team to tank in order to gain some help in the draft. If Seth was to be traded to a team where he actually had some help, I personally feel he could average 20+ PPG. What makes Seth’s season so special, is that he has basically been unheard of by casual NBA fans, despite having a great stretch of games. His almost-limitless range is quite close to his brother’s, and he’s got that cold blood, which allows him to shoot daggers when needed. You want to know a fun fact about Seth? He was more sought after in college than Steph. Yeah, bet you didn’t know that one. But he’s finally showing people that he’s sick of chilling in his brother’s shadow, and is ready to ball out for a team that will just let him play. I should probably clarify that Seth just beat out Jabari Parker for the 3rd place award for Most Improved Player, but huge credit to him anyway for the hard work he’s put in to get to where he is this season. Congratulations to Seth!
2. Nikola Jokic
A big man making the Most Improved list? This is almost unheard of in the NBA! But almost every NBA fan will have ‘The Joker’ on their list of candidates for MIP this season. Jokic passes the ball like a guard, dishing is out from the post on a consistent basis, allowing him to finish just behind Kristaps Porzingis in the Skills Challenge. The Denver Nuggets big man is basically a young Kevin Love, only with much more potential to become a superstar in the coming years. Jokic is shooting 58% from the field, which probably seems low for a centre, but is actually quite high for a big that can shoot the three ball, making a third of his shots from behind the line. The Joker has improved dramatically in points per game, bringing himself up to 16.5 PPG, assists, averaging a nice 5 APG, as well as rebounds, marking out at just 10 with 9.6 RPG, which is no joke, haha I’m hilarious! Sorry about that. What I find most impressive about Jokic’s improvement this season is, though, how exciting he has become to watch. It’s difficult to go a game without seeing a LeBron-esque pass coming for 22 year old machine, and with at least another 10 years of NBA time in him, he’s only going to get better. I feel he has the ceiling of a Dirk Nowitski, but will almost definitely be a better playmaker. No, I’m not saying he will be better than Dirk, but doesn’t he have that potential? If this season is anything to go by, I believe so. It’s hard to believe, looking at him this season, that 6’10 passing big man like Jokic was drafted late in the second round, and has now become one of the best young players in the league. In January alone, he averaged 24 PPG, as well as over 11 RBG, and has been well over the 6 APG mark of most GUARDS over the last three months, which is just incredible. Jokic is 6’10 for God sake, yet he runs the floor and dishes the rock like a 6’3 guard. This kid is definitely one to watch, so keep an eye out for him. Jokic takes the runner-up award for MIP!
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Was there even any doubt that the ‘Greek Freak’ was going to top this list? I would be extremely surprised if Antetokounmpo didn’t win the official MIP award, equal to the point if Harden or Westbrook don’t win MVP. When your nickname is the Greek Freak, you have to live up to a name like that, and this season, Giannis is more than living up to the name, and showing everyone around the league that he is to be feared. Every time he walks up the court, there’s a strong chance he’s going to put someone on a poster *cough, Curry, cough,* and let’s face it, Giannis is just a scary dude. He’s a 6’11 guard, 6 FREAKING 11. Imagine you’re an opposing point guard, and you’re forced to defend this guy, hell no man I’m getting out of the way of this dude. And I know, he’s fitted into the point forward role this season, and has usually been guarding and guarded by other small forwards, but on rare occasions, we have seen him taking point guards, which is just ridiculous. Giannis was the youngest player to take part in the All-Star game this season, and was just throwing out highlights left and right, including a crazy putback poster over Steph Curry, despite him dodging it earlier in the game. His selection to the All-Star game this year was a token to his dramatic improvement, having better stats in every statistical category this season. The Greek Freak is averaging 23 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 5.4 APG, as well as a 52% shooting record, which are all huge improvements in his stats. Antetokounmpo is probably the most fun player to watch in the NBA this year. When he walks up the court, towering over just about every player daring to match up to him, you just wonder who he’s putting on a poster this time. He requires so much attention from opposing teams, which is why he’s raised his assists by 2 per game, and is why he’s topping the MIP list for me. His defence is absolutely incredible for such a young player, but isn’t much of a surprise considering his 6’11 size. What’s even scarier though, is that, despite being KD sized, he’s amazingly quick, and seems to fly up and down the court, allowing him to glide through the air. I remember this one play from earlier in the season, where Giannis did this insane windmill dunk, and it looked as though his arm had stretched out as far as the free-throw line! And despite having such a fecking hard name to spell, I’m certain Antetokounmpo is going to take the Most Improved Player award by a country mile. So the winner of TheBloggingLeprechaun Most Improved Player is: Giannis Antetokounmpo!
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