1) Goran Dragic, Guard, Phoenix Suns
The Dragon played for Phoenix before, was traded away, and has ended up back with his old team and is playing better than ever before. He showed flashes back in Phoenix’s playoff run a few years back when he scored 26 points in a quarter. Every part of his game is better: defense, shooting, passing, scoring, driving to the hoop, decision-making, defense. He is a very intense player and plays with a ton of confidence. Analysts will call that “feisty”, meaning he doesn’t smile a lot on the court and always looks like he’s on the verge of fighting someone (i.e. Russell Westbrook and Patrick Beverley). Practically the whole Phoenix team is improved this year, which means Jeff Hornacek is a top candidate for coach of the year.
2) Kyle Lowry, Guard, Toronto Raptors
He came into the pros with a lot of hype, and has not quite lived up to it until this season. He is a very close second to Demar DeRozan as the best player on his team, with Terrance Ross playing backup to those two to create a great, young, athletic backcourt. Look out for Toronto in the playoffs, and for years to come.
3) Anthony Davis, Center, New Orleans Pelicans
It’s tough to improve on a scale that Davis has when you come in as the #1 overall pick, but he has done just that in a very short time. The amazing thing is that Davis has the skills of a guard, but the body of a Center. Very lean, but has an extremely long wing span. His decision making has greatly improved, and he has a sweet shooting stroke. He will be a top 10 player very soon.
4) Blake Griffin, Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
Right now, Griffin is easily the best player on this list, which is obvious. Heck, he’s a top 5 player in the league right now. He has greatly improved his entire game this year, from shooting to passing to one-on-one post play. He can still be a bit wild at times, but his athleticism makes up for it. Credit must go to Doc Rivers for Griffin’s improvement, unless his arrival to LA and Griffin’s game this year are coincidental… I think not. The one aspect that Blake can still improve (which shocks me still) is his shot-blocking. He just doesn’t block a lot of shots, which is really odd considering his crazy hops. Oh well.
5) John Wall, Guard, Washington Wizards
Like the last two guys on this list, Wall was the #1 overall pick, and thus came into the league with a lot of expectations. This year he has lived up to them. He showed in the Dunk Contest how athletic he is, but has really made notable strides in the important aspects of a point guard’s game: leadership, decision making, passing, etc. His team is improved as well, which helps his cause and certainly brings him more attention, but there are few guards you would take above Wall considering his talent and age.
These dudes can easily be on this list. In terms of most improved teams you can put a number of guys from Toronto and Phoenix as well. Honorable Mentions: Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Victor Oladipo, Terrance Ross, Joakim Noah, Robin Lopez, and 4 more players on Phoenix (Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker, and the Morris twins).