Beasley, Hibbert early favorites for Most Improved Player
It has been about a month into the NBA season, and things are beginning to take form, some more surprising than others.
Two of the more-pleasant surprises this season have been the improved play from both Minnesota’s Michael Beasley and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert, and both are positioning themselves for a strong run at the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Beasley has finally been set free from Miami, where he languished for two years. Partly due to maturity issues and partly due to a poor fit, he averaged just 14.3 points in 27.3 minutes per game. But when he was sent packing to the frozen North of Minnesota by the Heat in a salary dump trade during the offseason, little did anyone know that he would finally tap into the talent that had been missing for the last two years.
Through his first 13 games, Beasley has averaged 22.4 points — good enough for 15th in the NBA — as well as 5.7 rebounds in a career-best 32.5 minutes.
His first seven games for the Timberwolves were fairly pedestrian before a 42-point, 9-rebound outburst against Sacramento. In his six games from that point on, he is averaging 31.3 points and 6.8 rebounds as Minnesota’s newest go-to guy.
He finally resembles the player who challenged Derrick Rose for the No. 1 overall selection back in the 2008 NBA Draft coming out of Kansas State, leading many to wonder why he couldn’t produce numbers like these for the Heat.
Simply put, Beasley’s current play is as much a credit to his work and natural talent as it is a condemnation of Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Between Wade dominating the ball and coach Erik Spoelstra failing to effectively utilize his talents, Beasley never stood much of a chance.
That is not an issue for him now, as he has a perfect role for the young Timberwolves and is thriving as few others have up in Minneapolis.
A little farther south in Indiana, another player who had flirted with the bust tag is finally carving out a niche for himself.
Roy Hibbert, the 7-2 Georgetown product, was the 17th pick of the 2008 draft. He had high expectations placed on him when he was dealt to the Pacers but averaged just 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds as a rookie and saw players like Jeff Foster and Rasho Nesterovic take a chunk of his minutes. His numbers did not improve significantly in his sophomore campaign either, averaging just 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.
But this season, he has taken a big step towards realizing the talent many scouts saw in him and becoming a force in the paint. Hibbert is averaging 16.7 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks through his first 11 games and shooting well too, hitting 47.7 percent of his field goals and 80.8 percent of his free throws.
To put Hibbert’s production into perspective, New Jersey’s Brook Lopez is averaging 17.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks this season.
Hibbert’s ability to be a force for a small Indiana team has allowed that group to exceed expectations. The Pacers sit at 5-6 and have been one of the tougher teams to play as of late.
While the season may still be months from wrapping up, both Beasley and Hibbert are turning heads and gaining attention for their play early in the season. If this keeps up, the Most Improved Player race may be one of the closest this year.
By: Eric Lorenz
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