Familiar Names Highlight Most Improved Player Rankings

Reggie_JacksonImagine for a second that this column is a talk show.

It’s easy if you try.

Now, imagine I told you that Isaiah Thomas and Reggie Jackson were going to be on it. Imagine all the people who would watch that show.

Yoo-hoo, oooh.

You’d be pumped, right?

Isiah Lord Thomas. Zeke. One of the greatest basketball players in history. And Reggie Jackson. Mr. October. The man who hit three home runs in a World Series game?!

What a show we’ve got for you tonight! 

You’d be glued to the TV. Or, at least, you’d DVR it.

And then your face would sink slowly as you realized that I didn’t mean “Bad Boy Pistons” Isiah Thomas. I meant “Pizza Guy” Isaiah Thomas. I didn’t mean “Straw that Stirs the Drink” Reggie Jackson, just “Russell Westbrook backup” Reggie Jackson.

What is this, the Pete Holmes Show??

That’s what this edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings feels like – The Pete Holmes Show. Or at least, Tavis Smiley.

Normally, this is the spot where NBA players make names for themselves, arriving on the Sheridan Hoops stage before they are recognized by the national hoops media at large. Paul George did that last season.

But this season, some guys are making the same name somebody else already made. Thomas isn’t Zeke, but he is playing like a guy Zeke would trade six consecutive draft picks for.

Jackson may not be the Straw that Stirs the Drink, but he could be the Splenda that makes the 27-7 drink taste a little better. (I don’t know. I haven’t had my coffee yet).

Both namesake point guards have energized their teams and accounted for nearly as many TV double-takes as an Andre Drummond throwdown. Thomas has taken over as Sacramento’s full-time starter, averaging 19.3 points and six assists. He’s been the Kings’ most important player this season, and is one of the reasons for hope in the future.

Jackson filled in when Westbrook was hurt at the beginning of the season and again now that Westbrook is out until at least the All-Star break. He has continued to play with confidence, putting up 27 points in Sunday’s home win over Boston. He has added some much-needed backcourt depth to a team that can be too one-dimensional at times. There’s no way OKC has the best record in the West without him.

You may say I’m a dreamer.

But they’re not the only ones.

Anyway, it’s time for our musical guest. You guessed it…John Le…gend. Sorry, I hit the ellipses button there.

That’s our column for you. Goodnight everybody!

On to the rankings.

Familiar Names Highlight Most Improved Player Rankings

Most Improved Player Rankings: Slam Dunk Contest Decidedly Unimproved

dunksThis column is supposed to be about improvement, so let’s start it off by declaring that Saturday night’s Slam Dunk Contest was without a doubt the most un-improved thing in the history of All-Star Weekend.

Seriously, what the hell happened there?

After Paul George, John Wall and Damian Lillard – three bona fide stars in the league – actually decided that being considered one of the world’s best dunkers wasn’t beneath them, the league chucked a Snuggie into the Atlantic Ocean and then wrung it out all over the historic Smoothie King Center.

Wet blanket. That’s what I’m trying to say. It was a wet blanket.

And to think, I was excited for the Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night!

I rushed home from work, shunned the Olympics and the Florida-Kentucky game and flipped on TNT for what I thought was going to be a night of high-flying dunks, excessive laughing and 7-footers in expensive suits falling all over each other.

You know, the usual.

I would have been better off watching bobsledding.

It was like looking forward to a the party of the year at the lax bros’ house and then walking in to find out that they were playing Monopoly and serving 7-Up. Where’s the beer pong? Where are the keg stands? WHERE’S THE IRONIC DANCING TO MILEY CYRUS???

Who decided that a “team format” would make the contest more exciting? I mean, does anyone really care which conference is better at dunking?

I guess ESPN’s DJ Gallo was the only one who truly appreciated the new format:


To be honest, that was my favorite part, too.

The rest of it was pretty awful. The entire thing lasted a total of about 15 minutes. There were two rounds, the first of which resembled a layup line. It was unclear whether or not the players believed that round was just a warmup.

The second round pitted East vs. West and consisted of a total of six dunks, the last of which was the only exciting one in the group. Wall’s only individual dunk attempt of the night was pretty cool. Magic Johnson said it brought the dunk contest back.

And then the lights went out.

And it was over.

