JaVale McGee thinks it would be "a crime" if his Wizards teammate Andray Blatche doesn't win the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Strong language, sure. But McGee -- and Blatche -- have a strong case.
In his fifth season, Blatche's statistical leap spans the box score; he's averaging career-high numbers in points (14.1 per game), rebounds (6.3), assists (2.1) and field goal percentage (47.9).
But circumstances will likely prevent Blatche from winning Most Improved Player, an award he admittedly covets. His improvement has only manifested itself in a 32-game post-All-Star break stat party.
What a nifty 32 games it's been. Since the Wizards dealt Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood at the trade deadline, it's been a full-on Blatche revolution. In that time he has recorded career-highs in points (36 at New Jersey on Feb. 28), rebounds (18 vs. New York on Feb. 26), and assists (13 vs. New Jersey on April 4).
Take a look at his pre-All-Star Break and post-All-Star splits.
The numbers indicate a different player inhabiting Blatche's body. Is that the case?
"No, it's opportunity," Mike Miller told FanHouse. "Obviously he's skilled. He can put the ball in the hole.
"When you're playing behind a 20 and 10 guy every night, like Antawn (Jamison), it's tough to do those things. He's getting the opportunity, he's making the most of it."
That opportunity has been five years in the making, since Blatche entered the NBA draft straight out of South Kent Prep (Conn.). But the opportunity which has unleashed Blatche may have come too late in the season for him to garner serious attention for the award.
The debate is whether this outburst has come with too small a sample size. In FanHouse's 2010 NBA awards, for one, he did not receive a single MIP vote.
"If he would have had his opportunity in the beginning, it most definitely would have been his," Nick Young told FanHouse. "But you know, even if he didn't (get the award), he should be runner-up."
The other knock on Blatche is that his numbers are as much a product of his environment. Namely, that he's putting up big numbers for a bad team.
For Blatche, that logic has gotten old.
"See that's the funny thing to me," Blatche said. He had just scored 26 points, to go with seven rebounds and four steals in 30 minutes during the Wizards' 98-97 win against Indiana in the final game of the regular season.
"A lot of people say it's easier doing that on a bad team," he continued. "Well, I don't think so. I think it's easier doing that on a good team, because therefore I wouldn't have that much attention."
Blatche will continue to get attention if he puts up these All-Star caliber numbers next season -- especially if he can do it for a winning ball club. Blatche's initial statistical eruption coincided with a 16-game losing streak for the Wizards, leading to the aforementioned questions about the emptiness of his numbers.
It's hard to fault Blatche alone for those results given all that has gone on this season, and what exists on Washington's roster.
And it's just as hard to look at his output and leave him out of this conversation.
"He's the go-to guy," McGee said. "When you're the go-to guy you get the opportunity, and just take advantage of it.
"He's taking advantage of it."