NBA Most Improved Player 2017/18: This season’s contenders
The NBA’s Most Improved Player award is often a sign of great things to come, so which up-and-comers are in line for the honor this year?
Every year there are a handful of players around the NBA that come out of nowhere and vastly improve their game. The Most Improved Player Award is, as a result, one of the most unpredictable awards and an interesting one to follow in the NBA. It is also one of the most meaningful, as it signals a player who is set for stardom. Take last year’s winner, Giannis Antetokounmpo, as an example.
There are several players that have made a solid case to be in the conversation to win the award for the 2017/18 season. Let’s take a took at some top candidates for this award, along with a few of the most improved players in the NBA this season.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Just a season ago, Oladipo played on the same team as MVP winner Russell Westbrook, and it’s fair to say he was under-used in OKC. As a result, Oladipo put up the worst stats (15.9 points, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals) of his young career.
Getting traded to the Indiana Pacers might have been a blessing in disguise for the former number two pick as he has gracefully embraced a new role and is now playing on a team with an offense built around him. The 25-year-old is having a strong bounce-back year and has even taken his career to new heights.
Oladipo has improved significantly as a shooter, with a career high in effective field goal percentage (.537) along with a new career-high in points (23.8), steals (2,2), assists (4.3) and rebounds (5.3). At this point in the season, Oladipo might be the runaway-winner to take home the Most Improved Player award.
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
Capela should be right up there come decision time. The Houston Rockets’ center picked up where he left off last year and has improved tremendously for his third straight year.
Having Chris Paul play alongside James Harden seems to have helped Capela’s cause as he has been able to cash in on a lot more pick-and-roll plays. Once again, Capela is putting put up career-highs across the board in points (14.2), rebounds (11), blocks (1.8), steals (0.8). He also has the best field goal percentage (0.652) in the NBA.
Defensively, Capela has improved. He has worked his way into the top five in advanced defensive stats, joining elite names like Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, and Andre Drummond. If Capela continues to improve, he will be a serious contender to win the Defensive Player Of The Year award soon.
Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Like Capela, Adams is another big man that has significantly improved this year. With the Oklahoma City Thunder making big changes last summer, the new lineup seems to have helped the 24-year-old elevate his game.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have stretched the floor, which has opened up the paint for Adams, and he has become one of the best pick-and-roll players in the NBA. Adams has also been a huge benefactor of many easy looks around the rim this season.
Furthermore, Adams has evolved into one of the best rebounders in the league. He averages five offensive rebounds per game, which leaves him second in that category behind Andre Drummond. Aside from being an elite offensive rebounder, Adams is also putting up career-highs in points (13.8), rebounds (8.9) and steals (1.3).
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Drummond has been a one of the most dominant big men in the NBA for the past four seasons. He is arguably the best rebounder in the NBA and has averaged a double-double for five straight seasons.
Even though it is Drummond’s sixth year in the NBA, he has surprised many by showing major improvements in his playmaking and ability to knock down free-throws. For years, he has been deemed as one of the worst free-throw shooters in the NBA, averaging less than 40% at the line. Impressively, Drummond has fine-tuned his shot and is shooting above 60% at the charity stripe this season.
Drummond never averaged over 1.1 assists in any of his previous five seasons and is now averaging an impressive 3.4 assists per game in 2017/18. It has been impressive to see someone make such drastic improvements to his game, especially after having been in the leauge for so long.
Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
It is only Ingram’s second season in the NBA yet he is already showing everyone why the Lakers took him second overall back in 2016. Compared to his rookie season, the 20-year-old has already improved leap and bounds, setting new career-highs in points (9.4 to 16.2), assists (2.1 to 3.9) and field-goal percentage (.402 to .469).
Ingram has made significant improvements after the new year, averaging an impressive 18.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.2 3-pointers, 1.1 blocks and 5.6 assists through February. Although it may not show up on the stat sheet, his defensive game has also improved. He is seeing more time against key matchups like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and is a big reason the Lakers are close to being a top-ten team in defensive efficiency this season.
Who has been the most improved player in the NBA this season? Comment below!