Not long ago in a galaxy not far, far away, sportswriters hated big men who shoot threes. Sam Perkins got away with it but basically everyone else caught hell. Dirk Nowitzki, a guy who in addition to being seven feet tall and shooting from distance had the audacity to be German, was the model of guys who need to get their ass in the paint. Until he wasn’t. Again, this wasn’t long ago: Dirk won the NBA’s 2007 MVP Award then led his #1-seed Mavericks to a first-round series loss and was soon relegated to the category of “good regular season player who will never win a championship.”
Funny how things change. Dirk is now among the most revered players in NBA history and his ability to step up in crunchtime is unquestioned. Much of this is based upon things that have happened since that first-round exit, but in terms of his actual game, nothing has changed radically. He still shoots from outside the paint all the time and launches his fair share of threes.
It’s funny, then, that Ryan Anderson, a big guy whose whole game is predicated on sticking jumpers, was just awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award without actually improving. Apparently, the sportswriters who vote on these awards have changed their tune 180. Not only are big men who shoot threes not the devil, they get lauded with trophies they don’t deserve.
See, Ryan Anderson, a fine player, is the same guy he was last year. All credit due to a guy who was a throw in to a Vince-Carter-salary-dump trade for becoming a bona fide NBA starter. But any improvement he made occurred back in 2009 and 2010, not over the past 18 months. Voters, who apparently didn’t pay attention to his game last year, merely know who he is now that he has become a full-time starter on a team that was full of melodrama and media focus this season.
Magic writer extraordinaire Eddy Rivera feels the same way. Here are a series of tweets from him following the announcement that Anderson won.
Don’t agree with Ryan Anderson winning Most Improved, but congrats to him.
Ryan Anderson didn’t improve that much. He merely got more playing time. His per minute numbers were nearly identical last season.
Ryan was the player he is this season … last season. Only difference was his role. Reserve last season. Starter this season.
The voting contingent need to freakin’ realize that the reason why players per game numbers improve is because of more playing time.
It’s not rocket science. Don’t understand why the voting contingent doesn’t get that. Continue to rely on archaic stats for awards.
Now that isn’t to say Ryan isn’t GOOD. He’s good. Damn good. But he’s already BEEN good. Cool that he’s getting recognized in that sense.
Honestly, I don’t care about NBA awards. There was a time I did but now I just find them boring. Along with trade rumors and arm-chair GM debates, they now merely distract from talk about actual basketball. Which is rarely discussed anywhere anymore.
So I don’t mean to dwell on the unjust selection here of Anderson. I’m happy for the guy, just like I was when Danny Granger got some national press during his break-out, Most Improved Player-winning season in 2008-09.
Mainly, I only mention it because a lot of Pacers fans probably don’t know how good Ryan has been for so long. He may be only averaging 7.7 points per game (scoring 5, 11 and 7 in Games One, Two and Three, respectively) while shooting just 31.8% (though 5 of 7 of his made shots have been threes, giving him a slightly better .432 eFG%) so far in the Magic’s series with the Pacers, but he is an excellent offensive weapon who was very good in the 2011-12 regular season.
Just like the 2010-11 regular season.
UPDATE: In my haste to rip on writers who vote for silly things, I forgot to mention, as Mike Wells pointed out, that two guys voted for Paul George, which is stupid to me because I don’t think second-year players should be eligible. Should be an award to recognize older, less-heralded veterans who don’t get their due attention sorta like “Comeback Player of the Year” used to be. Not sure why they got rid of that anyway. (Shout out to Bernard King.)
Roy Hibbert also got a second-place vote and four third-place votes.