Phoenix Suns: Why Frank Kaminsky will be Most Improved Player Finalist

Phoenix Suns, Frank Kaminsky. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Frank Kaminsky. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

All of a sudden, it’s starting to feel like snowy Wisconsin out in the desert. Former Badgers legend Frank Kaminsky just put together another earth-shattering performance, outdoing himself once again last night. Over the past few games, he helped the Phoenix Suns not only tread water without Deandre Ayton, but go out surfing, as the team continues to ride a six-game win streak.

Most recently, Kaminsky torched the Portland Trail Blazers with a career-high 31 points, shooting a hyper efficient 12-18 from from the field. He also added seven rebounds, three assists, and a blocked shot en route to a 119-109 victory.

After the game, head coach Monty Williams expressed his desire to keep Kaminsky in the fold even after Ayton returns, fully committing to him as a key role player down the stretch. He also raved about Kaminsky’s non-basketball attributes, including his attitude, communication skills, and work ethic.

With the 2021-22 NBA season only three weeks old, it might feel a bit premature to begin arguing about individual awards like MVP or DPOY. This league remains in its infancy stage, so it makes little sense to start planning its retirement speech right now

But still, at least starting to think about each award’s contenders feels fair at this point, and with regard to the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award, Kaminsky deserves some consideration.

As it stands now, Miles Bridges and Jordan Poole strike as the leading candidates for this honor, already helping their teams to surpass expectations.

For the Charlotte Hornets, Bridges currently averages 21.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, while shooting 43.8 percent from the field. For the league-leading Golden State Warriors, Poole averages 17.8 points, 3.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game, also shooting at a 43.8 percent clip.

For the season, Kaminsky averages 13.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game, while shooting 58.8 percent from the field. Although is efficiency slightly makes up for it, Kaminsky’s numbers sit slightly behind both that of Poole and Bridges.

However, the word “improvement” is what makes this award special. It does not aim to recognize the best “new” player, but instead the one who made the largest leap between last year and this year. With that acknowledge, Kaminsky’s case for this award strengthens mightily.

From last year to this year, Kaminsky’s scoring reflects a 6.4 point per game increase. On the other hand, Poole’s scoring increased by only 5.8 points per game, but with Bridges still leading on a 8.6 point per game increase.

But even though Kaminsky’s bigger jump in scoring already closes the gap between him and Poole, his increased efficiency allows him to catch Bridges as well.

Having shot 47.1 percent from the field last year, his field goal percentage jumped 11.7 points this season. Meanwhile, Poole’s field goal percentage increased by just 0.6 percentage points, and Bridges’s actually decreased by nearly seven.

With all these factors considered, you simply cannot count Kaminsky out from this award’s early discussions.

Bridges and Poole undoubtedly deserve recognition too, and Kaminsky’s numbers still do not exactly put him ahead those guys. Instead, they just present him as a possible finalist down the line, nothing more at this point, but also nothing less.

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After years of referring to him strictly as a player who peaked at the collegiate level, the time has come to start showing some respect for “the Tank.” He now owns a solid role, contributing toward a championship team. If he keeps that up, he might soon own another trophy, well-deserved, and sitting beside his John R. Wooden Award.