Hassan Whiteside: NBA’s Most Improved Player?


Somehow we have already found ourselves in March, with only about five weeks left until the NBA season ends. And as the 2015 playoffs approach, the discussion of who should be crowned Most Improved Player has begun.

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As the name suggests, the MIP award is given once a season to the athlete who has gone through the biggest transformation. The winner is selected by a group of sportswriters who each vote for their first, second and third place choices. A first-place vote earns five points, a second-place one earns three and finally a third-place vote earns one. Therefore, the player with the most number of points wins the award.

So far there have been 29 MIP awards given, and this year, it should be Hassan Whiteside’s turn.

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At first glance, this statement may seem unsupported. Coming into the 2014-2015 season, Whiteside had previously been a part of nine professional basketball teams in four years; four teams overseas, four D-League teams and one NBA team. He was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2010, but did not make his way back into the league until this year when he was signed by the Miami Heat on November 24. And as it stands, he has only played in 54 NBA games period.

However, it is time to forget about his past, the stories that so much of the media has been concentrating on. MIP is about what has transpired in this season alone, and well, when it comes to Whiteside, I think his numbers speak for themselves.

Whiteside is averaging 11 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, on 22 minutes of play, but what is even better is that the big man is continuously improving.

His statistics (on average) this year, broken down by month, are as follows:

December: 3.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

January: 13 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.4 blocks

February: 14.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks

March (so far): 15 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.7 blocks

Beyond just his raw ability though, Whiteside has also started to show some growth in his maturity level. Although in the moment he may still seem hotheaded, he has learned to reflect on his mistakes and shows a willingness to learn from them as well. It appears as though the more the league and its fans start to appreciate the Miami newcomer, the more he lets down his guard.

Recipient of MIP or not, Whiteside has nothing left to prove to himself or the Heat; between the revamp of the team as a whole (starting in the summer and continuing up until the trade deadline), and all of the injuries sustained throughout the season, the 7-footer has definitely been a beacon of positivity among a handful of negatives. But being recognized as most improved would certainly be a nice way to end the chapter of a book, that I predict has only just begun.

Two Miami players, Rony Seikaly (1990) and Issac Austin (1997) have previously won MIP. Whiteside’s teammate Goran Dragic won MIP last year, when he was still with the Phoenix Suns.

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