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2013-14 NBA Most Improved Player Award Candidates

With playoff ball upon us, it’s that time of the year to start dishing out some regular season awards. Today, we take a look at the most deserving candidates for the 2013-14 Most Improved Players award.

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We’ve finally reached perhaps the most exciting time of the year where we not only have playoff basketball to enjoy, but it is officially time to start selecting the regular season awards. Although the season may not have turned out as many of us predicted for a significant portion of the teams, there were still plenty of great individual efforts worthy of Most Improved Player (MIP) consideration. Unlike the Most Valuable Player award that generally focuses on the excellence of the current season, the MIP essentially compares this season’s productivity to what a player has contributed in the past season(s). While there were plenty to choose between, here is our list of candidates:

#5 – Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons

2013-14 Averages (‘12-13 differential): 13.5 points (+5.6), 13.2 rebounds (+5.6), 1.6 blocks

With all types of questions regarding Detroit’s frontcourt and what real estate everyone would simply occupy, let alone actually fit together in the offense, it was nice to see Drummond continue to progress. Drummond has the potential to develop into one of the league’s most formidable post players, and if this season was any indication, he’s well on his way. He was a far more assertive player on both sides of the court, and is developing into quite the defensive presence as his awareness improves. Clearly, he still has work to do from the free throw line (41.8 percent), but Drummond was second in the NBA in field goal percentage (62.3).

#4 – DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers

2013-14 Averages (‘12-13 differential): 10.4 points (+1.6), 13.6 rebounds (+6.4), 2.5 blocks (+1.1)

In walked head coach Doc Rivers, and out went the artist formerly known as DeAndre Jordan. Put simply, Jordan was a completely different player this season. He should also be in consideration for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, as Jordan not only led the league in rebounds, but was even second overall with 203 total blocks (career high) in 2013-14. Jordan still provides the highlight plays, but his newfound intensity and approach were a huge part of the Clippers’ success on the year.

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#3 – Goran Dragic – Phoenix Suns

2013-14 Averages: 20.3 points (+5.6), 5.9 (-1.5), 3.2 rebounds (+.1)

Part of his improvement cannot fully be measured, as there isn’t a category for all the leadership Dragic provided for a surprising, young Suns team. The drop-off in nightly helpers should be attributed to sharing the playmaking responsibilities with Eric Bledsoe (when healthy), rather than anything Dragic wasn’t doing. Let’s be honest, while many of us were intrigued to see if/how a backcourt of Dragic and Bledsoe might work out, there were few (if any) that truly anticipated it going so well in the Valley of the Sun. Even with Bledsoe missing nearly half the season due to injuries, Dragic was the driving force behind a team that was in the race for a playoff spot in a very tough Western Conference until the second-to-last day of the season.

#2 – Lance Stephenson – Indiana Pacers

2013-14 Averages (‘12-13 differential): 13.8 points (+5.0), 7.2 rebounds (+3.3), 4.6 assists (+1.7)

Be careful not to tie in concerns over the second-half turmoil his Pacers endured when judging Stephenson, as the fourth-year shooting guard was really special throughout large portions of the year for Indiana. While he’ll still shown signs of flash here and there, the game really does appear to have slowed down for Stephenson. At 49.1 (+3.1) percent from the field and 35.2 (+2.2) percent from deep, he became a more efficient player for the Pacers. His productivity rate could be directly tied to the Pacers’ success on many nights, as Stephenson also led the league in triple-doubles with a total of five.

#1 – Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans

2013-14 Averages: 20.8 points (+7.3), 10.0 (+1.8), 2.8 blocks (+1.0)

Regardless of whether you think a former No. 1 pick should be an MIP candidate, Davis was far and away the most improved player on the season. With a significant leap in just about every statistical category, Davis effectively took the step from having ‘potential’ to solidifying himself as a star. Davis played like a man possessed during certain stretches, literally impacting every single facet of the game. He’s got touch from the outside, has moves going in either direction from the post and is an absolute terror on the defensive end. Oh, and did we mention that he appears to be (and by all reports) an excellent teammate to go along with it? The question may have transitioned from “if” Davis would someday be the league’s best big man to simply a matter of “when” that phenomenon may take place?

Honorable Mentions:

Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns – Green took the leap, both figuratively and quite literally as he really seemed to excel in coach Hornacek’s uptempo system.

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors – Career-high’s in points, assists, rebounds and three-point percentage. He helped lead a Raptors team well-beyond their ’13-14 expectations.

Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic – His Magic are in the lottery, again, but that didn’t stop Afflalo from having a very productive season while putting together some impressive numbers.

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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