Though the Pistons are finishing a lousy season, they still have players who deserve at least consideration for post-season awards, and we’re going to tell you why. But because we don’t receive a paycheck from the Pistons, we’re not going to stop there like they would if they conducted this campaign themselves. We’re also going to evaluate whether the player actually deserves the honor.
Here’s our look at Rodney Stuckey for Most Improved Player.
Making the case
Patrick Hayes: There should be an element of surprise to the Most Improved Player award, right? Well, it’s not that surprising that a healthy Andrew Bynum has blossomed with a more central role in the Lakers’ offense. It’s not surprising that young players like James Harden or Greg Monroe have rapidly improved.
Stuckey, though? His overall numbers won’t look much different from what he did early in his career, but after his early-season injury and before his late-season injury, he was one of the best guards in the league. In February and March, he shot 48 percent, got to the line seven times per game and averaged nearly 20 points per game. He continued to take good care of the ball and he established a career-best in 3-point shooting this year at 33 percent. He looked like he was making the leap, and typically, guys in their fifth year in the league don’t do that.
Dan Feldman: Stuckey signed late, missed preseason practices and started the season slowly. As a result, his numbers this season don’t jump off the page compared to previous years. But, when it comes to this award, should Stuckey really be penalized for that?
Stuckey’s approach has improved tremendously. He’s getting to the free-throw line and shooting 3-pointers better than ever before – two marks of the league’s most efficient perimeter players. Plus, he’s become a better teammate. Not everything shows up in the numbers.
Patrick Hayes: Unfortunately, Stuckey picked up another nagging injury late in the season that killed any momentum he had for this award. It’s unfortunate, because if he could’ve closed as strong as his previous two months, he would’ve had an intriguing case. Instead, we’ll just have to hope that he gets himself fully healthy in the offseason and picks up next year where he left off in March.
Dan Feldman: Especially as it relates to his improved relationship with coaches and teammates, Stuckey is, at best, an unconventional candidate for Most Improved Player. But his poor start and awful finish – 19 total points in his last five games – has eliminated him from even discussion of the award.
Stuckey probably won’t get any votes, and that’s fair, but I at least wanted to acknowledge that he’s better than last year.
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