Detroit Pistons: Predictions for individual awards
Most Improved – Nerlens Noel
I would love to give this to Killian Hayes, but I’m not convinced he will ever pan out at this point. Cunningham and Bey will probably take big steps this season, as Bey has every year, but Nerlens Noel should be the candidate to win this award.
A highly touted prospect in 2013, Noel never really panned out as expected. He is an old-school center who can be a top-tier defender, but he hasn’t been a starter since 2016. That being said, he’s been a solid bench center since, hence his staying in the league.
The Pistons have plenty of centers. Stewart is a small ball, Olynyk is floor spacing, Duren is the athlete, and Noel and Bagley are the traditional bigs. I think Stewart needs to be slotted more to power forward, Olynyk should be phased out for the younger kids, and Duren may spend most of the year developing, much to the chagrin of fans.
That leaves Noel and Bagley to fight over the center spot. Even if Bagley beats him out, which I suspect will happen, Noel will get his fair share of minutes. In order to be Most Improved, you don’t need to start, you just need to establish a real role that will last a long time.
If Noel can reliably be a ten-point, seven rebounds, 25-minute guy, then he should have this locked up. If not, I wouldn’t expect him to call the Motor City home for that long.