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2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player Award Picks

Now that the NBA regular season is over, six LWOS basketball writers opine about who deserves to win the 2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player award.

Back in October, just before the 2015-16 NBA season kicked off, a panel of writers at Last Word On Sports predicted award winners for every category. Many of those predictions will turn out to be spot-on, while some will surely fall flat. But with the regular season now in the books, six members of the LWOS basketball department will give their takes on who deserves to win each award. We’ll go through all six of the main awards, including Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, and Most Valuable Player.

For a complete listing of picks for the 2015-16 NBA awards at LWOS, click here.

Let’s take a look at our choices for the NBA Most Improved Player award.

2015-16 NBA Most Improved Player Award Picks

Harrison Marcus, senior editor: C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers has been the most improved player in the league this season. I was tempted to choose Steph Curry, who transformed a typical MVP season into one of the best individual seasons of all time, but I ultimately decided to go with McCollum. One year removed from averaging just 6.8 points per game, the Blazers combo guard has increased his scoring total to 20.9 points per game. McCollum’s development is arguably the biggest reason why Portland, a team that was expected to contend with the Lakers for the basement of the Western Conference, is sitting inside of the playoff picture. It will be interesting to see how far the Lillard-McCollum backcourt combo can take the Blazers in the playoffs.

Thomas Mooney, staff writer: I believe he’ll be up for this award next year as well, but I’ll go with the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. It seems like every other game he’s putting up an insane highlight every other night, and since he’s moved to the point guard spot he’s put up five triple doubles, while also making his teammates better i.e. Jabari Parker. C.J. McCollum for the Blazers would be a good selection as well, but his jump in stats also coincides with him getting double the playing time. Honorable Mentions: C.J. McCollum, Steph Curry, Jae Crowder.

Lior Kozai, associate editor: C.J. McCollum will almost definitely win this award, and I have no problem with that. This year, McCollum more than tripled his scoring average from the 2014-15 season. However, it seems that most voters simply choose a player whose stats increased from the previous season, given more opportunities, as the MIP. Voters don’t always choose the player who actually developed his game the most. While McCollum absolutely deserves credit for taking his game to another level and taking advantage of his increased minutes and touches – something that many players don’t do when given the chance – I would pick a different scoring guard to win this award: Kemba Walker. Walker has gone from an above average starting point guard to a borderline All-Star, leading Charlotte to a playoff appearance for the first time since 2013, despite Al Jefferson’s injuries. Walker’s improvement is one of the biggest reasons that the Hornets ended up tying for third place in the East. His leadership and play-making abilities have fueled Charlotte’s success. After averaging nearly four more points per game than last year – despite only 0.8 more field goal attempts per game, compared to McCollum’s whopping 12 additional attempts – and shooting much more efficiently, especially from beyond the arc, Walker deserves this award.

Chris Voloschuk, staff writer:Giannis Antetokounmpo. At age 21 and in his third year in the league, Milwaukee’s “Greek Freak” has been a raw project from draft day. But after merely showing flashes of all-star potential, he made a much more noticeable leap this season and is breaking new ground as a 6-foot-11 point guard with a wingspan well over seven feet. His free throw shooting percentage (.725) is down slightly from last season, and his 2.6 turnovers per game are a career-high, but he has improved in nearly every other category. He has career-highs in scoring (16.7 points), assists (4.3), rebounds (7.6) and steals (1.2), and he averages a career-high 1.4 blocks for good measure. He’s shooting a shade over 51 percent from the field. Much like Karl-Anthony Towns in the Rookie of the Year race, Antetokounmpo has begun to form his own category of player, free of any real comparison.

Matthew Cardenas, associate editor: C.J. McCollum should run away this award. What a season he has had for the Portland Trail Blazers. With the organization losing four of five starters, McCollum was expected to take on a big role this season after being a reserve the past two seasons. Last year, he averaged a mere 6.8 points per game. Once he was inserted into the starting lineup this season, he brought his average up to 21 points per game. That’s a 14 point improvement from last season. A player who has that big of a change deserves the most improved player. He shot 40 percent from the three this year, which is very impressive. He has helped make him and Damian Lillard one of the best backcourts in the league for years to come. His improvement is a big reason why the Trail Blazers exceeded expectations and are in the playoffs.

Grant Funtila, staff writer: It’s a toss up between Giannis Antetokounmpo and C.J. McCollum but I’ll have to go with McCollum. Last year he barely averaged anything now he’s averaging just a little bit over 20 ppg while shooting over 40% from beyond the arc and it helps a lot that he’s gonna make that playoffs. The Blazers lost four of their five starting players and everyone was looking at McCollum to be the guy to help Lillard out. Everyone counted the Blazers out but McCollum didn’t want anything to do with that. He and Lillard will be a scary opponent for any team in the playoffs. It’s really impressive that a third year guy that barely played due to injuries is now in the playoffs because he averaged over 20 ppg. MIP looks at the stat of a player and McCollum made a huge jump from averaging 6 ppg to over 20, with the season over this should be a lock for McCollum. Honorable Mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo. For me personally, McCollum deserves this one far more than the Greek Freak, but we can’t ignore the fact that this kid is turning into a superstar right before our eyes. Went from playing the forward spot to running their offense at the point. Antetokounmpo saw his numbers improve alot going from 12.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, and 2.6 apg to 16.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 4.3 assist per game. He’s amazing and I have no doubt he’ll have a great career.


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