TUESDAY, 9:17am: George has officially been named the NBA's Most Improved Player for 2012/13, according to a Pacers press release. Greivis Vasquez was the runner-up, while Larry Sanders, Nikola Vucevic, and Jrue Holiday rounded out the top five vote-getters.
MONDAY, 9:40pm: Paul George of the Pacers will be named the NBA's Most Improved Player, sources confirm to HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy (Twitter link). The Pacers called a "major" press conference for tomorrow, which initially led Kennedy and others to speculate that it is to announce that George has won the award.
George stepped into the shoes of the injured Danny Granger, the 2009 Most Improved Player who missed all but five games this year, and took over as Indiana's leading scorer this season. His points per game soared to 17.4 from 12.1 last season, and his rebounding and assist production also saw healthy jumps. Still, his shooting and three-point accuracy declined as the Pacers leaned more heavily on him, and his PER held nearly steady at 16.8, after he posted a 16.5 in that category in 2011/12.
George, in his third season out of Fresno State, also made his first All-Star Game this year, and was a part of Indiana's tough defense that gave up 90.7 PPG, second only to the Grizzlies. The 22-year-old opened up the postseason yesterday with a triple-double against the Hawks, though the votes were taken before the playoffs began. He'll be eligible for an extension to his rookie-scale contract this summer.
There are always plenty of candidates for the award, and this year was no exception. Larry Sanders, Greivis Vasquez, J.J. Hickson and Jrue Holiday all made intriguing cases, and we'll see just how close they came when the league reveals the voting.