2012 NBA Most Improved Player: Marc Gasol and Marreese Speights Each Receive a Vote

The finally tally for the 2012 NBA Most Improved Player award is in, and while Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic took home the award, followed by Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Pekovic, it was interesting to see two Grizzlies show up on the list of those who also received votes.

Marc Gasol, who made the All-Star team this year, received one first-place vote, while our newly-acquired power forward Marreese Speights picked up a third-place vote. Pretty interesting.

As Tom Ziller wrote in the SB Nation blogger award winner's piece:

I did not present Most Improved Player for a vote, because the award does not deserve consideration. It's a sham award. No offense to Ryan Anderson, who is a fine young player I would love to see on my team. But this award is the Hologram Tupac of the NBA.

There are a great many who feel the same way as Ziller do. I'm pretty much there with him, though I think most of these awards are forgettable and pretty much useless. That's another story... I mean, consider the MIP, you're looking at a guy in Ryan Anderson who did not improve statistically at all, per minute, this season and actually saw his TS% dip, even as his threes made/points all increased. Meaning, well, there's a a more sprawling picture to be painted here, and I really don't feel like painting it, but the argument is that Anderson's numbers only improved because his minutes improved. Well, yeah. Totally. Agree.

Whereas someone like Gasol, who made the All-Star team this year, actually saw his per-minute numbers increase a bit. I'm not making the case for Gasol as MIP, especially since we can say, well, did he really "improve" (yes) or was it a function of Zach Randolph missing all that time, opening up more touches and rebounds in the middle (also, yes), but it only makes these matters more complicated.

With Speights, he became a big help for the Grizzlies once they lost Randolph -- and even after Z-Bo's return -- yet his per-minute numbers were actually down from last season. Meaning, he wasn't as effective with the Grizzlies, on a per-minute basis, as he was with the Philadelphia 76ers. The case here is, not that Speights wasn't any good, but that the 76ers really should have found a way to get him more involved. And it's also not saying that Speights regressed from last season, but he went from being a "nothing" off the bench for the 76ers to being a pretty important member of a, well, championship contending team. His role changed, which naturally would mean that he'd have to adjust, along with his numbers. Valuable, yes. Useful, absolutely. Improved, not really.

So, this really goes back to Ziller's point that this award is a "sham." Are we really talking about improved players or are we talking about players who are in better situations, playing more minutes and doing exactly as they did last season? Yes and no. Right? We could probably go on and on about who does and doesn't deserve to be on the list of the most improved players in the NBA this year, but, really at the end of the day, will you even remember next year who won this season's MIP award? Probably not. Two years from now? Definitely not.

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