NBA’s Most Improved: ’17-’18 Midseason Edition

photo via BleacherReport

The NBA is in as good of a spot as it has been in a long time, which is due to many factors. The league has a great commissioner, is as versatile and multi-faceted in its skill level as its ever been, a fusion of young superstars, and the annual resurrection of several players careers. The NBA’s Most Improved award has become one of the most intriguing to follow over the last few years, as every year seems to see numerous players breakout. Some have been contract years, while others have been the start of players realizing their full potential in the league. This year has been no different. With us just officially passing the league’s midway point it is time to evaluate those candidates who have separated themselves as most improved so far this season.

1. Victor Oladipo – Pacers

Oladipo is not only the trendy pick, but for most of the season has been the runaway pick for most improved player in the league. Something about Victor playing in the state of Indiana seems to bring out the best in him. Oladipo is averaging career highs in points per game, rebounds per game, field goal % and three-point %. All while having the Pacers in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt. He made a name for himself as a solid NBA player in his first two stops, Orlando and Oklahoma City. Oladipo’s his first 46 games with Indiana however, has him showing the franchise player potential that he flashed during his junior season playing just down the road in Bloomington. Getting out of Westbrook’s shadow and a great offseason have propelled Oladipo to the best season of his career thus far.

2. Aaron Gordon – Magic

Gordon’s career has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but he has been one of the lone bright spots on one of the league’s worst teams. He has added to his offensive game, and has continued to be a plus-defender on the other side of the ball. Gordon is averaging career highs in points (18.6) and rebounds (8). He is also shooting 36% from the 3-point line, which is by far a career best. People tend to forget that Gordon is only 22 years old, and has a long ways to go until he reaches his prime. Gordon is going to have an extremely fruitful career if he continues to develop at his current rate, the only question is if he will be producing in a Magic jersey, or for some other franchise soon enough.

3. Clint Capela – Rockets

The Rockets have the look of a team that can provide the Warriors with a major threat on their quest for a third title in four years. Everyone is familiar with James Harden and Chris Paul, but perhaps the person with the biggest impact is none other than Clint Capela. Capela leads the league in field goal percentage and is averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 10.8 rebounds. If you are someone who lives and dies with John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating (not many do), Capela ranks as the leagues sixth most efficient player. He only trails Harden, Giannis, LeBron Anthony Davis and Steph Curry. While Capela has not quite been that good, he has had an awesome season and at only 23 years old looks like he has the potential to anchor the middle of the Rockets lineup. If the Rockets are to win a championship this season, Capela is going to play a huge part in those efforts, something not many could have said a season ago.

4. Kris Dunn – Bulls

Kris Dunn had a lackluster rookie year playing for the Timberwolves. He has made the most of his new stop in Chicago. As a rookie he played just 17.1 minutes per game, while averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 assists. Dunn was apart of the Timberwolves trade for Jimmy Butler and it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. He is averaging 13.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game while playing 30 minutes a night and showing noticeable improvements in his shooting percentages. Dunn and Zach Lavine give the Bulls two intriguing options at the point guard spot moving forward. It could help stabilize the Bulls foundation, alongside Lauri Markkanen, moving forward. Hopefully for the sake of Dunn and Bulls fans everywhere the point guard recovers quickly from the spill he took this week against the Warriors.

5. Kristaps Porzingis – Knicks

While Knicks fan have a pretty good track record of booing bad draft picks in the past, it looks like they will ultimately take a loss when it comes to Porzingis. That’s something they have to be absolutely ecstatic about it. Porzingis has taken the leap to place himself on the cusp of a superstar level. While his rebounding numbers have fallen slightly from his first two seasons in the league, he is averaging career highs in points per game (23.6), blocks per game (2.4). He’s also hitting 38% of his shots from deep. He has the Knicks just three games back of a playoff spot, something unimaginable to start the year. While it remains to be seen if he will remain a Knick for the rest of his career, whoever is lucky to have him on their roster over the rest of his career will be a very lucky franchise.

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