This season, the Trail Blazers are set to unveil several festivities tied to the 50-year anniversary of the organization. To keep with that theme, we are taking a look back at Portland’s history with each league-wide award. Today’s focus looks at the players that earned the NBA’s Most Improved Player award for their work in a Blazers uniform. Along with the winners, we take a brief look at the players who narrowly missed out on securing that honor.
- Kevin Duckworth | C | Season: 1987-88
Kevin Duckworth edged out a stacked field for MIP honors after the conclusion of the 1987-88 season. John Stockton, Mark Price and fellow teammate Jerome Kersey finished just behind Portland’s man in the middle. Arriving from the Spurs in a midseason trade the previous year, Duckworth enjoyed considerable increases across the board. Most notably, his scoring average leaped from 5.4 points per game to 15.8.
In the following season, Duckworth earned his first trip to the NBA All-Star Game.
- Zach Randolph | PF | Season: 2003-04
Featured as full-time starter for the first time in his career, Randolph took advantage of the start of the post-Sheed era in Portland. The former Michigan State standout averaged a double-double and connected on 48.5 percent of his attempts from the field. Randolph’s award-winning improvement is buried in an unsavory chapter of Rip City’s history. In an exchange with the New York Knicks, Randolph exited Portland in the summer of 2007.
- CJ McCollum | G | Season: 2015-16
McCollum deserves a considerable amount of credit for the Blazers’ sooner-than-expected turnaround after LaMarcus Aldridge’s exit. Slotted behind Wesley Matthews to start his career, McCollum flourished in a starting role next to Damian Lillard. The former Lehigh star nearly doubled his combined minutes total from his first two seasons during his breakout campaign.
McCollum secured almost all the first-place votes for the MIP award, finishing in front of both Kemba Walker and Giannis Antetokounmpo (the Bucks star earned the award in the following season).
- Jermaine O’Neal | C | ...wait, wrong list.
- Rasheed Wallace | F | Season: 1996-97
Wallace followed up his first season with the Bullets with a stellar season inside coach P.J. Carlesimo’s system. Buoyed by a significant increase in his field goal percentage (48.7 to 55.8 percent), Wallace averaged 15.1 points per game in 56 starts for the Blazers. Despite those gains, he finished with the third-most MIP votes. Following a return from overseas, Heat center Isaac Austin ran away with the award. Seattle native Doug Christie finished just in front of Wallace for second place.
- LaMarcus Aldridge | PF | Season(s): 2007-08, 2010-11
Aldridge’s transformation from the Blazers’ second-best rookie from the 2006 class to franchise cornerstone is represented by the monumental leaps he made early in his career. In 2007-08, Aldridge’s second year in the NBA, Portland’s youngster filled the void left behind by Randolph’s departure. His scoring average ascended from 9.0 points per game to 17.8. Aldridge finished behind Hedo Turkoglu (winner) and current teammate Rudy Gay for the 2007-08 MIP award.
A season before making his first NBA All-Star Game, Aldridge nearly secured the MIP award for the second time. The Blazers big man crossed the 20-points per game threshold for the first time in his career in the 2010-11 season, but it still wasn’t enough to finish in front of Kevin Love for MIP honors.