Why the Cavs’ Darius Garland should’ve won Most Improved Player

Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Recently the Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant was able to take home honors for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Ja Morant won with a total of 221 points, while the San Antonio Spurs’ Dejounte Murray just edged out the Cleveland CavaliersDarius Garland for second with 183 points and Garland finished third with 178 total points.

I can understand why voters decided to go with Ja Morant. Morant was the second overall pick in the very same draft class the Cavs took Garland (5th). Morant off last season was already viewed as a star and one of the games’ better point guards. Last year the Grizzlies were able to make the Western Conference playoffs after beating the Golden State Warriors in the play-in tournament.

This year the Grizzlies took a huge leap finishing with 56 wins and the second seed in the Western Conference, while Morant went from star to a superstar player that was in the MVP conversation. While many didn’t expect the Grizzlies to be the #1 seed, expectations were high for them coming into the season.

In my opinion I would’ve had Garland first, Murray second and Morant third. This isn’t to take anything away from Morant, as he took a massive leap this year, but I feel like where most viewed Garland and Murray before the reason, compared to Morant, those two had wider improvements.

Here’s why the Cavs’ Garland should’ve won MIP this year.

In the case of Garland last season he was good and his second half was very promising and he left as someone that had a lot of potential to work with. Last year Garland averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 39.5 percent from three and 45.1 percent from the field overall.

This year he took a major leap forward as his points output jumped to 21.7, and he leveled up as a passer/playmaker while averaging 8.6 assists, to go with 1.3 steals. He shot 46.2 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three. It also shouldn’t go without mentioning the major strides Garland made as a defender as well. He went from a defensive liability to someone that is actually decent defensively.

Not many pundits coming into the season had very high expectations for the Cavaliers, either, so that’s part of why I believe Garland should’ve won Most Improved. The Cavs shattered their preseason expectations and while there were other reasons why they were able to accomplish that, Garland was the biggest reason for that. Garland went from a good player that had upside to a legitimate star, and likely max player who is knocking on the door to superstardom.

Morant was deserving, but in my opinion, that’s what separated the two and realistically, Murray’s leap was more significant.

Spurs guard Dejounte Murray also had a very strong case for Most Improved Player as well. The previous year Murray averaged 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.5 steals, while shooting 45.3 from the field overall and 31.7 percent from three. This year he made a big jump in points at 21.1 points, to go with 9.2 assists, 8.3 rebs and 2 steals, while shooting 46.2 from the field and 32.7 from three.

Murray is more of a physical specimen then Garland, is a better athlete, an elite defender and  really offers the complete package at that position. Murray had a very good argument, too, as he had a pretty big leap this year, as he made his first All-Star appearance.

Even in a down bottom tier of the West, they were able to overtake the Los Angeles Lakers for the final play-in berth, which is impressive also, considering the Spurs were supposed to bottom out this year and end up with a very high lottery pick it appeared.

I’d say the difference between the two and was over the course of the season is Garland was just a little more efficient for the year overall. And he was on a team that until the injuries completely did them in, was on pace to eclipse 50 wins and still ended up with 10 more wins than Murray’s team.

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Garland carried the Cavs all year and was the most important player on a 44-win team. Still, it was a really close call between Murray and Garland, to me, but I would’ve given Garland the slight nod for Most Improved Player.