The NBA officially named Chicago Bulls' shooting guard Jimmy Butler the 2014-15 Kia NBA Most Improved Player today. Butler finished the season averaging over 20 points per game, up from 13.1 ppg last season. Already one of the game's top defenders, he added much needed offense for Chicago this year, who had been struggling to find a second option to Derrick Rose, and is well deserving of the title. This marks the first time a Bulls player has won the award.
The Most Improved Player award was first introduced in the 1985-86 season. One team that has never had a player win the title, is the Boston Celtics. Pervis Ellison & Dana Barros are both previous winners of the award, but they did so with the Washington Bullets (Ellison) and the Philadelphia 76ers (Barros).
Butler won this season's award in a landslide, receiving 92 first place votes. The next two players behind him in the voting were the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green who had 11 first place votes, and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, who had 12 first place votes. Only one player from the Boston Celtics managed to land in the top ten total voting results, and that was big man Tyler Zeller. Yeah you read that right, Tyler Zeller finished in the top ten for the MIP.
Jae Crowder and Tyler Zeller each received a homer vote (from Heinsohn and Maxwell) for Most Improved Player http://t.co/oDfmnTuMJD— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) May 7, 2015
Though Zeller logged just 21 minutes per game in 2014-15, he put up respectable averages of 10.2 ppg and 5.7 rpg, while shooting 55% from the field and 82% from the free throw line. That percentage from the charity stripe was good for third best in the NBA for centers, and the 55% field goal percentage put him in fifth at his position. He clearly made improvements on his shot selection this season, and it paid off.
Zeller set new personal bests in points scored twice this season, dropping 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting in December against the L.A. Lakers, and then topping that with 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting against the 76ers in March. There were a lot of defining moments for Zeller this season. There was also this...
According to ESPN.com's John Hollinger, Zeller had a player efficiency rating of 19.01, good for 19th best among centers in the league. Just to put that into better perspective, Dwight Howard finished 18th with a 19.31. If using these numbers as a measuring stick, centers whom Zeller outperformed this season included Tiago Splitter, Joakim Noah, Marcin Gortat, Roy Hibbert and Robin Lopez.
It's no surprise that Zeller didn't win the NBA's Most Improved Player award, but his solid play deserved some sort of recognition. Only one vote was cast in favor of Zeller, but it was a first place vote. With the play of Butler, Green and Hassan Whiteside this season, who would possibly give their first place nod to Zeller!?
Who else? Let's just say you can give Zeller the regular season "Tommy Award". That's right, Celtics television color commentator Tommy Heinsohn gave Zeller his first place vote, helping him crack the top ten in a tie for 10th with DeMarre Carroll who also received one first place vote.
Most Improved Player: Tommy Heinsohn was lone 1st-place vote for Tyler Zeller; Cedric Maxwell was lone 2nd-place vote for Jae Crowder.— Ben Rohrbach (@brohrbach) May 7, 2015
Also receiving a hometown nod in the voting for the Boston Celtics was small forward Jae Crowder, getting a 2nd place vote from Celtics radio color commentator, Cedric Maxwell. Hey, at least Cornbread was modest and didn't just throw out the 1st place vote. Crowder played well after being traded to the Celtics in the Rajon Rondo deal, but he didn't really do anything to warrant catching a vote for the MIP.
His PER was middle of the pack for small forwards, though it should be noted that Crowder finished with a PER of 13.93, which was just under that of former Celtic Jeff Green's mark at 14.48. He also showed some leadership qualities in the playoffs, albeit in a series his team lost and got swept in. That being said, the thought of him being the Most Improved Player in the league is laughable.
So this leads us to one glaring question. Who was the Boston Celtics' most improved player this season? Was it Tyler Zeller, Jae Crowder, or neither? What about Isaiah Thomas (who had a top ten PER ranking for point guards)? Who would you cast a vote for? Tell us in the comments section.
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Barros photo - Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
C's bench photo - Jim Davis/Boston Globe muggsytobs 5/07/2015 09:13:00 PM Tweet Edit