Can Victor Oladipo win the Pacers’ fifth Most Improved Player award?

The Indiana Pacers have won four Most Improved Player awards since 2000. Can Victor Oladipo make it five?

On the behalf of the Indiana Pacers, I — lowly no-name contributor to 8 Points 9 Seconds — am starting a low-level beef with the Orlando Magic, and it’s got everything to do with the Most Improved Player award.

Sure, the MIP award is, by a wide margin, the league’s most arbitrarily awarded trophy. Since its inception in 1986, esteemed players like Gilbert Arenas and Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady have won the award, but primarily it goes to the role players of the league. Monta Ellis won it in 2007. Darrell Armstrong and the Magic in 1989. Giannis Antetokounmpo won it last year.

Typically, the formula is an increase in minutes + role + PPG = shiny MIP trophy. That’s roughly the legacy of the MIP award. The MIP is profoundly confusing, but awards are fun, and so here we are.

Coming into the 2017-18 season, many Pacers fans were crossing fingers for Myles Turner to take the MIP leap. But Myles’ numbers this season look, well, exactly like his numbers last season. And numbers win awards.

The Most Improved Leap

It’s a leap Pacers fans are familiar with. PG made it. Danny Granger did too and got his first All-Star nod in the same year. A 23-year-old Jermaine O’Neal won the MIP in 2002 in his sixth season (second with the Pacers) after lifting his scoring load from 13 PPG the previous year to 19.

Jalen Rose, 27, snagged the award just two seasons earlier in 2000, also in his sixth season (fourth with Indiana). After starting just one game the previous season, Jalen saw a major minutes-increase, starting 80 games during the 1999-00 season, raising his 40% shooting to 47% and doubling his assist numbers (from two to four, but still).

INDIANAPOLIS – MAY 12: Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers (C) poses with head coach Jim O’Brien (L) and team president Larry Bird after Granger was awarded the 2008-09 NBA Most Improved Player Award presented by Kia Motors at Conseco Fieldhouse on May 12, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

That’s four MIP awards for the Pacers since 2000 (or, the Willenium). Phoenix, Portland, and Washington each have three (star of My Giant, Gheorghe Mureșan, has one!). But those darn Magicians – a franchise three years younger than the MIP award itself – have five wins.

This is why we, as Pacers fans, must start a back-burning MIP-focused beef with the Orlando Magic.

The Dumbest Invented Rivalry in Sports

The Magic are in the midst of a rough season, but their shiniest bright-spot is Aaron Gordon – certainly a contender for the MIP award himself. An AG win would be the sixth for the Magic. This is unacceptable and cannot happen for unclear but certainly very important reasons!

Fortunately for the Pacers, Victor Oladipo (25) is having a classic MIP-worthy season. In his fifth season, Dipo has increased his career 15.9 PPG all the way to 24.5, good enough for 12th in the NBA currently. His percentage from deep has shot up from 36% to a cool 42%. He’s doing everything better out there.

Of course, it’s still pretty early in the season, Dipo’s sore knee has been disconcerting, and those FG percentages could take a dip at some point. No one is talking about the MIP award in the middle of January, nor should they be.

There’s a lot of season left, but the odds of Dipo bringing home the Pacers’ fifth (and Orlando-tying) MIP award look pretty good. The numbers and the narrative are all there for Vic.

In my 100% bias-proof estimation, if you ignore T-Mac’s 2001 win for Orlando, the Pacers’ winners look a lot better than the Magic’s: Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, Darrell Armstrong, and Scotty “Misdemeanor” Skiles.

During a season in which the Pacers aren’t likely to compete for more than a tough first-round exit, it is imperative we make a BIG GIANT DEAL out of winning the franchise’s fifth MIP award. In a league of thirty teams, there’s gotta be more than a championship or a lottery pick to root for, otherwise, fandom would be largely frustrating. I’m going to rally around this.

(It’s the little Vic-tories)  

This year, we’ve got the MIP award to root for — and maybe next year. Or the year after that. Myles is just 21, in just his third season. And it’d be cool to get those fifth and sixth MIP trophies, and it’d prove once and for all that we are a better franchise than the Orlando Magic.

But again, I’m sure the Magic’s players and fans are all very nice people and I wish them the best, as long as ‘the best’ doesn’t involve their team winning another MIP award.

Dipo deserves this one. Here’s to hoping he gets it.