Improved: Having become or been made better.
This is a definition that, hopefully, basketball writers remember when they vote on awards in about a weeks time. The Raptors beating the desperate Brooklyn Nets yesterday was a cruel reminder that some people actually see D’Angelo Russell as the Most Improved player over Pascal Siakam. Yes, Spicy will probably take home the award, but the fact that this is even a question shows a lack of understanding as to the very definition of “Most Improved.”
A week or so ago, in a game that meant nothing to the Raps and everything to their opponent, Pascal put on a show under the lights of Brooklyn. He posted 28 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists on 11/21, notching only a single turnover in the process. Russell, on the other hand, started off with an atrocious 1/7 mark, helping shoot the Nets out of the game, but ended with a solid 27-7-6 state, albeit on 25 attempts. The game showed that Russell is simply an extension of his past self. He has not revolutionized his game like Pascal, but rather become a better version of his high-volume scoring past self. What did Siakam add to his game? Well, a three-point shot and an incredible driving ability among other things, but the point is, he made significant additions. Year in and year out, Pascal has taken what was his, whether it’d be the starting job this year or playoff minutes last year. Russell? As the number 2 pick, he’s been given those chances. It was up to him to figure it out.
Obviously, this is an inconsequential story, as the Raptors have much, much, much bigger things on their plate right now. But Pascal’s well-documented rise to the second option on a championship-caliber team is nothing short of incredible and is exactly what a most improved winner should look like and an unprecedented story of the NBA season.
In the Betting Top10 Sports Predictions, Virginia losing to number 16 USMBC was a historic longshot. But you know what else feels like an even greater longshot? Pascal Siakam being more effective than Jayson Tatum just a year after he broke the basketball nerd internet by dunking on LeBron. Yes, we have to get as many Celtics digs in as we can.
At the end of the day, when this award is announced, the Nets will be long gone and Raptors fans will probably be losing their mind over free agency and forget there is an award show even on. But for now, let’s hope that the writers get this one right because I may be biased but the award is Most IMPROVED and it’s frustrating that any vote would go to anyone other than Siakam.