With only a month left in the NBA regular season, the focus is shifting towards the playoffs. As many teams are looking to make the final push for a spot, the regular season awards races are also heating up and there isn’t a clear cut winner for any of them at this point. The most interesting race appears to be for the leagues Most Improved Player. There are cases to be made for multiple players and it could very well come down to a single vote. Here are our 5 picks for the award:
+4.8 PPG, -0.3 RPG, +1.6 APG, +0.3 SPG, -0.1 BPG
Watching D-Lo mature from the kid in LA accused of snitching, to the tattooed assassin leading the Brooklyn Nets to the playoffs, has been a true joy to watch. Receiving his first all-star nod this year, D’Angelo has thrust his name into the ranks of the NBA’s elite. The statistical increases may not be as drastic as some of the other candidates, but making the jump to All-Star status while leading a competitive team is hard to ignore.
+4.3 PPG, +0.0 RPG, +1.1 APG, -0.5 SPG, -0.4 BPG
Maybe a bit of a homer pick here, but Josh Richardson is really coming into his own. As with Russell, the increases are modest in comparison to others, but the eye test shows that Richardson is this teams best player and will be ready to take over in the post-Wade era. Erik Spoelstra’s recent decision to start his young guys has paid dividends for not only Richardson but the team as a whole. This appears to be just a stepping stone in what is looking like a promising career. Likely won’t take home the award, but Miami hit it out of the park finding Richardson in the 2nd round.
+9.3 PPG, +2.5 RPG, +0.6 APG, -0.3 SPG, -0.6 BPG
The addition of Trae Young to the Atlanta Hawks has done wonders for John Collins. Coming out of college Collins was looked at as a super athletic player with a high motor, but has shown he’s so much more than that. Increasing ones scoring by almost double digits is impressive in itself, but Collins is doing it while shooting two more threes per game than last season and knocking them down at a higher percentage. If the Hawks were experiencing more team success, Collins would be higher on a lot of peoples lists. Regardless, John Collins is a name you are going to be hearing about for years to come.
+5.8 PPG, +0.9 RPG, +2.8 APG, +0.7 SPG, +0.2 BPG
The Kings have been a fun surprise team this season, and it’s a shame that they probably won’t make playoffs in the super-competitive Western Conference. Leading the charge for the new age Kings has been De’Aaron, and boy is he fun to watch. Much like Collins, Fox was labelled as a pretty raw, but ultra-athletic prospect coming out of college. He has started to shed that label by not only increasing his scoring output but becoming a much more efficient shooter at the same time. He has also proven himself to be a great facilitator, upping his assist output to 7.2 APG. The across the board improvement for Fox will be hard for voters to ignore, but ultimately his team missing playoffs may prevent him from taking home the hardware.
+9.2 PPG, +2.5 RPG, +0.8 APG, +0.2 SPG, +0.2 BPG
The emergence of Pascal Siakam has been nothing short of unprecedented. When the Raptors took Siakam 27th overall no one was thinking he would become a player of this calibre. Increasing his scoring from 7.3 PPG to 16.4 PPG is clearly the most eye-catching stat, and a lot of that increase can be attributed to turning himself into a consistent shooter. This season Siakam has increased his FT% by 15% and his 3P% by 14% which is nothing short of amazing. This across the board improvement for Spicy P has allowed the Raptors to feel more comfortable resting Kawhi Leonard, and the team hardly misses a beat with Siakam and Lowry leading the charge. The combination of statistical increases and being (arguably) the 2nd best player on an Eastern Conference contender makes Pascal Siakam one of the clear front runners to take home the award.
Buddy Hield, Paul George, Zach Lavine, Domantis Sabonis
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