At the end of the season, the NBA awards one player with the Most Improved Player of the Year award. The award is indicative of taking the leap to entering the upper echelon of players in the league, such as previous winners CJ McCollum and Giannis Antetokoumpo. Only one player can win the award each year. But what if there was an All-Most-Improved Team such as there is an All-NBA Team? Here is what the team would look like this year.
Guard: De’Aaron Fox
After a disastrous rookie season, De’Aaron Fox has launched himself into the discussion for MIP, a shock to most. The point guard possesses a minus-5.7 net rating in his rookie season. This year, he is a plus-1.3. His biggest areas of improvement come in two major categories: scoring and passing.
Fox was mightily inefficient shooting the basketball in his rookie year, shooting 41.2 percent from the floor and 30.7 percent from the 3-point line. This season has been better for him, and it had to be. He’s up to 45.7 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the 3-point line. His scoring average, 17.6, has gone up this year by nearly six points per game because he has become a more efficient scorer through the development of his jump shot and become an improved decision maker.
His growth as a passer is notable as well, averaging 7.2 assists this season on 3.9 turnovers per game. Last year he averaged 4.4 assists on an intolerable 3.5 turnovers per game. His ninth in the league in assists per game this season. He’s also seventh in the league in steals per game.
Fox is trending towards completing the path to stardom, as it appears he is transforming into one of the best two-way point guards in the league. Along with his backcourt mate, Buddy Hield, Fox has been the catalyst behind the Kings’ surprisingly competitive season.
Guard: D’Angelo Russell
Injuries derailed a breakout season that would have taken place last year for Russell, but now healthy, Russell is developing into the exact player the Brooklyn Nets hope he could become when they traded for him in June of 2017.
Fast forward to now, and Russell is an All-Star, who has been the best player on one of the most improved teams in the league this year in Brooklyn. He is averaging career-highs in points and assists per game as well as FG%, 2P%, and 3P%. Russell has atoned for being a poor scorer in the restricted area and not being able to draw fouls when attacking the basket, by becoming a deadly mid-range scorer and acceptable 3-point shooter.
From outside of the restricted area yet inside the 3-point line, Russell is an above league average scorer, due to a marksmen pull-up jumper and a newfound high-arcing floater.
He’s shot 36.6 percent from three this year. He’s had 16 games in which he has made five or more threes in a game, something he had done just 10 times in the first three seasons of his career combined. Russell has also become an elite passer through his exceptional vision, and boasts the second-best assist percentage in the NBA, at 41.3 percent, and has the ninth most assists this season.
Russell has become an ambient leader as well, to the shock of Magic Johnson, traded him away years ago because he believed Russell was not and would not become one.
Forward: Bojan Bogdanovic
The Indiana Pacers’ season was considered lost after Victor Oladipo suffered a gruesome end-of-season injury. But Bojan Bogdanovic had other plans. Already having a career year, Bogdanovic’s play has reached another level since the sidelining of Oladipo. Prior to the injury, he was averaging 16 points per game, which was already a career-high on 43 percent shooting from deep, top ten in the NBA.
Since the injury, although his 3-point shooting has dropped by three percentage points, Bogdanovic’s scoring has soared all the way to 21.3 points per game. He’s shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from distance. He’s done everything he can to keep the Pacers afloat, even as they begin to descend in the standings.
The Pacers have unleashed Bogdanovic in the pick-and-roll, letting him handle the ball more than ever before. It’s paid off, as this play shows. He’s calm with the ball, knows how to read the defense, and is a good enough finisher to score inside when he isn’t cashing in from behind the arc.
He’s earned himself a serious chunk of cash, as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and he’s done so by having the best season of his career.
Forward: Pascal Siakam
Siakam will win the actual Most Improved Player of the Year award come to the end of the season, and he should. Siakam has risen as the third star of the Toronto Raptors alongside Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry. The do-it-all forward has averaged 16.8 points. 6.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game this season, compared to just 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and two assists per game last year.
His shooting numbers have spiked across the board, most notably his 3-point shooting and free throw shooting numbers. Last season he shot 22 percent from the 3-point line and 62.1 percent from the free throw line. This season he has shot 35.3 percent and 77.8 percent in those areas, respectively. He boasts a 62.3 true-shooting percentage this season, 19th best in the league. He can score at all three levels: at the rim, in the mid-range, and from beyond the arc. He can even handle the ball at 6’9” and get to the basket himself.
After scoring 20 or more points in a game in just one game over the first two seasons of his career, he has done so 22 times this season. He’s scored 30 or more points four times.
On defense, Siakam’s length, athleticism, and quickness combine to form a near elite defender. He can defend really every position, and the Raptors have only minimally begun to unleash him as a small-ball center. He’s truly become a great two-way player and has cemented himself as a critical piece of the Raptors title hopes and future.
Center: Nikola Vucevic
The Orlando Magic are fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, and although they will likely not reach the playoffs, that is a major improvement compared to their recent, failure-filled history. Vucevic is the engine behind the Magic’s competitive season. The Swiss center earned his first trip to the NBA All-Star Game earlier this year, stuffing the stat sheet while transforming into one of the most complete centers in the league.
Vucevic’s shot chart is a model of efficiency, as he shoots above league average from every area on the court outside of the corner 3-point lines, where he has attempted just one 3-pointer from each side. This season he has shot 36.6 percent from distance, and the addition of a consistent three has opened the floor up for the Magic, and made scoring a little easier for himself.
He’s fifth in the league amongst centers in 3-point percentage. He’s also fifth in scoring among centers at a career-high 20.7 points per contest, which is up from 16.5 from last season. He is also averaging a career-high in rebounds per game at 12.1. It has been a year of setting career milestones for Vucevic, as on top of the aforementioned career-highs, he’s also posting those in assists and blocks per game as well as 2-point field goal percentage.