The NBA's most improved player award seems to be one of the most difficult to project. Frequently, it goes to the guy who had his minutes jump from 10 to 30 per game who just continued to do the same things he was doing in 10. Gauging which type of improvement constitutes "most" can be challenging as well when differentiating how difficult it is to make the leap from scrub to pedestrian or pedestrian to star or star to superstar.
The star to superstar player doesn't seem like they ever get a vote. They probably should. It's the most difficult transition and the most meaningful for the team. The year Derrick Rose won the MVP, he should have also won the MIP, but they like to spread the awards around so it doesn't happen.
Looking at this year, there's a number of high quality candidates, and on the surface, I'd think the Bulls have three such candidates even though none of the three have any real chance to win, and it wouldn't surprise me if even collectively they didn't even earn a single vote.
Taj is a name who won't come up in any other article discussing the award, however, I bring him up because he actually deserves some recognition for his improvements.
The thing with Taj is his improvement is subtle. It's not a massive change in his stats or minutes, but in the way he can achieve them. His confidence and use for his team are radically different. Taj is a guy who was a hustle offensive player to a legitimate scoring threat. His jumper is now consistent, his range is improved, he added a turn around, and his post game is better.
This type of improvement, especially so late in one's career is perhaps the most unlikely. Taj has no shot to win the award and his momentum as a sixth man candidate likely dooms him from even getting a single third place vote here. For the minor awards people like to spread the love, so Taj is unlikely to appear in both spots.
Augustin is the type of candidate whom you think would typically get a good vote. He went from guy who was on his way out of the NBA to quite possibly the second most important player on the third or fourth seeded team in the playoffs. Much like Gibson, I don't think Augustin will sniff the award.
That said, similar things could have been said about Nate Robinson who didn't receive a single vote last season which is really kind of a shame consider who did get votes. However, frequently the voters want to try to avoid turning it into the future bust award, so giving it to a guy who's season looks more like an aberration isn't advised.
D.J. Augustin looks pretty legit to me, but I would bet he gets no votes under the Nate Robinson rule. That said, I'm not sure any player who does get votes had their level of importance change so much for their team as D.j.'s did by going from 3rd string backup who was waived mid season to lynch pin on the team with the best record in 2014 in the Eastern Conference.
If you thought that Joakim Noah's career votes for MVP would be greater than zero raise your hand.
Put your hand down, you're a liar.
Noah's unlikely to get a 1st or 2nd place vote for MVP, but he'll likely get a few third place votes. Just chew on how unlikely an event that is and tell me he doesn't qualify and shouldn't possibly run away with this thing.
Noah not going to set all time NBA passing records for a center this year simply because it's hard to set all time records against the ultra high pace error of the 60s/70s, but he may have just completed the best passing season by a big man in the history of the NBA when you consider the style of passes he makes and his assist rate.
The best thing is that Noah never forces the issue. He never chases the assist. He doesn't make stupid basketball plays to increase his stats. All the triple doubles he piled up this year were legit because it all fell in the flow of the offense, none of it was to try and run up some numbers.
Noah's improved his scoring rate, rebound rate, and assist rate. He's not just piling up numbers, but the efficiency at which he does so is remarkable.
Oh yeah, he's also got the best defensive rating in the NBA [at least prior to the last day of the season]. Noah's taken a team we all thought should be written off. Hell, I was writing articles about how to tank nearly every day. He took them not just to the playoffs, not just to where they can win a round, but to where we could envision them possibly winning a second round.
That's why he'll probably get a couple 3rd place MVP votes, and the fact that he gets those will likely negate him getting much in the way of MIP votes.
It's a shame for the Bulls, they've got three deserving guys, but I'd bet they get very little love. I don't think any deserve to win, but all of them at least deserve a couple second or third place votes.
Who's the MIP? I'd probably vote for Goran Dragic. He's really taken his game to the next level, radically increased his efficiency and led the biggest record turn around in the NBA as their star player.
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