Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA basketball news visit FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com, a fantasy basketball blog.
The "Most Improved Player" award gathers a boatload of promising athletes who make tremendous strides from one year to the next, thus being considered for the award. Over the last three players to win this award, two of them have shown huge improvements since. Kevin Love won the award during the 2010-2011 season and Paul George won the award during the 2012-2013 season. They were both named starters for the NBA All-Star Game this season. Even better, they have both stood out to be legitimate M.V.P. candidates, far behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The third player to win the award was Ryan Anderson during the 2011-2012 season, he was averaging close to twenty points through 22 games this season before coming down with an injury.
It’s no doubt that the players given the award, like the trio above, often flourish into the NBA’s stars of tomorrow. It’s a great honor and is truly given to the people showing improvement through hard work and dedication. One of this season’s most deserving candidates for the award has gone on a journey not usually taken with players today. He has undergone a transformation and has returned stronger than ever, not only benefiting his own career, but his new team as well.
This man is none other than the NBA D-League alumni Gerald Green, who is now a part of the Phoenix Suns. Unlike Kevin Love or Paul George, who made efficient progress every year, Green has seen his share of ups and downs in the NBA, or even out of it for that matter. It took Green quite a while to make a mark in this league. Establishing staying power in the NBA wasn’t about realizing any existent potential or proving his skills. Much like most young players, Green’s play was rather erratic. He lacked a certain calmness, which resulted in little control. He also lacked the necessary maturity level needed to be a force in The Association. With a lot to refine, Gerald Green left the NBA, mainly because he had nowhere else to go, and ventured overseas to play international ball for two-plus seasons.
Going overseas isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s possible to play internationally, make a respectable living and do just fine without ever returning to the NBA ever again. That’s just the long and short of it all. Stuff like that happens. When Green returned to the NBA and a team was willing to take a chance with him, he needed to ensure that the risk they were taking would immediately prove to pay dividends for that team. In 2012, the Nets opted to roll the dice with Green, and he rewarded them. Since then, Green received a long-term contract from the Pacers and is now established as a stud for the Phoenix Suns.
Gerald Green is averaging 15.4 points per game on 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range. He’s a very explosive player that engages in offensive outbursts often. It’s safe to say he has never been this consistent in his career, which says a lot given the strides he has had to make to get here.
Green’s time overseas has played a huge role as he paid his respective dues and honed many facets pertaining to his overall game and attitude. Having said that, however, the guidance he received from Coach Eric Musselman while playing in the D-League has had a major impact on his continued improvement as well. Coach Musselman discussed some of the reasons behind Green’s evident growth, in addition to what makes him a special player. Highlighting the success of Green, the coach asserted, "For the players, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. It’s the same thing with coaches. A lot of time, coaches will have great players, and things work out well. It’s the same thing with the players. You can look at a guy like Gerald [Green] over the last three years. First, he goes to Lakers’ camp. He doesn’t play, gets cut, and then he heads to the D-League." Coach Musselman continued, "After playing in a handful of [D-League] games, Gerald goes to the Nets and gets a chance because Avery Johnson believed in him. Then when he goes to Indiana, he gets zero opportunity because they already have guys like Danny Granger and Paul George. Now he’s in Phoenix, and he’s gotten an opportunity because of how their roster is. The key is staying ready physically and mentally when that chance comes. I have great admiration for Gerald, because he does a great job handling whatever is thrown at him. He’s been able to stay ready."
Green isn’t your everyday player who has had a relatively easy and convenient route to the NBA, like most players do. That is one reason he could be viewed at as the "Most Improved." Obviously, for more reasons than just one or two. His recent dominant play in the NBA has much to do with an array of intangible things, as well as his increased production and efficiency as well. In essence, Green represents much of what makes the D-League so great. Though his immaturity may have been the factor that got him in that position in the first place, Green has made the most out of his second chance. He is matured now.
For all that he has done, had to endure, and prove, Green may be the minor league’s most deserving alumni of a major NBA award to date. Earning himself an "M.I.P" award would certainly say it all for a player like himself. Now with 5 games left in the regular season, Green is averaging 15.8 points per game, 3.4 rebounds per game, 1.5 assists per game and 0.8 steals per game on 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from long range. In the month of April alone, he is averaging 23.7 points per game in hope to lead his team into, and hopefully through, the playoffs.