Most Improved Player
Leads team in scoring, rebounding and double-doubles (34) ... Only Jazz player to appear in all 78 games (all starts) ... Has tied or surpassed his career high for points entering this season (27) 11 times ... He has set a new career high in points (33 at Chi., 11/12), field goals made (12 at Chi., 11/12), field goals attempted (22 at Orl., 3/15), three-pointers made (4 at GS, 2/27), assists (8 at Phi 1/11), steals (3 twice, last atDen. 1/20) and minutes (47 four times, last at Orl, 3/15).
This award is usually reserved for a guy who's seen a significant increase in playing time and, hence, a spike in his stats. In a starting role this year, Okur's minutes nudged upward, but it's not just the extra burn leading to his improvement, as Memo's putting up better per-48 numbers than any year before. Much of that can be attributed to the absence of Carlos Boozer for more than three months. But it was during that same stretch Okur led the Jazz to enough wins to remain in the playoff hunt into the season's final days.
-- Jeff Dengate
From the man himself:
||The biggest difference is I was in very good shape this year. I played for two months with the Turkish National Team over the summer and I was also healthy going into training camp, where I had a real good camp and felt very strong going into the season ... as we keep winning here with the Jazz that is the most important thing. If we keep winning it could probably improve my chances for any awards or accolades. So, I'm just concentrating on winning games for the Jazz.
-- Mehmet Okur, UtahJazz.com
A fan's take:
Ranks #11 in the NBA in Rebounds Per Game (9.3), Ranks #8 in the NBA in Double-doubles (35). His playing time only increased 7.7 minutes per game yet he still set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and three-pointers made. Hasn't missed a game all year.
-- Ryan - Salt Lake City, Utah
Most Improved Player - The Candidates:
Boris Diaw - Phoenix Suns
Mike James - Toronto Raptors
Mehmet Okur - Utah Jazz
Gerald Wallace - Charlotte Bobcats
David West - New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets
Others worth consideration: Carmelo Anthony, Raja Bell, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, Chris Kaman, Nenad Krstic, Kevin Martin, Zaza Pachulia, Smush Parker, Tony Parker, Delonte West
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images