We here at MTS have already set the odds for most of the NBA’s end-of-season hardware (including the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year).
Today, we take a look at the backhanded compliment of NBA Awards – Most Improved Player.
Being the NBA’s Most Improved Player is a mixed bag. The award has been won by players who go on to bigger things like Kevin Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, and Kevin Love. Just as frequently the trophy is presented to a player who is hardly heard from again like Gheorghe Muresan, Isaac Austin, or Bobby Simmons. This year’s candidates, led by the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler, appear destined for big things. Let’s handicap the field.
Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls): 1/1
At the end of February, it seemed like Butler was a lock to win an award that many thought he would have been ready for last season. He played a limited role as a rookie but more than tripled his production in 2012-2013; when he was handed a starting spot last season, he seemed destined for big things. However, Butler shot under 40-percent from the floor, connected on just 28-percent of his threes, and averaged only 13 points a game.
This year, Butler has been a monster. He scores over 20 points a contest, shoots better than 46-percent from the floor, and nails 35-percent from outside the arc. To top it of, the 6’7″ guard is tallying six rebounds per game. He is even money to win the award, and would be higher if not for an elbow injury that cost him 11 games.
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors): 3/1
Golden State’s Draymond Green is on his way to being very rich. The second round pick from Michigan State is a leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and, offensively, his numbers have skyrocketed. After playing 13 minutes per game as a rookie, Green averaged 22 minutes a night scoring six points and grabbing four rebounds last year.
This season he is tallying a dozen points a game, grabbing a shade under seven rebounds per, has upped his field goal percentage by three points (to 44-percent), and has turned into a legit three-point threat; Green made 14 threes as a rookie, 55 last year, and has already connected on 100 this season (on 34.2-percent shooting from distance). He is 3-1 to earn Most Improve accolades.
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz): 9/2
Like Green, Utah’s Rudy Gobert can’t fully be appreciated by numbers alone. Standing 7’1″, the 22-year-old is a bona fide rim defender and changes the mindset of players driving the lane. In 45 games last season, Gobert played less than ten minutes a night, scored just over two points, grabbed 3.4 rebounds, and blocked less than one shot per game.
This season, Gobert has been a different player, tallying 7.5 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. He also blocks over two shots per night and is shooting 61-percent from the floor (up from 49-percent last year). Helping Gobert’s case is the fact that the Jazz have a much more respectable record this season despite having largely the same roster. Rudy is 9-2 to win the award.
Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat): 8/1
If you are looking for a long-shot, Hassan Whiteside is your guy. The Heat big man attended six high schools, spent a year in prep school, went to Marshall University for one season, was drafted in the second round by the Kings in 2010, and was out of the league after two years and 19 games. Whiteside spent the last couple of years between the D-League and various cities in Asia. Now back in the NBA, Whiteside is scoring 11 points per game, grabbing ten boards per night, and shooting 62-percent. Literally out of nowhere, he is key member of a team likely to make the playoffs. Whiteside is 8-1 to win the prize.
Full 2014-15 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year Awards Odds:
- Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls): 1/1
- Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors): 3/1
- Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz): 9/2
- Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat): 8/1
(Photo credit: Joseph Glorioso Photography (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].)