This tweet from Kings forward Jason Thompson pretty much summed it up:



One memorable dunk. And the trophy came out. Just when “Party in the USA” started playing.

Yo, Adam Silver:  Not cool, bro.

On to the rankings.

1 Sacramento Kings ISAIAH THOMAS, G, SACRAMENTO: Heads into the second half as leader in our clubhouse, averaging 20.2 points and 6.3 assists. A lot of other media outlets tout Lance Stephenson as the most improved player, but Thomas has gone from Greivis Vasquez’s backup to one of the West’s best point guards. 1
2 Indiana Pacers LANCE STEPHENSON, G, INDIANA: Despite this incredible video, Sir Lance-a-lot didn’t make the All-Star Game. He is, however, seemingly the popular favorite to take home Most Improved Player. He’s been the Paul George to last season’s Paul George, if that makes any sense. 2
3 Pistons ANDRE DRUMMOND, C, DETROIT: Moves up after his show in the Rising Stars with a Chamberlain-like line of 30 points and 25 rebounds. That’s probably the first time anyone has mentioned Wilt and the Rising Stars in the same sentence. In a moment symbolic of his season with the Pistons, this happened. 4
4 Los Angeles Clippers Media Day DEANDRE JORDAN, C, LA CLIPPERS: He didn’t crack All-Star Weekend, either, but Jordan’s complete domination of the field goal percentage and rebounding categories keep him in the table. He’s doubled his rebounding from last season (7.2 to 14) in only nine more minutes of action per game. 3
5 Hornets ANTHONY DAVIS, F-C, NEW ORLEANS: The ‘Brow afforded himself pretty well in the All-Star Game with 10 points, eight boards and two steals in just nine minutes. He told the Shreveport Times that he was nervous to come off the bench, which is both endearing and startling – he’s only 20 years old.


NEXT FIVE: Paul George, F, Indiana; Reggie Jackson, G, Oklahoma City; Terrence Jones, F, Houston; Jeremy Lamb, G, Oklahoma City; Miles Plumlee, C, Phoenix.

OTHER RANKINGS: MVP | Sixth Man | Power | Rookie

Kels Dayton is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in SLAM Magazine. You can check out more of his work at RoundballDaily.com and SportzEdge.com. Follow him on Twitter @RoundballDaily.

Most Improved Player Rankings: Slam Dunk Contest Decidedly Unimproved

Which ‘Office’ character is each of the Most Improved Player candidates?

Rainn Wilson The OfficeIt’s part of my nightly routine.

First, I sit on the couch and watch hours of NBA basketball, blankly staring at the screen like a zombie or Kevin from The Office.

Then, after the final buzzer sounds on the last West Coast game, I flip over to channel 7 and zone out during a late-night mini-marathon of Kevin and all of his friends on The Office.

It’s gotten to the point where last night, I dreamt that Dwight crashed the Most Improved Player Rankings by going for 26 and 11 against the Clippers.

Still … it’s awesome.

And as Kevin might say, “Why not take two awesome things and make them into one???!” Continue reading “Which ‘Office’ character is each of the Most Improved Player candidates?”

Which ‘Office’ character is each of the Most Improved Player candidates?

From the Clouds: This Week’s Most Improved Player Rankings

A well-proportioned, wise Italian man with a radio show in New York once told me and a listening audience of probably hundreds that the NBA “goes into the clouds” in February and March. I can’t really remember his name, OK? So let’s just call him Ike Manfresca.

MikeFrancesa2008Manfresca’s quote has always stuck with me, because: (a) it was so strange and (b) it’s the perfect way to describe the seasonal malaise that rolls in around this time of year, like a warm front heading northeast from the Great Basin.

In March, the NBA exists in a dream-like state, as players shuffle through the hazy backstretch of the season, traveling from city to city to city almost on muscle memory.

They box out, fill fast break lanes and take contested jump shots without even thinking, like you getting off that exit you always get off on your way to work. You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you sit there and think, How did I get here this morning? I don’t remember anything from the minute I remote-started my car.

It’s the same with coaches, who will complain to referees and shout nonsensical jargon at their players without using the frontal lobe of their brains.

How did we end up in a 3-2 zone?, they wonder. I don’t even remember anything I said in that second quarter timeout.

