On June 27th, 2017, MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg of the German BBL (Basketball Bundesliga) signed former Florida guard Michael Frazier to play with the club during that forthcoming season. Unfortunately, that relationship didn’t last long as the team decided to void the contract on August 12th due to the Gators alum failing a physical due to a knee injury. The German club was right to make that decision as Frazier would not play a second of basketball during the 2017-18 season.
As Frazier would later describe in an interview with USA Basketball, that moment marked the lowest point in his career where he wondered if his hoop dreams were about to end. “There was a period there when I was really down, and I was really unsure and uncertain if I was able to recover from the injury and really able to get back to a level where I could compete at the professional level,” Frazier said in a February interview with USA Basketball. “I couldn’t even explain that feeling at the age of 22, 23 years old, if I would ever play the game I love again, that was a pretty rough time.”
After recovering from that season-ending injury, Frazier looked to the utilize the G League to restart his pro career. That marked his second stint in the G League as he spent the 2015-16 campaign playing for the LA D-Fenders, Iowa Energy and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. During that season, Frazier struggled with consistent playing time as he put up 6.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 43% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc in only 17 minutes per game.
Fortunately, the bad luck he faced in Germany and during that first G League stint subsided in 2018-19. Playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Frazier stood out as one of the best guards in the entire league as he averaged 16.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game on 45% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Those numbers mark an improvement in every statistical category from points, assists, rebounds and steals per game to field goal and three-point percentages.
Along with how he progressed from his up-and-down play in 2015-16, Frazier also made some huge strides as the season went on. From November 2nd to December 31st, he averaged 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals on 45% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Those numbers grew from January 1st until the end of the regular season as Frazier put up 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 45% from beyond the arc and 37% from beyond the arc.
That statistical advancement over the course of the season allowed Frazier to stand as arguably the biggest player on the RGV Vipers when they were making that run to claim the #1 spot in the Western Conference. From January 1st through the end of the regular season, the Vipers were nine points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the court (113.7 points per 100) compared to when he’s sitting on the bench (104.6 points per 100). Those points put Frazier as the biggest difference maker among players on the Vipers that played at least 10 games.
Frazier’s great play pushed the Vipers to success in the regular and post-season as they maintained a great 34-16 record and eventually won the G League title in a series against the Long Island Nets. Alongside helping the Vipers become champs, Frazier was rewarded for his great play in two different ways.
On March 27th, the G League named Frazier as their Most Improved Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season. Just two weeks later on April 7th, the Houston Rockets announced that they signed the Vipers guard to a contract for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
The combination of on-court progression over the course of this year and huge career strides that he’s made since August 2017 has given Ridiculous Upside no choice other than to name Rio Grande Valley Vipers guard Michael Frazier as our 2018-19 NBA G League Most Improved Player of the Year.