Friday afternoon, the NBA released the finalists for the league’s annual awards.
Regarding Most Improved Player, I’ve ranked each finalist, and made their case for honors below:
Rudy Gobert (3rd)
The Utah Jazz’ franchise big man has taken strides this season, and landed his name amongst the finalists for Defensive Player of the Year as well.
On the season, Gobert averaged: (14) points, (12.8) rebounds, and (2.6) per game. He led the league in blocks per game, was second in field goal percentage with (.661), and fourth overall in rebounding. Since last season Rudy improved in the following stats: offensive rebounds (+.5), defensive rebounds (+1.4), blocks (+.4), and most significant, points (+4.9).
Gobert may have made his case as best big man in the league, and top two defensive presence, all while improving his gameplay.
Nikola Jokic (2nd)
The Denver Nuggets’ risen star took the league by storm this season, and made case for a close runner up for the award. Awing fans with his spectacular passing and on a dime play making, Jokic has transcended his game to another level.
For the year, Nikola averaged: (16.7) points, (9.8) rebounds, and (4.8) assists per game. Before February, he had never recorded a triple-double. He then went on to record (6) before the season ended in April. Since last year, Jokic improved in the following stats: offensive rebounding (+.6), defensive rebounding (+2.2), assists (+2.5), and points (+6.7).
Nikola came out of nowhere this year, and was a vital piece in Denver’s 9th seed finish.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (1st)
The Greek Freak is the apparent front-runner for this award, and rightfully so. Giannis became the first player in league history to finish Top 20 in each of the stat categories, and led Milwaukee to their second playoff berth in five seasons.
This season, Antetokounmpo averaged: (22.9) points, (8.8) rebounds, (5.4) assists, and (1.9) blocks per game. Along the way to a first round finish in the playoffs, he recorded (32) double-doubles, and (3) triple-doubles. In comparison to last year, Giannis improved the following stats: offensive rebounding (+.4), defensive rebounding (+.8), blocks (+.5), assists (+1.1), and points (+6).
Giannis led his team to the playoffs, elevated his game, and left nothing short of a highlight reel in his path.
The only player of the three finalists to complete an improved season in every statistic, Antetokounmpo is my Most Improved Player.
The Most Improved Player award, among others, will be announced on June 26th at the NBA’s award show, hosted by Drake.
All stats and information provided by ESPN, NBA.com, and Basketball Reference. Featured image provided by Bleacher Report via Google Images.