In the second edition of our 5-on-5 to recap the season, the Valley of the Suns crew wonders if we can lock down the most improved player on the Phoenix Suns. It’s a matter of opinion and semantics. In other words, it’s not as easy as picking the NBA’s Most Improved Player, Goran Dragic — although that isn’t wrong either.
Who is the most improved player on the Suns? Is it still Goran Dragic?
Kevin Zimmerman: I thought the assessment that Goran Dragic took dramatic steps forward from last season was a tad bit overblown — I thought he was pretty good considering his situation — though his jump shot certainly took his game to another level. The same could be said for P.J. Tucker, and Gerald Green certainly thrived without restrictions on him. But the most telling improvements came from Markieff Morris, who showed little development through two NBA seasons. It helped him become a post anchor that he went from shooting threes 21 percent of the time last season to just 13 percent this year. As many holes there are to patch in his game, he also took major strides defensively.
Ryan Weisert: There is a difference between improvement and opportunity. Several members of the Suns’ roster flourished this season because of increased opportunity, but no Sun improved more than Markieff Morris. The stats say he increased his PER by nearly six points. In just four more minutes per game, Kieff increased his scoring by 5.6 points, improved his FG% from just under 41% to over 48%, and more than doubled his free throw attempts. But beyond the box score, Kieff became the player Phoenix hoped he could be. His shot selection was light years better. He knocked down mid-range jumpers and got to the basket. His interplay with his brother Marcus made them both better players, as promised. Dragic certainly deserved the MIP trophy, but Markieff is unequivocally the Suns’ most improved.
Michael Schwartz: At different points in the year, it was different players. Plumlee was running away with this award at the start, and Gerald Green deserved it for the way he finished the year. Bledsoe flashed some MIP worthiness when healthy, although that’s largely because it was the first time he played starter’s minutes. But for consistency the whole year and for going from good to great, Dragic is still the most improved player.
Dave Dulberg: The easy response would be to say Dragic, after all he won the award for the entire league and improved in almost every statistical category despite just playing a shade over one minute more per game than he did in 2012-13. But what made this team so enjoyable to watch was the progress almost every rotation player made throughout the year — albeit at different times. In any given span, the title of most improved could have gone to Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Markieff Morris, Miles Plumlee or P.J. Tucker. That’s saying something.
Jeff Sanders: It really is hard to pick one guy as the most improved player because every player on this team got better. Goran Dragic took his game to the next level and is a small babystep away from being a superstar. Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee were both afterthoughts in the Luis Scola trade with the Indiana Pacers, but can you imagine the team having the success they did without either of the two? Markieff Morris became one of the best big men off the bench, even earning himself a Player of the Week award in November. You also can’t forget about a guy like Ish Smith. Not many knew who he was when the season tipped off; now he is known as Ricky Bobby.