Most Improved Player of the Year
picks and analysis by Devin Gray (@devingray33) and Pat Choi (@patty_choi)
DG – Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks
While NBA big men like Andrew Bynum, Greg Monroe, and DeMarcus Cousins all improved marginally this year, the most dynamic emergence of a player in any sport in the past few years happened this year in with Linsanity in the NBA. The three-week stretch he put together in February saved the Knicks season and brought them permanently into the playoff picture. Through the ups and downs, the Carmelo’s and the D’Antoni’s, Lin is what made this Knicks team worth watching this season. The 6’3” point guard averaged 14.6 points (up from 2.6 last year with Golden State), 6.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals over 35 games. The growth from 2.6 to 14.6 could be explained by the jump in minutes, but per 36 Lin’s points per game still jumped from 9.6 to 19.6. He came out of nowhere to become one of the most impactful players in the league and sold the second-most jerseys trailing only Derrick Rose.
PC - Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks
For the MIP award this season, Ersan Ilyasova is my top nominee. In the same amount of games last season (60) with only a 2:30 minute increase, Ilyasova has increased almost every statistic per game. The biggest difference was his three-point shooting percentage, with an increase to 45.5% from 29.8%. He also improved his field goal percentage, rebounds to 8.8 from 6.1rpg, assists, scoring to 13 from 9.5 and he was 24th in the league in double-doubles. Ilyasova has been an average player in the league for three seasons, but now with improvements in consistency and production, he has turned himself into a legitimate starter for the Milwaukee Bucks. This season Ilyasova reached career highs in points (32), field goals made and attempted, rebounds (25) and minutes played.