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NBA Most Improved Player 2012: Ryan Anderson Wins, Beating Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Pekovic

Fernando Medina - Orlando Magic
Fernando Medina - Orlando Magic

The NBA announced Friday that Orlando Magic forward Ryan Anderson has won the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. Anderson, who turns 24 on Sunday, posted career-highs in scoring (16.1 per game), rebounding (7.7), and minutes played (32.2) during the lockout-shortened season while leading the NBA in total three-pointers made (166) and attempted (422) and blossoming into Orlando's second-best player behind All-Star center Dwight Howard.

Anderson beat out a strong field by earning more first- and second-place votes than any other player. Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova finished in second place, while Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic finished third. Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe and Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum tied for fourth place, and New York Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin--who surely would have won the award had he not missed nearly half the season--coming in sixth.

20 of the 30 players whom voters named on their ballots received at least one first-place vote for Most Improved. 47 voters omitted Anderson's name from their ballots entirely, but it didn't matter, as Anderson's 260 award voting points handily trumped Ilyasova's (159). That the panel of writers couldn't come up with a stronger conclusion attests to the nebulousness of the award.

Anderson becomes the second Orlando player to take home the award since coach Stan Van Gundy's first season with the Magic in 2007/08, in which Hedo Turkoglu transformed from a spot-up shooter to an all-around scoring and playmaking threat to earn Most Improved honors. The other Magic players to win since the award's inception in 1985/86 are Scott Skiles (1990/91), Darrell Armstrong (1998/99), and Tracy McGrady (2000/01).

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