For fans, March is the time when you stop listening to the guest speaker and start to wonder how many bananas you’ve eaten in your life.

Casual fans have already turned their attention to college basketball, which is infinitely more exciting this time of year. It’s easy to tune out the professionals and happen upon scores while looking up at TV screens at the bar, or by accidentally clicking “NBA” instead of “College Basketball” on your smartphone app.

Sure, many teams are fighting tooth and nail for the posteason, and some, like the Pacers (who have lost four in a row), might be sleepwalking as home court advantage – and ultimately the Larry O’Brien Trophy – slips through their fingers, eyes glazed over.

But for most fans, the games have gotten repetitive and redundant. Bobcats-Nuggets in November is exciting and intriguing. Bobcats-Nuggets in March i

Sorry, I lost interest in that last sentence.

It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just that the NBA season is like a movie that waits too long to get to the climax. We get it. The East sucks, LeBron is awesome, Kevin Durant might win MVP, and Kels Dayton is an up-and-coming sportswriter.

Enough cheeky dialogue. Get to the part where people start jumping out of planes!

It’s going to happen soon, but first we have to take a trip through the clouds. Call it the calm before the storm. Or call into Ike Manfresca’s radio show.

Wake me up when we get to April.

Until then, I’ll be watching the MAAC championship.

On to the rankings.

Whoa….how did we get here? I don’t even remember typing any of that.

Read more at http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/03/11/from-the-clouds-this-weeks-most-improved-player-rankings/#iIkKhFZj4ikFelAB.99

From the Clouds: This Week’s Most Improved Player Rankings

Most Improved Player Rankings: Oscars Edition

kels daytonThe Oscars are over, and since I once again didn’t watch them or see any of the nominated movies, let’s get this Oscar statueOscar-themed edition of the Most Improved Player Rankings under way!

Because nothing says “entertaining column” like a bunch of misinformed pop culture references!

As always, these awards are for the players in the “Rankings Academy” only, meaning they have to be in consideration for our table.

The envelopes, please …

Best Supporting Actor: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors. I mean, come on. This is the easiest one on the board. Klay’s performance in “2015 NBA Season” has been captivating, and at times, he’s outshined lead man Stephen Curry and made you wonder whether or not he is actually the main character. Klay’s performance this year has made Oscar winner J.K. Simmons look like that guy who does those Farmers commercials. Continue reading “Most Improved Player Rankings: Oscars Edition”

Most Improved Player Rankings: Oscars Edition

Most Improved Player Rankings: Rest in Peace, Jimmy Butler

James H. Butler III 1989-2015

kels daytonHello everyone. Please take your seats.

I’d like to start this column off with a moment of silence for our friend, Jimmy Butler.


Thank you.

Ahem…god, this is tough…ahem. Ahem. Sorry.

What can you say about a guy like Jimmy Butler?

Jimmy was more than just a basketball player to most of us. He was maybe the most improved basketball player of the 2014-15 NBA season.

His life was short, indeed, but in such a short time, he touched so many others.

Colossians 1:17 tells us that…..wait, hold on….I’m getting a phone call here. Sorry everyone.

Oh, it’s Chris Sheridan. Sorry, I have to take this.

“Hey Chris, what’s up? I’m kind of in the middle of something here. I’m helping Bulls fans grieve….wait…what was that?

…Wait, he’s—he’s not dead? 

Oh god. Continue reading “Most Improved Player Rankings: Rest in Peace, Jimmy Butler”

Most Improved Player Rankings: Rest in Peace, Jimmy Butler

Most Improved Player Rankings: A Tribute to Ish Smith

This man’s greatness inspired a poem.

kels daytonI’d like to start this column off by paying tribute to a true basketball hero.

I couldn’t express his greatness in column form, so I wrote a poem. I hope you’ll oblige.

Dim the lights please.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhem. Ahhhem. Ahhhhh.

Here we go:

(Bongos playing)

Dreary. Locker room smell. Sweaty socks.
He walks in, authoritative. A Pelican no more.
Scored 14 points in first game back. Tripled win total.
There’s now hope where the bell tolls.
Hope, and hoagies.

(Bongos stop)

Thank you. Continue reading “Most Improved Player Rankings: A Tribute to Ish Smith”

Most Improved Player Rankings: A Tribute to Ish Smith