Incase you thought I meant "MVP" and just didn't notice a typo, "MIP" stands for Most Improved Player. The NBA gives out this award at the end of every season and I figured we could apply the same to the Cavaliers at the midpoint of this season.
The one problem that I have with the MIP award is that it generally just goes to a guy who saw increased minutes. It doesn't always mean that he got significantly better, but rather that he is finally getting a chance to put up big numbers. In my opinion, that was the case when Kevin Love won the award last year. For the record, if I had to select an MIP for the NBA season right now, I'd probably go with DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings.
Here's my nominees for Cavaliers Most Improved Player (of the first half).
Boobie has flown under the radar for the most part, but I think he's having a pretty solid year. His numbers are down, but the area that I think he's shown the most improvement is on the defensive side of the ball. Defensively, he's been one of the best perimeter players on the Cavaliers roster. If there was always one knock on Boobie's game, it was the fact that he was such a poor defender. It appears the Byron Scott has gotten through to Boobie and has him playing defense at a much higher level this year. So, like I said, his offensive numbers are down, but I believe much of that has to do with the various injuries he has dealt with. It is his improved play on defense that grabbed my attention and made me consider him for the award.
Before he got hurt, Andy was playing some of the best basketball of his life. He was incredibly active on the pick and roll and did his normal thing on the boards. Actually, let me backtrack a bit. He didn't do his normal thing on the boards -- he was even better. He's working on career highs in total rebounding rate and PER. At the time of his injury, he led the league in offensive rebounding rate. He's become a better weapon on offense and the all around emotional leader of this squad. It was a shame to see him get injured, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Varejao was having the best season of his career.
Gee has developed into a viable wing player in the NBA. Last year, he was pretty much just speed and athleticism. This time around, it's apparent that he has worked on many different parts of his game. He's able to knock down open jumpers now. It seems simple, but an effective jumper goes such a long way to opening up the rest of his game. If a defender has to respect his ability to hit shots, they can't just sit back and anticipate the drive. Once he catches them sleeping on the drive, Gee tends to rise up and punish the rim. Gee's defense is probably the best out of any perimeter player on this team. He's got the length and athleticism to cover the opponent's best wing scorer on most nights. Essentially, Alonzo is becoming what we figured Christian Eyenga would end up being. There was clamoring at the beginning of the year to have Gee start over Omri Casspi, but it soon became clear that Scott likes to have Gee coming off of the bench and I can't really argue with that. He's flourished in that role and just keeps getting better.