by Conrad Brunner
April 7, 2003
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Q. I would seriously consider Ron Artest for the Most Improved Player award, even more so than for the Defensive Player of the Year award, primarily because of Ben Wallace. How will his reputation prevent him from winning the award? (From Payam in New Jersey)
QUESTION OF THE DAY|
A. He certainly deserves to be considered for both awards. It is less certain how his reputation will affect the members of the media chosen to vote. While missing 12 games due to NBA suspensions and team disciplinary action works against him, he certainly is not anonymous. In fact, for better or worse, he has become the national face of the franchise because of his widespread media exposure. So it's not impossible that his fame, or infamy, could actually serve his cause.
His statistics (15.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.3 steals, 43 percent shooting) are only marginally better than last season (13.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.6 steals, 42 percent shooting). Yet there's no question his presence has been vital to the Pacers' return to contention in the East, and that is an impact that goes beyond mere statistics, and that's important when considering Most Improved candidates.
There are several compelling candidates for the award, led by Cleveland's Ricky Davis (from 11.3 points last season to 20.5 this year), Sacramento's Bobby Jackson (9.5 to 16.1), Utah's Matt Harpring (12.5 to 17.8) and Golden State's Troy Murphy (5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds to 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds).
Voting for Defensive Player of the Year tends to go in one of two directions: the player who leads the league in blocks, or the player who leads the league in steals. All-around individual defenders like Artest tend to get overlooked because there is little objective measure to apply .