Now that the NBA restart is imminent, fans and commentators are buzzing about the annual awards doled out each season. While Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic will likely miss their bids at the Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year awards, respectively, the Heat have two candidates for the Most Improved Player.
Erik Spoelstra said he’d give a co-award to both of them.
The Heat has two candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award — Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson.— Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) July 25, 2020
Erik Spoelstra: “Don’t make me have to answer which one I would pick. I would give a co-award to both of them.” https://t.co/kNLjnlA6qO
Duncan Robinson and Bam Adebayo have both emerged as integral parts of the Heat’s success. Robinson thrived off the Adebayo dribble hand-off all season long, in fact. But either of them winning Most Improved Player would represent a different interpretation of the award.
Bam Adebayo being able to lead the break and initiate offense allows Miami to emphasize early clock actions like this simple DHO.— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) July 21, 2020
Bam and Duncan Robinson are awesome in DHOs and Atlanta has no chance to stop it: pic.twitter.com/2qI2juyUHn
An Adebayo win would follow the path recent MIP award winners have taken — a good player rises to the level of an All-Star. Last year’s winner, Pascal Siakam, did that. So did Jimmy Butler, who won the award in 2015. (Although Goran Dragic didn’t make the All-Star team when he won the award for the 2013-14 season, he made the All-NBA Third Team that year.)
That’s why Adebayo has consistently appeared at or near the top in rankings of the award. ESPN’s Zach Lowe voted him second behind Brandon Ingram for the award. And in his explanation, he mentions Robinson in a group of players who “start from a baseline of zero” and are “almost rookies.” Ultimately, Lowe settles on a traditional set of finalists.
Last season, Robinson was on a two-way contract with the Heat and appeared in just 15 games. But that hard work he put in with the Sioux Falls Skyforce has turned him into perhaps the Heat’s most important offensive player. In fact, Robinson’s emergence may have been just as much a factor in the decision to trade Justise Winslow as anything else — Winslow’s injury, Derrick Jones Jr.’s progression.
Adebayo is the better candidate if the reporters have the same criteria they have had in the past. But Robinson’s trajectory from Division III college player to starter on a playoff team led the Wall Street Journal to call him “the most improbable player in the NBA.”