NBA 2015-16: Top 5 early contenders for the Most Improved Player Award
Last year’s winner – Jimmy Butler of the Chicago BullsAt the end of the every NBA season writers and reporters across the United States and Canada put forward their opinion in the form of votes for the league’s individual awards. Since its inception in the 1985-86 season, the Most Improved Player Award is the only individual award never to be given to any player more than once, for obvious reasons – it’s not a “Comeback Player” Award. Among all the season-ending awards, the Most Improved is considered the one with the most ambiguous description and is often considered a knock on a player’s talent. To make this clear, let’s clarify what the ballot for this award states:"This award is designed to honor an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons. It is not intended to be given to a player who has made a 'comeback.' Please vote for three players. Five points will be awarded for a first place vote, three for second and one for third.”Piggybacking on the ballot description, the criteria for our MIP candidates is the player’s development as portrayed by their season averages and the team’s performance during their development. Keeping that in mind, here are the early MIP candidates for the 2015-16 season:
#5 Reggie Jackson
“I want to be a starter. I’ve always wanted to be a starter. I’ve always wanted to be great. All the greats I’ve seen started, so that’s kind of the mold.” That’s what Reggie Jackson said at the beginning of the 2014-15 NBA season.
Courtesy of an injury to Russell Westbrook early last season, Jackson got his chance at the starter’s role and that didn’t go down too well from the team’s perspective. Some teammates considered him a ball hog trying to do things himself and the team chemistry took a big hit. That led to a three-team deal at the trade deadline in February that shipped Jackson to Detroit to play for the Pistons.
With his new team’s starting point guard Brandon Jennings out with an Achilles tear, he was thrust into the role he had talked about earlier – that of a starting point guard. His development and success with the team has got a lot to do with the Head Coach and Team President Stan Van Gundy’s spread out offensive system, however his contribution to the team cannot be taken for granted.
Almost evert statistical facet in his game has grown in his time in Detroit and along with Andre Drummond, he has played a huge role to the team’s early 11-9 success. The growth in his game was displayed when he scored 26 points in the fourth quarter, leading his team to a comeback win over the Portland Trailblazers in early November: