After breaking down the contenders for NBA Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, it’s time to see who will be taking home the trophy for Most Improved Player this upcoming season. While we definitely know some teams that will be improving from last year, what players are going to make that jump?
1. Trevor Ariza, Rockets – With a big contract comes big expectations, and after only averaging 8.9 points in 24.4 minutes a night for the Lakers last year, Ariza will have more than enough opportunity to be the man in Houston. While the Rockets definitely like him for what he brings to the table defensively, replacing Ron Artest, he’ll have to pickup some of the scoring burden too.
2. Yi Jianlian, Nets – The numbers that Yi put up in his first two seasons were almost identical at 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds playing about 24 minutes a night. But now that he went into beast mode this summer, the Nets have no choice to play him – and he better produce. If Yi can increase those averages (is 20 and 10 out of the question?), he’ll be a lock for MIP this year.
3. Lou Williams, Sixers – As the starting point guard in Philly, it’s time for Sweet Lou to step up. Last year he averaged a respectable 12.8 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds in only 23.7 minutes a night. With increased playing time, those numbers should increase as well. If he can become the player we all saw in high school, the League better watch out.
4. Anthony Randolph, Warriors – Of everyone on this list, Randolph has shown the most star potential. From absolutely destroying teams in Summer League to having the occasional breakout game with the Warriors last season, all Randolph needs is a chance to play. Putting up 7.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in only 17.9 minutes a game should give Nellie a reason to give this kid some burn.
5. Courtney Lee, Nets – Since he was traded to the Nets, Lee has been moaning as if he was a franchise player. Now he’ll have the chance to show what he’s talking about as he slides in at the two-guard spot left by the void of Vince Carter. Playing alongside Devin Harris, he’ll have a great playmaker to play off of as Lee guns to become one of the NBA’s elite after averaging only 8.4 points per game last year.
What do you think? Is there anyone else in consideration? Who is going to win?