We have seen improvements from many players in the league this season, but 2 players stand out with their effective play on both ends of the floor. Christian Wood and Jerami Grant have developed into All-Star players once the Rockets and Pistons, respectively, decided to offer contracts to them. Both stars have returned the favor with the exceptional play on both ends of the floor, and they are in the running for the Most Improved Player Award.
By analyzing their game in the major categories in basketball, it is time to decide which player has taken the bigger jump this season. Here is the player who will be winning the Most Improved Player Award this season.
Scoring - Christian Wood
Christian Wood has become Houston's number one option this season. He is averaging 22.0 PPG on 55.8% from the field, 42.1% from three, and 68.8% from the line. Wood has been scintillating from the field and is a very tough player to handle with his dribbling and soft shooting touch.
Jerami Grant has been in the league for a few years now and has used his experience to make himself effective. Grant is quick, explosive, and has great length. His scoring numbers have taken a huge jump to 23.0 PPG, but he is shooting only 43.5% from the field and 38.4% from three.
Grant's scoring has taken a jump mainly because the Pistons have no other scoring option, and have trusted Grant to take the majority of the shots. Wood is a more versatile scorer with a greater skill set and he takes this one.
Athleticism - Jerami Grant
In terms of athleticism, Christian Wood is quite a special player. He is a 6’10” center yet can move very well and turn angles with ease. He is quick for his size and has great length. That aids him in scoring and also blocking shots, as he is averaging 1.5 BPG. But he isn't as athletic as Jerami Grant.
Grant has always been a great athlete since his rookie season. Grant was known as a shot-blocker and defensive specialist throughout his career and his incredible leaping ability was the reason why. Grant has added to that with explosiveness in attacking the rim, and he is a big load to handle for any defender.
Grant's more explosive than Wood and also can get up higher so he takes this one.
Defense - Christian Wood
Jerami Grant was known for his defense throughout his career, but Christian Wood has taken his defense to another level this season. Wood is averaging 0.9 SPG and 1.5 BPG this season, while Grant is averaging 0.8 SPG and 1.2 BPG. Wood’s stats are higher and his impact has been slightly better due to his rim protection. Wood influences a ton of shots around the rim and he has improved by the game this season on defense. Grant is a terrific defensive player, but he has been forced to focus more on offense and he has not been as lethal as Wood on defense.
Christian Wood is taller, at 6’10”, and can therefore impact the game on defense more. He edges Grant in this category, although it is very close.
Clutch - Jerami Grant
In terms of clutch shot-making, both players are new to being franchise players and receiving the ball in big moments. Wood has tremendous potential to be the go-to guy in the clutch, but Jerami Grant has proven on quite a few occasions that he is a trustworthy player in big moments. As a role player with the Thunder and Nuggets, Grant has shown he can make big defensive plays or even hit outside shots to sway the game in his team’s favor. Grant also has a game-winner this season against the Rockets that was ruled out, quite fittingly.
Overall, Wood hasn't had much of a chance to showcase his talents in the clutch whereas Grant has been a reliable player in many clutch situations. Grant takes this one.
Leader - Even
Both players were just thrust into leadership roles for the first time in their careers. Wood and Grant have surprised everyone with their play on both ends of the floor, and it is their offense that has taken the best step up. Wood and Grant have not managed to lead their teams in the playoffs, although Grant has been a role player for playoff teams such as the Thunder and Nuggets.
Neither player makes much of a shift in the leadership category so far, and we need a few more years to determine which player ends up being the better leader. This category is even.
Basketball I.Q. - Even
In terms of basketball IQ, this one is too even to call. Wood and Grant have both blossomed into All-Star players this season, so we have not seen enough from either of them to distinguish. Wood and Grant play both ends of the floor, are the current franchise stars for their teams, and do their best to help their teams win. Their stats are both strong, and they have proven they can be the #1 guys every night.
Grant has been in the league longer than Wood, and he has always been a high IQ player. That should be enough to give him the edge in most circumstances, but Wood has shown tremendous promise, and his potential as a franchise center cannot be denied. This category is even.
Impact - Christian Wood
Both players are the best players on their respective teams. Wood has taken over from James Harden as the go-to scorer on the team, even when he is surrounded by strong scorers such as Victor Oladipo and John Wall. Wood is the best scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker on the Rockets right now. Similarly, Grant is the best scorer for the Pistons and is their best perimeter defender as well. Distinguishing between these players in terms of impact will be tough.
But Wood has led the Rockets to a better record than Grant has led the Pistons, and this is shown when Wood has been out with injury. The Rockets have lost 6 straight without Wood in the lineup because his impact might be enough to make Houston a playoff team when he returns.
1 on 1 Game - Christian Wood
In terms of 1 on 1 game, both players have greatly expanded their skill sets. Christian Wood is already demanding double teams although this is the first season where he is getting major touches. Wood is a threat from everywhere on the floor and his 1 on 1 game is already All-Star status.
Jerami Grant has improved his dribbling and explosiveness, which means he can often beat his defender to the rack. Grant has upped his scoring from 12.0 PPG to 23.0 PPG in one year, and his 1 on 1 game is a reason for that. But Wood is more efficient at scoring the ball, shoots a higher percentage from the floor, and demands significant attention from the opposing team. As LeBron James stated himself, Wood is “trouble” and The King’s praise is spot-on when looking at Wood’s 1 on 1 game.
Career - Even
Both players have yet to win any accolades or make a mark on their NBA careers so far. Grant has been in the NBA for 7 years and has not made an All-Star team nor captured any important accolade. Grant was mainly a defensive player during his career, and it was only this season where he averaged over 13.6 PPG. Grant has a chance to make his first All-Star Team this season.
Christian Wood is still a young player who has only played 5 seasons so far and does not have any accolades either. Wood is actually one of the top vote-getters for the All-Star Team this season which is very promising for his career. Neither Grant nor Wood has won anything so far and so this category is even.
Christian Wood vs. Jerami Grant 4-2
Both Wood and Grant are having amazing seasons. They have been given the chance to become the best player on their teams by signing big contracts and that has worked out well. But Christian Wood has performed better than Jerami Grant, mainly because his impact has led to more team wins.
The Rockets are a much more competitive team than the Pistons, and despite losing an MVP caliber player in James Harden, Wood's incredible play has kept Houston competitive. For that reason, Wood should be the Most Improved Player at the end of the season.