Paul George took the league’s Most Improved Player award. And in many senses, he deserved it. George led a talent-poor Indiana Pacers squad to an elite record on the strength of a defense which ranked first in a number of key defensive categories, while the offense was good enough to help the Pacers become one of the toughest teams in their own building all season.
But enough about George, and really, enough about guys whose values and talents are only noticed because of a huge increase in their usage. George did this because he already had been, times a billion. The same applies to Houston’s own James Harden.
Harden’s per-minute production has already been elite for three seasons, so it stands to reason that once he was given a starting role he would do things like finish fifth in the NBA in scoring.
These improvements aren’t improvements, they are maximizations of existing player potential. It’s not what I think of when I think of what “most improved” really means in terms of a guy’s career development.
Truly, the award, as I see it, should have come down to three NBA players, and two of them play for Houston: Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons. The third is Greivis Vasquez of the New Orleans Hornets.
Parsons finished third in voting and Vasquez was second, but had less than half the votes of Paul George, who won the award.
All three players did what is typically thought of as improving; namely, they took areas they were poor and deficient at and became far better than average. Larry Sanders of Milwaukee embodied both principles of higher usage and true improvement, and he finished third in voting. This indicates a few media heads have their remaining sanity focused on what matters here.