The Most Improved Player Award rewards optimism (and hard work). At the heart of it is a core belief that a career isn’t always stuck where it was left. It is possible to climb up the hill and go from average to good and from good to great. The Most Improved Player Award has been sitting on player(s) mantel or in their home office since 1986 when it was first handed out to defensive guard Alvin Robertson. Some of the most notable players to take the trophy home have been Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Zach Randolph, Monta Ellis, Kevin Love, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, C.J. McCollum. This year, the group is incredibly wide, those players who built upon their 2015-16 season in a big way.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks): A first time All-Star. The best player on his team, guiding his team into the playoffs without Jabari Parker and with second round pick rookie point guard Malcom Brogdon.
- 2016-17 Improvements: Points (+4.0). Field Goal Attempts (+3.0). Field Goals Made (+1.8) Free Throw Attempts (+2.6). Free Throws Made (+2.2) . Assists (+1.1). Offensive Rating (+8.0). PER (+7.3). Plus/Minus (+3.5)
- Top 20: Field Goal Percentage (18th), Rebounds (16th), Steals (13th), Blocks (6th), Real Plus-Minus (19th), PER (10th)
Rudy Gobert (Jazz): Dominated the paint for Utah and is one of the reasons the Jazz are in the playoffs. Gobert isn’t just a defensive juggernaut, he added offense to his game.
- 2016-17 Improvement: Points (+5.0). Field Goal Attempts (+1.9). Field Goals Made (+ 1.9). Defensive Rebounds (+1.4). Total Rebounds (+1.8). Offensive Rating (+18.0). PER (+5.9). Plus/Minus (+3.8)
- Top 20: Field Goal Percentage (2nd), Rebounds (4th), Blocks (1st), Real Plus-Minus (5th), Defensive Real-Plus Minus (1st), PER (20th).
Isaiah Thomas (Celtics): He is the reason the Celtics may find themselves with the number one seed in the east. He has become a prolific scorer and closer and still moves the ball well. He is a legitimate MVP contender (not that he will get any votes) because of how he has elevated the Celtics.
- 2016-17 Improvements: Points (+6.9). Field Goals Attempted (+3.4). Field Goals Made(+1.9). 3-Pointers Attempted (+2.8). 3-Pointers Made (+1.2). Free Throws Attempted (+2.0). Free Throws Made (+2.0). Offensive Rating (+9.0). PER (+4.9). Plus/Minus (+ .2)
- Top 20: Points (2nd), Free Throw Percentage (2nd), 3-Point Makes (5th), Assists (19th), PER (7th)
Jimmy Butler (Bulls): He has already won this award and the fact that he has improved once again clues you in on the Butler willfulness. He wants to be the best he can be. An improved game with average spare parts surrounding him may in fact be enough to put his team in the playoffs. Butler is a two-way star. He can defend multiple positions and he can score anywhere on the court. He is a closer, relishing big shots in big moments. His leadership needs a little work. He is blunt and can sometimes be abrupt in his criticisms but for a 30th pick Butler has exceeded all expectations.
- 2016-17 Improvements: Points (+3.0). Field Goals Attempted (+1.0). Free Throws Attempted (+1.8). Field Throws Made (+1.8). Offensive Rating (+7.0). PER (+3.8). Plus/Minus (+3.1).
- Top 20: Points (14th), Free Throw Percentage (20th), Steals (5th), Real Plus-Minus (4th), PER (14th)
John Wall (Wizards): He had a career year leading his team into a top-4 seed in the east and in the process erased all the John Wall negatives: can’t shoot, can’t close, makes too many mistakes.This was the year that Wall did what his team needed him to do to win games. He was a leader. Wall as the facilitator and alpha male is one of the reasons Charles Barkley and others feel Washington will get to the conference finals.
- 2016-17 Improvements: Points (+3.2). Free Throws Attempted (+2.3). Free Throws Made (+1.9). Offensive Rating (+9.0). PER (+3.4). Plus/Minus (+2.8).
- Top 20: Points (18th), Assists (2nd), Steals (2nd)