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Why the NBA D-League's "Most Improved Player" Award Could Use Some Improvement

Able to be earned by first-year players, the D-League's "Most Improved Player" award could, ironically enough, use some improvement.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last decade, a slew of the NBA's most promising athletes have won the Most Improved Player award after a breakout campaign, and have subsequently gone on to become even more prominent in the league today. Paul George (2008-09) and Kevin Love (201-11) are two of the NBA's best players (and all-stars, to boot), while Boris Diaw (2005-06), Monta Ellis (2006-07), Ryan Anderson (2011-12), and Goran Dragic (2013-14) have all risen up to become quality contributors on talented teams.

Needless to say, the list goes on. That aside, awarding such players with this honor usually signifies that they're on the cusp of accomplishing something even more special in The Association.

Obviously, presenting such an award to a respective young gun has different ramifications in the D-League. Players strut their stuff in the minor league while hoping to catch on with an NBA team. When/if that doesn't happens, it usually presents an aforementioned athlete with the opportune time to cash in on a more lucrative contract overseas.

The award is a reflection of someone's successful D-League campaign. That said, it doesn't necessarily recognize their evident progress from one season to the next. The minor league opts to sometimes present the award to first-year players, asserting that it, "honors the player who demonstrated the most significant improvement through the course of the season" when rookie Frank Gaines (then of the Maine Red Claws) won the award just last season. He flocked to Italy this season before returning to the D-League after his rights were traded to the Oklahoma City Blue.

Could this an honor be providing first-year players with an easy and/or quick out following a rookie campaign?

Such recognition obviously carries a lot of weight, especially with international teams. It clearly sparks more interest, especially as out of town executives search from afar for some of the league's most intriguing prospects.

It's impossible to ignore that Gaines progressed rather quickly and was in fact the D-League's most improved player from the start to the finish of the season. His numbers increased across the board from month to month as he nabbed himself a more formidable role with the Red Claws. He earned the honor given, and it's not his fault that the necessary (or not so necessary, rather) qualifications may be flawed.

In a league where so many players, coaches, and executives come and go while moving on to greener pastures from one season to the next, perhaps it'd be more worthwhile to actually reward the players who show dedication and come back for more. After all, the D-League is all about development, and it could benefit all parties involved to recognize those who choose to utilize the tools the minor league provides them with to the fullest, especially when that means sticking around for more than one season.