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Top 5 candidates for Most Improved Player award

SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
10.26K   //    05 Apr 2018, 23:34 IST

Los Angeles Clippers v Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo is a favorite to win the award, but who else challenge him?

The award for Most Improved Player is given out, as the title says, to a player who's shown remarkable year-on-year improvement from the previous season. Winners of this award have traditionally either become All-Star caliber players (as Ryan Anderson was in 2012) or have become perennial All-Stars (like Paul George in 2013).

Examining the past few award winners, we find the likes of CJ McCollum (who'd definitely be an All-Star if he played in the Eastern Conference in 2015-16), Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Goran Dragic - who've all made All-Star teams.

In this article, we see four sophomores trending the right way towards fulfilling the potential that caused their teams to select them. The 2016 draft class, including rookie Ben Simmons, is on its way to proving its true worth now.

Let's take a look at the top contenders for this year's award:


#5 Domantas Sabonis

2018 Mountain Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game
Sabonis (right) in action during the Rising Stars Challenge in the All-Star weekend

2016-17 stats: 5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks on 39.9% field goal percentage playing 20.1 minutes per game

2017-18 stats: 11.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.4 blocks on 51.9% field goal percentage playing 24.4 minutes per game

The Indiana Pacers probably did not expect this upsurge from the 11th pick of the 2016 draft. Domantas Sabonis did not show any sign that he would be a crucial role player on a playoff team during his first full season at Oklahoma City Thunder - it were his troubles at shooting the ball that forced the Thunder to sign Taj Gibson in February last year.

Sabonis arrived at Indiana as part of the Paul George trade package with Victor Oladipo, and he now looks every bit an NBA player who can dominate on his day.

He's pushed his scoring average up to nearly double from last season, his rebounding averages even more, and is making 12% more of his field goal attempts this season. He's also improved by 4.3% from the 3-point line and 8.2% from the charity stripe.

Signs of a player on an upsurge, surely?

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SENIOR ANALYST
Started as an Arsenal fan at the age of 6. Became a Ronaldo and a Real Madrid fan after the 2002 World Cup. Bandwagon Celtics fan this season, though I've watched the NBA with increasing frequency over the past 14 years or so. Played both games with my high school team at some of the highest levels there are in India. Played against East Bengal u-17s in college. A member of Mercurial FC, 1st division Amateur League team in Bangalore.
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