Anyone who's followed the NBA season would tell you Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo is the odds-on favourite to win the Most Improved Player award.

And for good reason. The fifth-year guard has strung together quite the season in his first campaign with the Pacers to lead them to a playoffs berth.

However, it might not be quite so straight forward for the voters, with his former teammate Steven Adams building a strong case of his own.


The 24-year-old Kiwi went into this season, his fifth with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as the fourth option on offense, with the team acquiring two All-Star forwards in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play alongside guard and reigning MVP Russell Westbrook.

Read more: Glass act: Steven Adams 'has earned on-court respect'

Yet, Adams' game has taken big strides this season. The big Kiwi averages more points, rebounds, steals, blocks and minutes per game than he did in the 2016-17 season and his offensive rating (team points per 100 possession with him on the court) has improved by 12 points to 126.

At the same time, his defensive rating (opponent's points per 100 possessions) has not suffered, remaining at 107.

He's also among the league leaders in rebounding and on the verge of becoming one of a small list of NBA players to average five or more offensive rebounds per game for an entire season.

Adams warrants consideration alongside Oladipo for the Most Improved Player award this season, especially when you look at their roles on their respective teams.

As NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon told the Herald on Sunday in February, Adams has managed to be relevant despite teaming up with big-name players who demand the ball.

"He's playing with three players that demand the ball and he's managed to maintain his presence," Olajuwon pointed out. "That's very tough to do."


In the space of this season, Adams has gone from overlooked role player to one of the NBA's elite in his position.

Oladipo, on the other hand, was traded to Indiana as part of the deal that saw George land in OKC and became the focal point of their offense.

He was up to the task, with his output improving across the board as more was demanded of him.

Both players have been key points in campaigns that are headed to te playoffs. Indiana have already clinched their spot in the Eastern Conference post-season, while a win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday (NZ time) put the Thunder one game closer to clinching in the West.

Statistically, Oladipo's improvement can't be overlooked, but situationally Adams surely gives the young Pacer a run for his money.

Christopher Reive's pick for the NBA's Most Improved Player award: Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers guard) to win ahead of Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder centre) and Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans guard)