Second-year center Greg Monroe didn't make the All-Star team, but he could become the first Piston to win the NBA's Most Improved Player award.
Coming out of the All-Star break, Monroe had the league's biggest increase in scoring average from last season. He was averaging 7.3 points per game more than his rookie year (16.7 points per game from 9.4), slightly ahead of Atlanta guard Jeff Teague (7.0 points per game increase). New Orleans Hornets guard Jarrett Jack (6.2), Chicago guard C.J. Watson (5.5) and Orlando forward Ryan Anderson (5.5) rounded out the list. Minnesota forward Kevin Love won the award last season.
Monroe inched his scoring average to 16.8 by scoring 20 in a 97-68 loss to Philadelphia Tuesday. Sixers coach Doug Collins isn't surprised by his improvement.
"I love his demeanor. I love how hard he works at the game," Collins said. "He's starting to make his jump shot, which is going to make him that much tougher to guard. We played them late last year and he had four field goals outside the paint. We would just back off him. We wanted him to take that 15- to 17-foot jumper but he's making that thing now. So now, you close in on him and he drives that ball to the basket. He's got a nice spin move and a good feel for the game. With him and Brandon Knight, they've got two very good young players."
It's not just Monroe's offense that has improved. He's leading the team in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and steals (1.4 spg). His 141 offensive rebounds are second only to Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins.
"He has a great nose for the ball and he's relentless on the offensive boards," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "He's developed a more solid post game and he's a very good passer. You can play him at different spots on the floor. He can play on both blocks, off the elbow and at the high post. But he's still got a long way to go. He's been diligent with his work and we want to keep on raising the bar with him."
That bar includes making his team a winner. Despite Monroe's statistical improvements, the Pistons have won just 11 games entering their home game against Charlotte Wednesday.
"The numbers look nice but more important are the letters. We've got to get W's," Frank said. "As a guy who's going to be a cornerstone piece, it becomes about the W's and I think he's trying to move us in that direction."
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