After being included in the discussion for Most Improved Player the past three seasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo will finally take home the official award. Given out during tonight’s The NBA Award show on TNT, Giannis beat Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert for the distinction. Earlier today, they announced that Giannis also made the All-NBA Defense Second Team, an honor that further illustrates his all around impact on the court.
At this point I don't really need to reiterate how spectacular Giannis was this past season, but I never get sick of talking about it so here goes. He averaged career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks. He also ranked in the top-20 total in the league for all categories. Both Jokic and Gobert has stellar seasons, but it's hard to deny that Giannis’ impact was felt acutely on both ends while the two international big men often cut their teeth on one end of the court.
Interestingly, this category also only featured international players, the only one of the night with that nominee makeup. While a Most Improved Player award is far from cementing someone’s legacy, the last four winners (C.J. McCollum, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Paul George) have indicated that greater things are often still on the horizon. Of course, Ryan Anderson and Aaron Brooks also won the award in recent memory, but lets sweep them under the rug and know Giannis is well beyond their middling ability already.
It was more important that Giannis name was orbiting the MVP discussion on some level, but this is a comforting validation of the work that’s gone into building his game to this point. Given his elevation in status this season, he will probably never be able to win this award again barring some incredible leap, although I'm not ruling anything out at this point. So let’s enjoy the first Milwaukee Buck to win this award and think about how silly it was these results didn’t leak throughout the course of the NBA Playoffs.