I got together with the D-League blogosphere (myself, Jon L and Mike Gansey from Ridiculous Upside, Steve Weinman from D-League Digest, Matt Hubert from Blog Talk BayHawk and Matt Moore from D-League Fanhouse) to discuss the best in the D-League from the regular season. What'd we talk about? Well, all sorts of things pertaining to the D-League.
In the end, though, we decided to give out the same awards that the D-League coaches vote on: Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Impact Player of the Year and Coach of the Year - as well as our own All-D-League teams.
This morning, our first award, the most improved player, goes to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants Rob Kurz. Kurz averaged 17.5 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 49% from the field and an impressive 44% from beyond the arc while adding 1.5 blocks per game for good measure.
I realize you're probably thinking "Wait, he was in the NBA (40 games (5 starts) with the Golden State Warriors) last season! How could he be the most improved player in the D-League this season!?"
Well, it's because, in our collective opinion, he's actually improved the most of any player in the D-League under the Fort Wayne Mad Ants' coaching staff.
I previewed this a bit in our March 9th call-up rankings:
Kurz gets my mid-season award for using the D-League most effectively. Last season with Golden State, he was primarily (read: only) a pick-and-pop shooter. After that gig didn't fly in a number of opportunities this off-season (Orlando Summer League with the 76ers/Nets combined team, Vegas Summer League with the TWolves, preseason with the Cavs), he came to the D-League and has worked on becoming more than a shooter. It's actually really working. I'm not sure how much credit to give to his coach (Joey Meyer was also credited for developing Ramon Sessions while in the D-League), but Kurz is now able to score in the post and averaging over 10 boards per game as the lone bright spot for his struggling Mad Ants. Oh, and don't worry - his 45% shooting from beyond the arc proves he's still able to shoot as well.
I went a bit further when calling for the Nuggets to call him up instead of Brian Cook (Brian Butch eventually got the nod):
Realizing he'd have to develop his game if he wanted to make it back to the NBA, Kurz joined the NBA Development League (fitting, isn't it?). In his time in the D-League, he's worked on becoming a more complete player - and it's actually working.
The biggest improvements (and things he can presumably do better than Cook) are:
- He can score in the post! Kurz is now scoring at one of the highest rates in the D-League when it comes to the low post, averaging 1.21 points per possession. More telling, though, is that he spends 19% of his time in the post. While that doesn't seem like a high percentage, the only thing he does more than doing work in the post is spot-up shooting (23%).
- He can rebound! Kurz is averaging 10.1 rebounds a game, third best in the D-League.
- He can play defense! According to Synergy, he's a "very good" post defender. While it's a rather small sample size, I'm told Brian Cook ranks as a "poor" overall defender this season, though he didn't have enough playing time to be ranked in any individual category.
- He can still shoot! I know I mentioned it earlier, but it probably bears mentioning again. Kurz has hit 46% of his shots from beyond the arc and 53% from inside the arc.
- Rob Kurz has sweet highlight videos from his time with Golden State. Okay, so the highlights were pretty much just jump shots, but the music was sweet. If anyone ever makes a highlight video of me, I prefer it to be set to a Macho Man Randy Savage diss track.
All that said, I'm unsure how he wasn't able to get back into the NBA this season after improving so much since actually being in the NBA last season. I do hear that the Warriors might make one more dip into the D-League this season, though, so all hope might not be lost.