An eye for an eye, as they say. ESPN’s The Jump suckered me into another loud debate video today with a clickbait tweet and now I pass the clickbait onto you. The question asked to resident smart guy Zach Lowe and former players Richard Jefferson and Tracy McGrady: who is the Most Improved Player this season, Pascal Siakam or D’Angelo Russell?
#TheJump is off today to make room for baseball’s Opening Day, but if you still need your NBA fix, please enjoy @ZachLowe_NBA and @RJeff24 get into a very, um, impassioned discussion on the Most Improved Player award. pic.twitter.com/492wK04ssZ— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 28, 2019
As the graphic in the segment and Lowe points out, it is probably Siakam. The 9.3 points per game jump, the fact that he went from “guy who can barely play basketball” to the third best player on the second best team in the East. You know, that stuff.
The arguments against that point by Jefferson and McGrady?
- But D’Angelo Russell had that one big game!
- Has Pascal Siakam really improved this season? He’s just playing more!
I don’t want to numb your brains, or lend too much credence to the Raptors’ most vocal ex-player, but yes... Siakam has improved. Anybody who’s watched the Raptors or played the Raptors this season can see that. We’re approaching the end of the regular season, and there’s still teams that aren’t forcing Siakam left, or watching him blow by, or getting duped by a spin move. He’s a +10 net rating, 62.0 TS%, master of the white square on the backboard, athletic nightmare for oppositions. Siakam is so good that he’s still beating the scouting reports, and the snow is melting in Canada.
The debate between Russell and Siakam for MIP is a legitimate one. But de-escalating the conversation to “has Siakam really improved?” is not.