Paul George was named the NBA Most Improved Player on Tuesday, per the official NBA twitter.
The one deserving of this award, though, is Milwaukee Bucks big man Larry Sanders. Sanders has earned himself the nickname for his exciting play on the floor, Grantland’s Zach Lowe calls him LARRY SANDERS! anytime he inputs his name in his work due to his athletic abilities. Sanders saw an increase in all major categories this season in, like George, his third season.
Here is a comparison of Sanders’ past two seasons:
2011-2012: 3.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 45% FGP, 12.4 MPG, 13.34 PER
2012-2013: 9.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 50% FGP, 27 MPG, 18.77 PER
Sanders has clearly transformed in all facets of his game and is a prime reason that the Bucks have been a virtual lock for the playoffs since the All Star break. He is a shot-blocking machine and one of the most effective players on the floor, with a PER of 18.77, tenth best among Eastern Conference centers. Sanders has also used his length to his ability, shooting much more effective, 50-percent from the floor and grabbing three offensive rebounds on average. Seeing a bump in minutes, Sanders quickly became the Bucks best post player, and also one of the leagues best young big men.
Now here is a comparison of the player who won the Most Improved Player this season:
2011-2012: 12.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 38% 3PG, 44% FGP, 29.7 MPG
2012-2013: 17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 36% 3PG, 41.9% FGP, 37.6 MPG
George became the leader of the Pacers, catapulting them to a top-three seed and a sleeper club to take down the Miami Heat in the East. However, it is clear that George has not taken a serious jump this season from that of the former year. Yes, he was an All Star, but again that was due to the loss of Danny Granger, so he came into the spotlight.
After looking at the splits of these two young players from their past season to the current one, one made much improvement from one to the next, while one of them played slightly better. Sanders is the former, who is now a matchup nightmare at a long 6’ 11” who can guard all top-tier big men.
In my eyes, the VCU alumnus didn’t earn more votes and the award due to the fact that he plays in Milwaukee and his team is not as talented as the Pacers. George nabbed the award with fine play, but also because he has a team built to win all season long, and that is not what this award is built to symbolize.
Paul George is his teams’ best player, but also was one of the teams’ best last season, while Sanders went from a player riding the pine, to a near-double double player each night.
The Most Improved Player, is not the one whose team does better, it is the individual who improved more from year to the next one and benefitted his club the most.