Top 5 Early Candidates For 2013-14 NBA Most Improved Player

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Top 5 Candidates For NBA Most Improved Player

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A number of NBA players have taken their games to the next level this season. Some players only needed a change of scenery in order to improve their numbers from a year ago, while others spent the whole offseason fine tuning their game or recovering from an injury in order to improve. Last year, Paul George won the award for the NBA’s Most Improved Player, but can he do it again? Is that even possible? Well, George is certainly making his case once again to win this award with his performances for the Indiana Pacers so far this season.

Let’s take a look at some of the other contenders for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

Eric Bledsoe and Evan Turner certainly factor into the discussion for this award. Bledsoe went to the Phoenix Suns in the offseason, and the results have been fantastic. Bledsoe always showed a lot of promise during his career, and now that the Suns gave him a chance, he’s delivered. His performances this season make him one of the early contenders to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Turner doesn't get a lot of recognition for his play so far this season, but he definitely deserves to; he consistently provides scoring for a weak team on a nightly basis and really improved his game from a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if he somehow won this award at the year’s end.

George’s own teammate, Lance Stephenson, finds himself in contention for this award too. His play for the Pacers compared to last year has been remarkable. Stephenson brings the passion and energy every game for the Pacers, and it shows in the stat sheet. Another player who gives it his all on the court is Anthony Davis. When healthy, Davis dominates on both ends of the court for the New Orleans Pelicans. He might be the front-runner to win the award for the most improved player this year, but he has to stay healthy if he wants to have a chance at winning.

Andre Drummond for the Detroit Pistons might think otherwise. He was a force last year down low, but he’s refined his game this season to enforce his will in the paint. I believe Drummond is one of the dark-horses in the race for the most improved player and his numbers help make his case as well. The other dark horse is Kevin Martin. Martin changed teams in the offseason, going from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it changed everything in terms of Martin’s output on offense. He may not win the award, but he has certainly put himself in contention with his play this season.

The play of Derrick Favors and Kawhi Leonard also puts these two young players in the discussion. Favors and Leonard were two of the favorites before the season to win this award, and both have not failed to live up to their expectations. Favors continues to develop his game down low for the Utah Jazz. This year, you can really see how much he’s worked on his interior post game offensively. Leonard seems to get better every year, and this season has been no different for the small forward. He’s always been a good defender, but recently, he’s worked on his offensive game and that hard work is paying off. If both players continue their impressive play, I see no reason why Leonard and Favors cannot win this award.

This should be a tight race all season, however, only five can make this list. In fact, some players that made the list now may not even be on the list at the end of the year. Check out my top five list to see who made the cut as an early candidate to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

Andrew Shaw is an Atlanta Hawks writer for Follow Him on Twitter @AShaw003, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Kevin Martin

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His point production from a year ago looks like a fluke because this season, Kevin Martin has been tearing it up for Minnesota. Last year with the Thunder, Martin averaged 14 points, 1.4 assists and 0.9 steals per game in a mediocre year. This year, however, Martin has increased his level of play with the Timberwolves. Reuniting with his old coach, Rick Adelman, really helped him turn the corner offensively. This season, Martin is averaging 20.6 points, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game for Minnesota, earning him a spot at No. 5.

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4. Paul George

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Paul George has a great chance to win this award again. Last year, he averaged 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and shot 41.9 percent from the field, earning him the award for the NBA's Most Improved Player. This year, George is putting up even bigger numbers for the Pacers; he is averaging 23.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and is shooting 46.1 percent from the field. George has a great chance to repeat with those numbers.

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3. Lance Stephenson

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The top three on this list were the hardest to figure out. Stephenson is having a huge year for the Pacers this season. He significantly increased his production this season in three main categories -- points, assists and rebounds per game. Last year, Stephenson was a decent shooter, but this year, he has shot the ball lights out from the three-point line. He did more than become a great shooter this season, he also added the ability to distribute the ball and rebound on a regular basis. Last year, he averaged 8.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game with Indiana. However, this season, Stephenson really took his game to the next level and is averaging 12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. If his production continues, Stephenson could easily win this award.

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2. Andre Drummond

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Drummond is a beast down low for the Pistons. In only his second year in the NBA, he has increased his production both offensively and defensively. In his rookie season, Drummond averaged 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and one steal per game, which is impressive for a rookie. However, his sophomore campaign has been even more impressive with the Pistons. This season, he is averaging 13.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game with Detriot. Those kind of numbers are definitely worthy of the award for the NBA's Most Improved Player.

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1. Anthony Davis

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Anthony Davis is the front-runner for this award right now, but that can change if he struggles to stay healthy. When healthy, Davis is one of the best big men in the NBA, as illustrated by his play this season. Offensively, he has developed a better jump shot to go alongside with his ability to attack the rim. Defensively, Davis has turned out to be the shot blocker and rebounder that everyone thought he would be in the NBA. So far this year, he is averaging 19.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game for the Pelicans. Compare that to last year, and Davis easily earned himself the No. 1 honors on my list. Last season, he averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks as a rookie. His production dramatically increased from a year ago, which is why I believe Davis will ultimately win the award.