It’s not surprising that Paul George won the Most Improved Player award, because the Indiana Pacers swingman saw his per game averages shoot up by over five points per game, with a 3.7 per game uptick in combined assists/rebounds in 2012-13. All of this work, and all of the MIP voting , came before Sunday’s fantastic triple-double effort in Indiana’s win over the Atlanta Hawks in the first game of the Pacers’ postseason. On top of that, George has remained a stalwart and at times dominant defender in Indiana’s league-leading defensive attack – Paul led the NBA with 6.3 Defensive Win Shares this season, a statistic that weighs heavily on minutes per game (explaining teammate Roy Hibbert’s fifth-place ranking).
What is surprising is the near unanimity in which George was chosen. The man received a shocking (to me, at least) 52 first place votes, exactly as many as the second through fifth-place MIP contenders (in order: Greivis Vasquez, Larry Sanders, Nikola Vucevic, Jrue Holiday) received.
We’re not bashing George’s numbers in the wake of increased minutes and increased responsibility – it’s just fine that his shooting percentages went down this year in the wake from Danny Granger’s absence, and his defensive acumen made him a deserved All-Star – we’re just questioning the Most Improved Player vote. And, worse, the one-sidedness of what should have been a very close contest with George possibly rounding out the top five.