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James Harden, Serge Ibaka in running for Most Improved Player

Current and former Thunder players top list of 10 best candidates for the award.
By John Rohde Published: January 12, 2013

2012-13: 32.2 mpg; 14.3 ppg; 8.4 rpg; 2.8 blocks; .567 FG. 2011-12: 27.2 mpg; 9.1 ppg; 7.5 rpg; 3.7 bpg; .535 FG.

3. J.R. Smith (New York): It took eight seasons, but it appears the incredibly gifted Smith finally has arrived. Also a solid candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, Smith has embraced his role as a reserve and in the process has helped bring the Knicks back to prominence. Smith is posting career-highs across the board.

2012-13: 33.6 mpg; 17.0 ppg; 5.1 rpg; 2.9 apg; .806 FT. 2011-12: 27.6 mpg; 12.5 ppg; 3.9 rpg; 2.4 apg; .709 FT.

4. J.J. Hickson (Portland): No longer is Hickson wallowing in Sacramento. He has become a 6-foot-9 starting center for the upstart Trail Blazers. Offensively, he is scoring nearly triple what he did last season with the Kings, where he shot 37.0 percent from the field. This year, Hickson is shooting 53.9 percent.

2012-13: 12.2 ppg; 11.0 rpg; 1.0 apg; .539 FG. 2011-12: 4.7 ppg; 5.1 rpg; 0.6 apg; .370 FG.

5. Jrue Holiday (Philadelphia): Holiday essentially has doubled his assist average from last season, and has done so without the services of former Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who has yet to play due to a knee injury. Holiday has become a sparkplug on offense, and his stats are up significantly across the board.

2012-13: 37.9 mpg; 18.3 ppg; 8.8 apg; 4.2 rpg; .452 FG. 2011-12: 33.8 mpg; 13.5 ppg; 4.5 apg; 3.3 rpg; .432 FG.

Next five: Andray Blatche (Brooklyn); Omer Asik (Houston); Matt Barnes (Los Angeles Clippers); Nikola Vucevic (Orlando); Greivis Vasquez (New Orleans).