On March 27th, the NBA G League named Rio Grande Valley Vipers guard Michael Frazier as their Most Improved Player of the Year for the 2018-19 season. In 45 games with the team, he put up 16.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals on 45% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 7.4 attempts per game.
Within the official press release announcing their decision, the G League mentioned that the main reason why the Vipers guard received the award was due to how he progressed as the season went on. That reasoning definitely makes sense when you look at his month-by-month numbers. From November 2nd until December 31st, he put up 13.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 43% from field and 40% from beyond the arc.
From the 31st until the end of the regular season, those numbers grew to where he averaged 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. So aside from rebounding and efficiency as a perimeter shooter, he definitely grew as a player as the season went on.
Along with his development over the course of this season, it’s only right to point that Frazier basically stands as a completely different player this year compared to his first stint in the G League during the 2015-16 season.
In that year, he struggled with everything from getting consistent minutes to being able to actually get comfortable within a rotation, as he played with the Iowa Energy (now Wolves), LA D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers) and Fort Wayne Mad Ants. With those three teams, he put up 6.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 43% from field and 36% from beyond the arc in 17 minutes per game. Alongside the clear growth that he had in points, assists and rebounds per game, Frazier was a more efficient scorer during this season compared to 2015-16 as his True Shooting Percentage grew from 53% in 2015-16 to 59%.
Arguably the biggest reason behind those improved numbers is how Frazier has progressed as an on-ball driver as he’s shown that he can glide to the rim with either hand. Once he gets to the paint, the RGV guard likes to use his strong 200 pound frame to draw contact with opposing bigs. “It’s something that I’ve watched a lot on film with the coaches emphasising that when I’m attacking the big guy I have to take up their space, which is the terminology that we use,” Frazier stated about his strategy as an on-ball driver in a March interview with Ridiculous Upside.
“Just to get in their area and go right at him because then he can’t harm my layup or block the shot which ultimately allows me to have that advantage. So that’s why you see me doing it a lot and I think it’s worked out really well for me this season as I keep on getting better at it,” the RGV Vipers guard continued.
That overall offensive progression pushed him to become an incredibly vital part of the Vipers offense. His impact is shown by how the team was 10 points better per 100 possessions when he was on the court (110.3 points per 100) compared to when he was sitting on the bench (100.2 points per 100).
Frazier’s offensive impact has been felt during the playoffs as he essentially put the Vipers’ offense on his back during the team’s Western Conference semi finals matchup against the Memphis Hustle. In 36 minutes, he put up a game-high 33 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists on 11-10 from field, 9-14 from 3 and 2-2 from the free throw line.
While he wasn’t as efficient in the Western Conference Finals against Santa Cruz, as he had 24 points on 35% shooting, However, his improved skills as an on-ball driver did help as he put up 10 free throw attempts in the team’s 144-125 win over the Warriors.
With the Vipers now looking ahead to their G League FInals matchup against the Long Island Nets, head coach Joseph Blair should once again look to Frazier to lead the way. Because while Isaiah Hartenstein or Gary Payton II can put up huge numbers whenever they walked on the G League court, Frazier has stood as the dude that the team can regularly rely upon to help guide the offense in the early going or push the Vipers over the top in the 2nd half of games.
Those factors allows Michael Frazier to be a player for fans to keep their eyes on when Game 1 of the G League Finals begins tomorrow.