"Can Abdul Gaddy win the Most Improved Player award?"
While in Maine watching the Red Claws last week, such a question was posed to me by one of the team's fans. Currently in his first season in the NBA D-League, Gaddy, Maine's stud floor general, is of course, ineligible for such an honor. But the fact that such a sentiment was suggested proves this: everyone who has watched Gaddy over the course of this season makes note of the obvious progress he's made from day one to now.
The Red Claws have an abundance of talent --- forward Chris Wright was just called up by the Milwaukee Bucks for the second time this season. Chris Babb caught on with the affiliated Boston Celtics earlier in the year. Sharpshooter Frank Gaines is a favorite for the minor league's "Rookie of the Year" award.Tyshawn Taylor and Daniel Orton are also examples of former NBA players in town.
Still, one can argue that as a smart point guard and an extension of Coach Mike Taylor on the floor, Gaddy was the glue that held them all together all season.
Having averaged 9.0 points, 5.0 assists, and 3.2 rebounds, Gaddy started 32 out of 46 contests played. What's more, in addition to his assist number, his shooting percentages (49% from the field and 42% from deep) were also higher than that of Babb's at the time of the latter's call-up.
What truly makes Gaddy a solid player are his instincts. He keeps defenses honest with his prowess from long range, but frankly, the ability to pick his spots, pull up for shots, and/or find his teammates in transition is what makes him worth having on the floor.
"I think the fact that [my] coaches push [me] to continue to improve on the both ends of the floor, play hard, and have a good attitude are all motivations factors for me," Gaddy recently told RidiculousUpside.com. "I think some people look down on the D-League, because it's not the NBA, obviously. I look at it as a chance to get better. There a lot of good players in this league, guys who have been in the NBA. So you're always going up against good players."
Following Babb's call-up, many people in Maine quickly took further notice of Gaddy's continued progression while stepping up in a pivotal role. Recognizing his own improvement, the guard added, "I think I've been playing better overall. I'm playing better defense and shooting the ball better. I've taken control of the team at the point guard position by making the right plays."
Of course, having talented teammates around makes things much easier, and Gaddy was the first to give credit to the aforementioned players for doing just that. He added that Gaines' evident scoring prowess makes it easier for himself and his back court mate to play off of one another's abilities on offense.
Gaddy proved this season that he can do all of the things necessary (regardless of how small or large) to make his teammates look good on a nightly basis. Being a team player will net a young gun much more consideration from NBA teams looking for talent, rather than a player who looks to be out for himself.
Having spent training camp with the Charlotte Bobcats last fall, Gaddy's solid play this season will certainly help his cause when it comes to earning a Summer League invite or another training camp gig later this year. Much to his own credit, the Washington alum's own decision to play in the D-League (as opposed to overseas) ensured that he remans fresh on the minds of important decision-makers in the NBA.
"My dream is to play in the NBA. [The D-League] is the closest thing to the NBA. I didn't really care (about the potential negative connotation of the D-League), because the way I look at it, I'm getting paid to play basketball," he asserted. "I'm having fun and playing against good competition. I love the game. I just come out here to get better."