Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum has won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, the league announced. He secured the honor by a wide margin over second-place finisher Kemba Walker, with Giannis Antetokounmpo coming in third. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry, a heavy favorite to win MVP again this year, is fourth. The award is a boost to McCollum as he heads into an offseason in which he’ll be eligible to sign a rookie scale extension.
“Being recognized as the Most Improved Player in the NBA is a testament to the dedication and commitment to his game CJ has shown since joining the Trail Blazers,” GM Neil Olshey said in the statement.
McCollum’s emergence this season helped Portland keep pace in the Western Conference despite the loss of four starters from last season’s 51-win team. The Blazers won only 44 games this year, but they had the West’s fifth-best record compared to last year’s sixth-place finish. McCollum zoomed from 6.8 points in 15.7 minutes per game to 20.8 points in 34.8 minutes per contest, improving his shooting percentage from the floor and from 3-point territory, where he canned a sterling 41.7% of his attempts this season. The 24-year-old was first on the Blazers with 1.2 steals per game and second to Damian Lillard in assists per game with 4.3.
The season for McCollum was in large measure a fulfillment of the promise he showed coming out of college that led Olshey and the Blazers to draft him 10th overall in 2013. A broken foot in his rookie season and the presence of eventual max-contract signee Wesley Matthews relegated him to a reserve role his first two years in the NBA, but McCollum had the green light this season and took full advantage. Olshey said recently that the team had faith in him all along and that had he not suffered the broken foot, he probably would have become a starter as a rookie.
A panel of writers, broadcasters and other journalists who cover the NBA voted for the award. A ballot-by-ballot summary is available here. Five points were awarded for a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.
Below, see how each vote-getter ranked, with first-place votes noted where applicable.
- C.J. McCollum (Trail Blazers) — 101
- Kemba Walker (Hornets) — 7
- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) — 4
- Stephen Curry (Warriors) — 7
- Will Barton (Nuggets) — 1
- Jae Crowder (Celtics) — 1
- Draymond Green (Warriors) — 2
- Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) — 3
- Hassan Whiteside (Heat) — 1
- Kawhi Leonard (Spurs) — 1
- Andre Drummond (Pistons) — 1
- Gary Harris (Nuggets) — 1
- Kent Bazemore (Hawks)
- Evan Fournier (Magic)
- Rodney Hood (Jazz) — 1
- Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
- Reggie Jackson (Pistons)
- Ian Mahinmi (Pacers)
- Zach LaVine (Timberwolves)
- Kyle Lowry (Raptors)