The MIP award is one of my favorites because it allows the up-and-coming players of the league to garner a bit of shine for their efforts. Studs like Paul George and Kevin Love received this award and are now doing phenomenal things in the Association. Although I don’t believe this years winner is as much of a household name as say a Love or PG, I am confident this player’s star will only continue to rise.
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trailblazers: If you haven’t heard about McCollum yet, just wait, because this guy is blazing his way into stardom at shocking pace. The meteoric rise of McCollum is as shocking as his numbers; coming into the league as a role player from a small school like Lehigh, McCollum knew his role was to come off the bench and provide solid defense and take open looks, nothing too serious. In fact, in McCollum’s first two years he averaged approximately six points, an assist, and a rebound in about 13 minutes a game. Although,with the dire circumstances the Blazers were thrust into this year, McCollum was thrown into the fire along side Damian Lillard with the hopes of getting some wins on a very scrappy Portland team. McCollum’s minutes shot up to around 34 per game, and his stats only increased: averaging 20 points, McCollum is 13 points up from where he was last year, no small feat. McCollum is also now averaging four assists and three rebounds, while shooting a career best from both three (41 %) and the field (44 %). Many will say that McCollum’s number’s are only this good because of his minutes, to that I say it shows what type of player McCollum really is to be able to take on those minutes while simultaneously becoming a more well-rounded player.
I think the NBA would be making a mistake if McCollum doesn’t take home MIP this year, but he does have some competition.
Jae Crowder, Boston Celtics: This choice may be a bit unconventional, but when you look at Crowder’s numbers and his large impact on this years much improved Celtics team, Crowder becomes a lot less shocking of a choice. After spending his first few years on Dallas as a role player who played good defense off the bench, Crowder was moved to Boston last year and it has been an absolute blessing. Initially averaging about three points and two boards on the Mavs in approximately 14 minutes, Crowder has since elevated his game in Beantown. Now averaging a strong 14 points per game, two assists, and five rebounds in 31 minutes, Crowder has seized his opportunity. Crowder is now an efficient second or third option on the Celtics (shoots 44 % from the field), and is becoming a deadly three point shot from the corner (46 % on corner threes). His leadership on the young Celtics has also really helped the team, and I think Crowder deserves to be a strong runner up for the award.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets: This is a rather peculiar pick as this player technically qualifies for both Sixth Man of The Year, as well as MIP. Oh yes, Will “the Thrill” Barton is a jack of all trades, and his numbers depict this perfectly. In his first three years in Portland, Barton wasn’t getting many minutes on a guard filled roster, he averaged about 3.5 points and a rebound in only 9-12 minutes per game. But after move to Denver, Barton raised his game along with the altitude. Now getting about 28 minutes per game, Barton is averaging 14 points, six rebounds, and two assists as the Nuggets sixth man. Barton is also shooting a career high 34 % from three, and has a nice 16.07 player efficiency rating. While Barton will most likely not win the award, I hope he gets some votes and continues his strong play in the future.
Honorable Mentions: Stephen Curry, Andre Drummond, and Kemba Walker have all really improved this year as well and I won’t be surprised if they get votes.
All Images via Google.com
All Stats via ESPN.com/Basketball Reference.com