Two of the candidates for this year’s Most Improved Player Award strutted their stuff inside the Ford Center on Sunday night, but neither Thunder forward Kevin Durant nor Indiana’s Danny Granger will take home the hardware.
New Jersey point guard Devin Harris has all but accepted the trophy. But he won’t get my first-place vote. Durant will sit atop my three-man ballot even if he has no shot at victory. That’s because no player has improved across the board like Durant, who’s gone from solid as a rookie to spectacular as a sophomore. His maturation, however, has become the untold story of the Thunder’s dismal inaugural season in Oklahoma City. Sunday night’s 117-99 loss to the Pacers dropped the Thunder to 21-54, a record that hasn’t given national writers any incentive to pay attention to the reigning Rookie of the Year. But even in the backdrop, Durant has flourished beyond belief. "He’s shown as much improvement as anybody, if not more,” said Granger, who scored a team-high 24 points Sunday and has seen his scoring average rise from 19.6 points to 25.3. Durant has increased his averages in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. He’s done so while becoming much more efficient, boosting his field-goal percentage from 43 percent to 48 percent and his 3-point percentage from 28.8 percent to 42.4 percent. Durant also is the focal point of opposing teams’ scouting reports. Granger is the only player in the running who faces similar challenges.