Greg Monroe for Most Improved Player

Patrick has repeatedly complained about the Pistons not promoting their players – especially irritating considering how hard they sell their halftime acts. So, we’re doing something about it.

Though the Pistons are finishing a lousy season, they still have players who deserve at least consideration for post-season awards, and we’re going to tell you why. But because we don’t receive a paycheck from the Pistons, we’re not going to stop there like they would if they conducted this campaign themselves. We’re also going to evaluate whether the player actually deserves the honor.

Here’s our look at Greg Monroe for Most Improved Player.

Making the case

Patrick Hayes: The Most Improved player race is a crowded one, with plenty of deserving candidates — Jeremy Lin may have saved the Knicks season, Nikola Pekovic may have made T-Wolves fans forget David Kahn also signed Darko Milicic, James Harden has emerged as a legit head on a three-headed monster in Oklahoma City, Andrew Bynum has turned into a superstar (complete with diva attitude, which should count for something) and Roy Hibbert’s improvement has been a big reason the Pacers made another jump forward this season.

Some of those guys probably improved more than Monroe did. But all of those players mentioned above have much better players around them than Monroe did.

Seriously, the guy can’t even get a proper entry pass into the post half the time. Imagine if Monroe played on a team committed to getting him 15 shots per game? He’d be an All-Star right now, even if his defense is still lagging.

Dan Feldman: Last year, Greg Monroe’s offense consisted of putbacks and getting set up by teammates. This year, the Pistons have asked him to shoulder a much larger burden, and he’s risen to the challenge.

Monroe’s points per game improved by 6.1 from last season – the 10th largest improvement in the league – and although his efficiency dropped slightly, his usage skyrocketed from 15.4 to 23.7. For a player to handle such a substantially increased role with such a small drop in true-shooting percentage (57.5 to 56.3) takes a real improvement.

Monroe unleashed parts of his game not seen last year, especially a one-on-one game that efficiently and methodically dismantled opponents. Whether using his mid-range jumper, strong first step or nifty post moves – skills not seen last season – Monroe scored like a crafty veteran.

And these numbers aren’t a product of selfishness. With the ball in hands more, Monroe showed off the passing ability that had scouts raving at Georgetown but didn’t appear last year. His assist percentage nearly doubled, going from 7.5 to 14.0.

All the while, Monroe’s calling card last season – rebounding – actually improved. His defensive-rebounding percentage climbed from 20.4 to 23.8, and his offensive-rebounding percentage increased from 13.0 to 13.3.

Honest assessment

Patrick Hayes: As a Pistons fan, I’m picking Monroe. If I were a voting member of the media who had to cover up my biases and pretend to be a passionless observer, it would be a tossup between Bynum and Harden for me.

Honestly, I’m just pumped that Monroe is getting consideration from the national media for awards this year. I’m not greedy, the Pistons are bad, Monroe’s defense is nowhere near his offense yet, I get that there are rational arguments as to why he probably shouldn’t win.

But like earlier in the season when I ranted that no one touted his All-Star credentials, it wasn’t that I necessarily wanted him to be considered over someone having a better season than him. I just want people to realize how close he is to getting awards and recognition, something he was undoubtedly shortchanged on last year.

Monroe won’t win, but him being a contender for the award is good enough for now.

Dan Feldman: Monroe won’t make my TrueHoop Network ballot for Most Improved Player, which goes three deep like the NBA’s.

There’s no doubt that Monroe made real gains and deserves a lot of credit for it, and in some years, he’d get my vote. But his advancement didn’t occur in a vacuum, and other players improved more this year.

Jeremy Lin’s advancement was historic. Nikola Pekovic went from far worse than Monroe to nearly as good. Kevin Durant, James Harden and Andrew Bynum were already at least very good and got significantly better – arguably a more difficult move. Ryan Anderson’s improvement has probably been overrated, but he still deserves credit.

Nearly every player listed above improved on both sides of the ball. Monroe, for the most part, didn’t. His defense still lags, and although that’s not as sexy as his offensive improvement, it should still count.

I expect Monroe to get some votes for the award. He certainly belongs in the discussion. But he’s not in my top three – though, he could be next year.

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