Hey guys, so we are deep, deep into the off-season right now and trades and signings are mostly settled down. So I figured I'd do a few pre-season predictions starting with Most Improved Player predictions. This is a hard one to pin down because sometimes they factor in draft order and "expected growth" when giving out the award, so its difficult for a high draft pick to get it. But what the hell, let's go for my top 5 MIP predictions.
Honourable Mentions: Lamarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez
5. Nicolas Batum: Batum has great athleticism, and if he can just put together a 70+ game season he should capitalise on a wealth of talent and potential. With Webster and Outlaw gone, Luke Babbitt is the only threat to his PT at the 3 which can be either a good thing or a bad thing. However, a strong showing for France in the FIBA World Championship should give him a confidence boost and a running start into the '10-'11 season. However, playing with All-Star Brandon Roy will limit his responsibility, so barring another injury plague he won't be given enough of a role to take home the trophy.
4. Martell Webster: Another Portland player who was restricted to being a shooter in McMillan's system he has been given a chance to be a leader on a very young Minnesota team and should start at the shooting guard spot. He's only 23 and when healthy has contributed well in his 5 years on the League. The pressure from draftee Wesley Johnson and teammate Corey Brewer should keep him motivated too.
3. Anthony Randolph: This guy has been talked about as a Lamar Odom type player since he came into the League, others thinking he can be a Hall of Famer. Finally traded from the horrendous Warriors team where his playing time was erratic at best he should be given the nod to start at either the 2, 3 or 4. However, STATs presence will likely stifle his chances to shine to the fullest at this stage.
2. J.J. Hickson: Left holding the ball in a Cavaliers team sans LeBron this young power forward will be given all the playing time he needs as Gilbert embraces rebuilding. He was dominant in SL and should flourish given more consistent playing time and a more creative coach in Byron Scott.
1. Michael Beasley: Okay, so he did a lot of weed in Miami, but he seems to have put those days behind him, and after seeing a recent clip of him playing at a charity game, I've never seen him so animated or motivated. His game will suit the triangle if he can learn the system and despite Love's stellar play with the USA Team, Beasley is the only player on the roster with superstar talent, despite his inconsistency. Without Wade ahead of him as number one scoring option Beasley should return to his college days when he was a stud.
So there you have it, my predictions for MIP; a cross between what I'd like to see happen and what I think will happen.
Feel free to share your thoughts or predictions in the comment section.