Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (559 votes) was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Friday, winning in a landslide over Charlotte’s Kemba Walker (166) and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo (99).
Here’s the complete voting breakdown:
— SI NBA (@si_nba) April 22, 2016
The award was essentially McCollum’s to lose after the third-year guard got off to a hot start to the season, stepping into a starting role following the departure of Wes Matthews to Dallas last summer. McCollum scored a career-best 37 points on opening night and would go on to average 20.8 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game while shooting 45% from the floor and 42% from three on the season.
The numbers represent a major leap after McCollum closed 2014-15 with averages of just 6.8 points, 1.0 assists and 1.5 rebounds in less than 16 minutes per game. McCollum averaged nearly 35 minutes per game this season, good for 23rd in the NBA.
Historically, the award is given to a player whose numbers increase dramatically from one season to the next, rather than improve over the course of a single season.
While Antetokounmpo certainly upped his production in Year 3, it was the contrast between the first and second half of this season that was most noteworthy.
Antetokounmpo, who finished seventh in MIP voting last season, entered the All-Star break averaging 15.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists. After the break, his production jumped to 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game as he transitioned to playing the point guard position almost full-time. Antetokounmpo racked up five triple-doubles over the Bucks’ final 26 games and was either a rebound or an assist away from two more over that span.
Despite Antetokounmpo’s gaudy numbers, the Bucks remained a bottom-tier team in the East, finishing 33-49, 11 games back of Detroit for the eighth seed. Milwaukee especially struggled down the stretch, losing five of its last six games and 10 of its last 13, which may have deterred voters.
McCollum’s Trail Blazers and Walker’s Hornets each finished sixth in their respective conferences and qualified for the playoffs.
A Bucks player has never been named the Most Improved Player since the NBA began handing out the award in 1985-86. Prior to Antetokounmpo, Larry Sanders was the last Buck to receive serious consideration, finishing third behind Paul George and then-Hornet Greivis Vasquez in 2012-13.
The NBA is yet to announce its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year, but the Bucks are not expected to have anyone in contention for those awards.