Every season, some players continue to dominate, some players continue to struggle to adjust to the NBA. Then, there are those special players who no one would expect to shine but ended up doing just that. Last year, NBA fans saw Jimmy Butler receive this award. This season, there are many people we can predict to win this award, here is the Top 5 Candidates for Most Improved Player in the 2015-16 season.
5). Andre Drummond Center, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is still young, and being young means he’s got years and years to improve his game. Fans expected his break to come a little later, but little did they know it would come in just his 4th season. His rookie season was decent, for a back-up Center he put up nearly 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists in about 21 minutes per game. The league quickly noticed how effective he was and he was adjusting at a steady rate.
In his third season, he emerged with 13.8 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and 2 Blocks on the season. However it was his 4th season, the 2015-16 season, where Andre Drummond was officially declared a top Center in the league. Drummond started off with 3 back to back to back Double-Doubles and set the team at 3-0 for the first time since the 08-09 season. In a matter of time, he was the first Pistons player to be named Player of the Week in consecutive weeks, and the first player to win the award in the first two weeks since LeBron James in the 2011-12 season.
Drummond is currently averaging 16.7 PPG, 14.9 RBG, and 1.4 BPG on 33.1 minutes per game.
Based off the obvious improvement in Drummond’s game that has done nothing but lead him on a path to success, like becoming a reserve for the Eastern All Stars this season. One might question why he is not the #1 candidate to win this award, however the next 4 may impress you even more.
4). Isaiah Thomas Point Guard, Boston Celtics
The 5’9 Point Guard has began to make a name for himself since putting on the infamous Green and White uniform. Isaiah Thomas was just your average Point Guard when he started out as a member of the Sacramento Kings. After his third season with the league, he joined the Phoenix Suns and later on was traded to the Boston Celtics, the team he resides on as of right now. What makes Isaiah Thomas so special is the fact that he was the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Expecting to be nothing more than a backup player, but he showed himself in February of 2012 recording his first ever triple-double. Isaiah would go on to have three more quiet seasons with the Kings.
Isaiah Thomas signed with the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade deal in 2014. He had a few good games with the Suns but after he was traded for Marcus Thornton, putting on the Celtics uniform, he began to shine. He recorded 21 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. He would become a bit inconsistent for a while until he scored his season high 34 points against the Pistons on April 8th, 2015. His first career playoff run was shut down by the Cavaliers, but not before scoring 22 points along with 10 assists and 5 rebounds.
Currently, Thomas is averaging 22.3 points, 3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. This is a very nice step-up from his time with the Suns, gaining 7 more points and almost 3 more assists. This definitely puts Isaiah Thomas in the running for Most Improved Player and at this rate, he’ll be an All-Star in no time.
3). Draymond Green Power Forward, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green may seem odd to put on this list, as he is a member of current reigning NBA Champions and possibly record-breaking Golden State Warriors. But throughout his time as a Warrior, he has definitely silenced some critics, and Marcus Smart if you saw the Celtics vs Warriors game that ended the Warriors home win streak.
Green hasn’t exactly done better in stats as the rest of the men on this list, but he has definitely improved overall as a player. In the first 10 games of the 2015-16, he was a big factor in the Warriors 10-0 streak as he was averaging 12 points, 7.7 rebounds, a team high of 6.6 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. He also became the first Warriors player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1964 to record back-to-back triple-double games.
Like stated before, stats are not what makes Draymond a running for the Most Improved Player, it’s the fact that he’s just improved as a player which is what the award is meant for. He was able to record 10 triple-doubles in the season, with his 9th and 10th triple-doubles of the season came in back-to-back games. He currently stands at 13.
Draymond currently is averaging 14 points, 9.6 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 1.4 blocks.
In a game against the Jazz, he became the first player in NBA to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals, and 100 blocks in a season. That accomplishment alone just helps his case for Most Improved Player.
2). Kyle Lowry Point Guard, Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry has been in the league longer than everyone on the list, at 9 years. Lowry was always a decent Point Guard, he was never considered a top 5 or even top 10 until the 2015-16 season. Entering the season, he looked noticeably slimmer and more NBA ready. He was determined to make a long playoff run this season, that he is currently doing as the Raptors are 2nd in the East.
In his rookie season he average 5.6 points and played 10 games. He didn’t become a full starter until his 2nd season as a Houston Rocket, but even then he was not reaching his full potential. It was in the 2015-16 season, he made his mark as a top Point Guard in his “Dynamic Duo” with DeMar DeRozan. This season he’s led his team to their first ever franchise 50 win season. Not even 2 time NBA Champion Chris Bosh was able to do so for his team, not even Vince Carter or Tracy McGrady were able to do that for their team. Yet, Lowry did it. His 2015-16 season has been nothing but career highlights, scoring 27 points in a game over the Mavericks making the team 4-0 for the first time ever. He scored a then career high 41 points and 6 three pointers over the Warriors. On January 18th, 2016 he tied his career high of 41 points and 3 three pointers. He was named a starter for the Eastern All-Stars team.
Four days after his 8th career triple-double over the Knicks, Lowry reached his new career-high of 43 points on 15 for 20 shooting. On March 21st, 2016 he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for a second time in a season, the first to do so since Chris Bosh in the 09-10 season.
Lowry is currently standing at 21.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 6.5 APG on 43% shooting. Like Draymond Green, his stats were not a major improvement from the previous season, but they were from his first few seasons, he is on this list mainly for the improvements he’s made as a player.
1). CJ McCollum Shooting Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
Talk about improvement, CJ McCollum’s name should be brought up immediately. CJ has been in the league for 3 years and the 2015-16 season, he was able to shine. His first season starting, since practically his whole team left him in the off-season, he scored his career high 37 points with 22 of them being in the first quarter in the season opener. After an injury to Damian Lillard, he moved to the Point Guard position for a bit and in a game against the Sacramento Kings he scored 35 points and 11 rebounds along with 9 assists. This was more than just a close triple-double game for McCollum. No Trail Blazers player in the past 29 years had put up numbers like that since Clyde “The Glide” Drexler. His name hasn’t been up there since for performances in a game, since that game the most he had done was become named for the 2016 Three Point Contest.
His game performances are average but his stats from year to year are definitely not. Playing 62 games in his second season, he only averaged 6.8 PPG, 1.5 Rebounds, and 1 Assist. He played for an average of near 16 minutes and started just 3 games.
The 2015-16 season he stepped his game up greatly, currently averaging 20.7 PPG, 3.3 Rebounds, and 4.3 Assists on about 45% shooting. He became a huge help to the backcourt of the Blazers alongside Damian Lillard, and a huge help for the Trail Blazers after losing 4 of their 5 starters from last season. Who knows how well CJ would have done if the Blazers still had Wesley Matthews, Nicholas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez. However, McCollum can only be grateful it happened as he now will be recognized as a great player who will most likely be receiving the Most Improved Player award in 2016.