Los Angeles Lakers: Most Improved Player

Improved Meeks making his team proud

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
12:05
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
SACRAMENTO -- Not that any awards should be handed out to anyone on a Los Angeles Lakers team that fell to a dreadful 25-50 with a 107-102 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday -- no need to pile on to the participation trophies trying to strip the competitiveness out of youth sports these days -- but specialized titles can still apply.

Biggest disappointment? That's easily Kobe Bryant, as Father Time won this round with him, limiting the 35-year-old to only six games when a fractured knee was the latest injury to strike his left leg after his torn Achilles.

[+] EnlargeJodie Meeks
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsJodie Meeks has been one of the Lakers' most consistent performers this season, averaging 15.3 points as the team's third-leading scorer.
Most entertaining? Again, that's an easy answer, as Nick “Swaggy P” Young has become a fan favorite with his patented four-point plays (he had another against the Kings, his seventh of the season), outlandish outfits and memorable quotes.

Most improved? Well, that's not so cut and dried. As bad as the season has been for the Lakers, the underlying saving grace has been that several players have proven to be better than their reputations.

Both Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly have grown in leaps and bounds since training camp. Both Kent Bazemore and Kendall Marshall were acquired during the season as untested commodities and showed that they belonged in the league. Jordan Hill, Xavier Henry and Wesley Johnson all gave glimpses of the tremendous talents that made them lottery picks out of college.

But no one embodies a total improvement in his game, from top to bottom, quite like Jodie Meeks.

It was on display against the Sacramento Kings. On a night when the Lakers shot only 38.5 percent from the field, Meeks was the lone starter to shoot better than 50 percent, going 8-for-15 en route to a team-high 21 points.

"I think Jodie is ... he's good," Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game, breaking into a genuine smile. "He's got a lot better and he keeps improving, too. There's something he gives you every day, something that's a little different. And his energy. I'm just really proud of him."

(Read full post)

Andrew Bynum finishes 4th in Most Improved Player voting

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
1:40
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
To be perfectly honest, I haven't spent much time thinking about awards season this year. The big one (MVP) seems pretty obvious (LeBron James). It's hard to argue with Gregg Popovich as Coach of the Year. If James Harden doesn't win Sixth Man honors, the world might spin off its axis. Tyson Chandler had his hooks on Defensive Player of the Year for a while -- rightly so -- and Kyrie Irving is a near-lock for Rookie of the Year. The right guys, or at worst extremely credible guys, are winning thus far, so there's really not all that much to discuss.

Save maybe one. The strangest of the postseason awards issued by the NBA is Most Improved Player, given today to Orlando Magic power forward Ryan Anderson. As my fantasy team attested, Anderson had a very good year, averaging a career high 16.1 points and shooting 39.1 percent from 3-point range, but critics will point note his advanced numbers are about what they've always been, and Anderson simply benefited from moving into the starting lineup.

Someone like Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova, who finished second, made far larger statistical improvements.

The basic problem with the M.I.P. is the context: A player can only be so good going into the year and have a legitimate shot to win. The soft bigotry of low expectations, and all that. Which brings us to Andrew Bynum, who finished tied for fourth with Detroit center Greg Monroe. Bynum has for a while been called the second best center in the league behind Dwight Howard, the only guy worth Orlando's time in a big man swap. He's also been very effective when healthy, entering the year riding a streak of four straight seasons with a PER north of 20, which Bynum pushed to five in 2011-12. I.E., he was already seen as too good to have a real shot at M.I.P.

This season, Bynum's advanced numbers weren't all that different from ones posted earlier in his career (a knock against his candidacy, maybe, but applicable to Anderson as well), but he played a much different and more difficult role. His minutes were up, along with the level of responsibility. More importantly, Bynum had never seen the double and triple teams routinely sent his way over the course of the season. Relative to earlier in his career, producing at similar statistical levels was much harder. Still, he stayed healthy, made his first All-Star team, and firmly established himself as an elite NBA player.

Last week, ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin made a strong case for Bynum as M.I.P., posing the most fundamental question: "What's more impressive: going from average to good or going from good to great?"

I'd say the latter. That only 28 of 121 voters put Bynum on their ballots indicates either people disagree, or more likely thought Drew was already too good to win, showing again why this is the goofiest of all NBA honors.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5