2015 NBA Award Picks: MVP, ROY, MIP, DPOY, COY

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Most Improved Player of the Year

Apr 11, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) reacts after a three point basket against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Winner: Hassan Whiteside (Miami)

Runner-Up: Anthony Davis (New Orleans)

I hate that Most Improved is generally reserved for the “wow, I thought you stunk, but now you’re good” players, but I’m going to stick to that format and no better player fits that mold than Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside.

Sure the sample size for what he’s accomplished is small — averaged 11.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in 48 games (32) starts — but months before Whiteside joined the Miami Heat, he was in the developmental league after being unable to make the final 15-man roster in Memphis. Where Whiteside’s case takes a hit is with playing time. Having missed the first half of the season, he’s only participated in 48 games and collected 1142 minutes. In comparison with other notable MIP candidates, (Gobert, Thompson, Butler, etc.), that’s not a lot. If minutes played is your reason for disqualifying Whiteside from the race, I wouldn’t argue against it, but I can’t ignore his ascension from out-of-the-league to above-average NBA center and starter.

In regards to Anthony Davis being the runner-up, I’m not sure any player improved as much as he did, thrusting himself into the best player in the NBA conversation alongside Kevin Durant and LeBron James. That’s what I’d call improvement.

Tom West:

Winner: Jimmy Butler (Chicago)

Runner-Up: Rudy Gobert (Utah)

The emergence of Rudy Gobert as one of the league’s elite shot blockers has been a great story this season — and the block vs dunk battle he had with Andrew Wiggins was a contest to remember. That being said, the rate at which Jimmy Butler has elevated his game in less than a year is something we hardly ever witness. He’s always been a tough defender, but his offensive skill set and versatility has totally evolved since the start of last summer. His point production has gone from 13.1 to 20 points per game, his field-goal percentage has risen by 7 percent (now 46.2) and his three point-percentage has increased by 9 percent (now sitting at 37.2).

Butler’s new found range and offensive abilities have helped make the Chicago Bulls one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference yet again, despite the frequent departures of Derrick Rose. Players simply shouldn’t be able to improve this much in one summer, and Butler has done more than enough to win.