In a way, the Most Improved Player award is almost a pre-MVP award. It forecasts the next generation of superstars. Paul George won the Most Improved Player award last season and now he’s a leading candidate for MVP. Previous winners of the award also include Kevin Love, Danny Granger, Monta Ellis and Zach Randolph. Speaking of Love (who won the award in 2010-2011), he’s also a candidate for MVP this season, just showing what winning this award can foreshadow.
Lets talk about 10 players that have significantly improved their performance this season.
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10. KEVIN MARTIN, Minnesota Timberwolves
Kevin Martin had an off season last year in Oklahoma City. He was supposed to slide in as the replacement to James Harden, but that experiment never got off the ground. Martin averaged 14 points last season, a far cry from the 17.1 PPG in 2011-2012 and the 23.5 PPG in 2010-2011. For a second, it looked like Martin was just on the decline of his career… something that looked like it was happening to Jamal Crawford before he signed with the Clippers. This season has assured us all that Martin is on anything but a decline. With the ‘Wolves this season, Martin is averaging 20.2 PPG on 42 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent from the land of threes and 93 percent from the charity stripe with his unorthodox jumper. His shooting percentage is down from last season, but that happens when you take five more shots per game and average close to five more points per game.
Martin went to the perfect situation in Minnesota, with passing guru Ricky Rubio and stud power forward Kevin Love. With Rubio passing the rock like a mad man and Kevin Love drawing near triple teams, every time the ball touches his hands, there have been plenty of open shots for Martin to rain in. Martin is the perfect second option in Minnesota and he may be the missing link in the chain to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs. For now, Martin will have to settle for being in the running for the Most Improved Player award.
9. TONY WROTEN, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers might be in purgatory right now, but Tony Wroten is showin’ out. The former first-round pick has exceeded any and all expectations in Philadelphia to the tune of 13.8 PPG on 43 percent shooting. That’s quite the improvement from the 2.6 PPG that Wroten averaged last year. The problem was that Wroten was glued to the bench in Memphis, and only scored 96 points all season while averaging 7.8 minutes per game. This season in Philadelphia, Wroten has already scored 358 points and is playing 26.1 MPG, almost triple the minutes he received in his rookie campaign.
Need more? Well, Wroten also scribbled his name in the NBA record books earlier this season. Filling in for an injured Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten notched his first career triple-double in his first career start. Wroten was the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double in their first start, going off for 18 points, 10 boards and 11 assists in a victory against the Rockets. For a player that was traded to Philadelphia from Memphis for a top-50 protected second-round pick in 2014, Memphis might be sorry they let Wroten go.
Beside all the numbers, this guy might be the most fun player to watch in this league. All he needs is one layup or short jumper to heat up. There’s nothing like watching Wroten dribble like a mad man to the bucket and somehow get a crazy layup to fall in. Don’t forget about those pull-up transition threes for a guy who’s shooting 25 percent from deep this season — gotta love it. With Wroten, you get the good and the bad, but it’s acceptable. He’s exciting to watch, always playing like he’s been shot out of a cannon. No matter what the scoreboard reads, he’s always going to leave it on the court. His increase in numbers and minutes make Tony Wroten a definite candidate for Most Improved Player.