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NBA Links: Most Improved Player talk, another far-fetched trade, Stephen Curry is the best player in the world, and more

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Christmas Eve has arrived. Stay safe and enjoy some NBA links as you wish!

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down the Most Improved Player of the Year race -- Hardwood Paroxysm

I posted the link to this piece in a DBB thread a day or two ago relevant to a discussion that was happening. Want to give it more eyeball action here. Numbers, of course, are from earlier in the week.

The dark horses: Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard

Nah. Boring. Moving on. In this case the rich shouldn't get richer.

The challengers: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson

The Greek Freak, despite his team's disappointing season, certainly has the national buzz that some of the sleepers are lacking. He's increased his scoring output by 2.9 points per game, which is a little lower than the usual benchmark. But he's growing into a larger role with the Bucks and if his numbers keep improving, he could end up high on this list.

That leaves the two Detroit Pistons as the top challengers to the current favorite. Jackson, who averaged 14.5 points per game combined last season, continues to increase his production in Detroit. He averaged 17.6 after the trade and is now at 20.5 this season. It'll be noteworthy to see if his stats change at all with the return of Brandon Jennings next week.

And Drummond (+4.4 points and +2.9 rebounds) is having a monster stat-stuffing season. He's a former top-10 pick just starting to gain massive attention in the national spotlight in his fourth year. He's my runner-up choice at the moment. One thing to watch is how his stats might regress back to normal levels. He averaged 19/19 in the first 11 games and is at 18/15 since. There haven't been very many traditional big men that have won the award, but he seems like an easy exception.

The favorite: C.J. McCollum

Obviously, McCollum played well down the stretch last year. He averaged 17 points per game in the first-round playoff loss to the Grizzlies. But the total season figures paint a perfect picture for his candidacy: An increase of 13.3 points per game over last regular season. The backcourt of Lillard-McCollum is suddenly one of the top scoring duos in the league.

One could certainly argue that McCollum's candidacy is only a factor of his gigantically increased role with the Blazers. That's not entirely wrong. But such a case would be arguing against the usual voting patterns of the Most Improved Player award. And given that history, it would appear that McCollum should be the early favorite. And it could take some big changes (Drummond keeping up his pace, one of the dark horses becoming a more legitimate shot) to overtake his lead.

What do you all think?

Andre and Reggie are undoubtedly firmly in the mix, especially Reggie. I could be shortsighted on this but those free throw struggles for Andre are tough to ignore, look past, what have you. Andre is getting there on defense (minus some costly slips), but no huge progress made yet.

Reggie has taken a big step in his development in so many facets of his game. He makes Detroit really tick. He helps others tick. Having Jennings back could help matters a ton as Detroit should be by far and away the best team having a 'favorite' & 'challenger' candidate in the running.

**Derrick Favors has been mentioned as a MIP candidate too and probably deserves to be in the 'dark horse' category for now.

NBA Trade Rumors: Detroit Pistons a Possible Trade Spot for Knicks' Robin Lopez -- Sports Media 101

Click on the link at your own risk (and I'm not talking about a virus threat). Sanity check.

Rumor: Bulls willing to move Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson for wing player -- Pro Basketball Talk

I thought they were going to trade Gibson three years ago. So I'll believe it when I see it.

Blogtable: Who is the best frontcourt? -- Hang Time Blog

Best answer:

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com's All Ball blog: It's easy to try and get cute with this answer. I mean, you can argue that the Sacramento Kings have two gold medalists in their frontcourt, while the Atlanta Hawks have a couple of All-Stars out there. Any frontcourt with Anthony Davis involved has to be rated highly, no? But of course, the easy answer and the answer that might be overlooked, at least initially, is in this case probably the right answer: The frontcourt of the San Antonio Spurs, with Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, is nothing short of tremendous, all the way around.

Mavs' Dirk Nowitzki passes Shaq for sixth on NBA's all-time scoring list -- CBS Sports

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain have scored more points than Nowitzki since the NBA came into existence 66 years ago.

Stephen Curry Says He's The Best Player In World -- TIME

What is your one big worry in life?

Not losing myself. Not losing my perspective on life. I'm learning you have to be proactive in that regard.

I don't want to have a pessimistic attitude. But things are really great right now: We're winning, there so many life additions at home, it all comes at once. Eventually basketball will end. I have a lot of life to live after that. So I guess the only worry is not to just be defined as a basketball player.

If there's one thing people can expect from you in the coming year, what would it be?

You should expect me to keep getting better.

I like Stephen Curry a lot. I can't find too much to dislike him for so far. A good egg on and off the court, seemingly.

My Curry fandom became serious when I saw Curry and his Davidson crew live at Ford Field in the 2008 NCAA tournament versus Kansas. Davidson lost, but wins and losses aren't everything all the time. That Davidson run was the bee's knees.

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Enjoy meaningful time with family and friends, everyone! Too much screen-in-front-of-face is not a good look! It's rude. Talk to people you are with... a lot!