Jerami Grant is one of three finalists for this year’s Most Improved Player of the Year award, the NBA announced. MIP is one of six end of the season awards the league bestows on its players and coaches for their achievements during the regular season.
The competition is tough. Jerami will face off with breakout young player Michael Porter Jr. of Denver Nuggets and veteran Julius Randle of New York Knicks who put the team on his back and led the team to the playoffs. As the NBA Reacts survey shows, Randle is big favorite to take the honor. He upped his numbers, going from 32.5 minutes to Thibs-approved 37.6 MPG, from 19.5 to 24.1 PPG, from 3.1 to 6 APG and from 53.8 to 56.7 TS%. What is even more compelling, this season he made his first All-Star Game appearance and his team went from 24 games under .500 to 10 games above and is a 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. That last stat is the most compelling argument for him to win the award.
Porter Jr. is playing for the 3rd best team in the West. His points average jumped from 9.3 to 19 and his efficiency from very good 61.7 to great 66.3 TS%. Though, he did it almost doubling his minutes – 16.4 to 31.3 MPG, it is rare to go to a 30-minute-plus per game player and still have the amazing efficiency of Porter Jr. Also very important mitigating circumstance is the fact that he’s a second banana on his team, so his life is much easier as he plays off of other player. Some voters are also sometime reluctant to award the youngest players who naturally progress in their first three years in the league.
Against this background, Jerami can boast the biggest improvement in points average – 12 to 22.3 – achieved with an increase in minutes only slightly bigger than that of Randle (and still noticeably below a Thibs-level workhorse) – 26.6 to 33.9. His improvement as facilitator (1.2 to 2.8 APG) is no less impressive to that of Randle, though the floor was lower. Though there are two little things that can drag the Pistons’ hooper chances down here: as the season progressed he lost his efficiency (57.1 pre-ASB to 53.2 post-ASB TS%) and his sharpness with the ball (1.9 to 2.2 TOPG).
However, Jerami made not only quantitatively the biggest improvement among the three finalist for the MIP. He also made the biggest improvement in qualitative terms. Randle and Porter are doing what they did two years ago but in the same roles and in bigger minutes. Meanwhile, Jerami has added like a ton things to his game. He has transformed from a role player into a first cog of the team. Except some rare flashes that went practically unnoticeably to all but Troy Weaver, in his previous years he wasn’t heard of as a lethal driver, creative facilitator, promising midrange-gamer, skillful post player and versatile three point threat he has become in Motor City. The Piston increased his numbers in points and assists because he added so much new quality to his game that the other two finalists can’t even hold a candle to him. Thus, if the panelists take these factors into account, as they should, Jerami Grant should be the front-runner for the award.
Although there are no more Pistons considered for other awards, you can ask if Saddiq Bey shouldn’t make the cut for the Rookie of the Year consideration. LaMelo Ball of Charlotte Hornets, Anthony Edwards of Minnesota Timberwolves and Tyrese Haliburton of Sacramento Kings had good rookie campaigns but so did the young Piston. But I can take it, provided he and Isaiah Stewart make it to the NBA All-Rookie First Team… Will it be too much to ask for Killian Hayes with Saben Lee fighting for the second? (Editor’s note: Yes.)
The Pistons didn’t have a player to challenge Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) and Nikola Jokić (Nuggets) for the Most Valuable Player trophy. I don’t know who will end up with it this year. But I think there are venues to possible near future NBA worlds in which in couple of years we’ll discuss why a Piston should get that award. For this year, it’s your call…
Jerami Grant further improvement matched with the development of the rest of the team around him is one of these venues. But Jerami has also a potential to be an excellent defender, that was a little pushed back due to his offensive improvements. So there’s nothing against thinking of him replacing one of Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Draymond Green (Warriors) and Ben Simmons (Sixers) as a recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year. For this year, I go with Draymond as a local kid, but it probably will be someone from the other two, as they anchoring defenses of better teams.
Former Piston, Derrick Rose (Knicks) can get the Sixth Man honor if he beats Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles (both from Jazz). Raised among others in practice matchups against him, current Piston, Frank Jackson, could be in play for the award as a part of the picture of one of the mentioned possible near future NBA worlds. This year, give it to DRose. After all he did quite well for us even though we weren’t able to use him to win games except one… two years ago.
And if the full picture of this future world unfolds somewhere soon, count Dwane Casey to further the line of Coaches of the Year that this season will be furthered by one of Quin Snyder (Jazz), Tom Thibodeau (Knicks) and Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns). More so, since he has already predeceased them in that honorable line. For this year, it’s again your call…
And if you ask me for the Executive of the Year - due to this bright future I can’t help but keep thinking about because of the present so much enjoyable lost season - I can have only one answer: Troy!