With the regular season done and gone, it’s time to dish out some awards. Every player won’t win an award (cue Brian Cook sad face) and there will be no punch and pie. This is serious business. Please direct any and all hatred in the comments section my way, as per usual, since it was my decision and my decision alone on whom to give this first award to.
Without further ado, let’s start things off with the Most Improved Clipper for the 2011-12 season:
I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too: Most Improved has to go to Eric Bledsoe. While it’s pretty impressive that Bledsoe made the leap from being an incredibly inconsistent rookie to a big producer on the defensive end for a top-8 team, Bledsoe’s impressive late push still wasn’t enough to overshadow the vast improvements made by Randy Foye.
Viewed primarily as just an expiring contract going into the season, Foye was supposed to be the odd man out in a suddenly crowded backcourt. Foye could have shut it down and mailed it in, and it would have been tough to blame him, especially considering the same thing happened to him during his time in Minnesota and Washington.
Instead, Foye played the role of consummate professional, biding his time and taking whatever minutes he could get without making a peep. When Chauncey Billups went down with a season ending injury, it was Foye who was forced to make the biggest adjustment, going from small bit role player to starter on a playoff team.
Foye embodied the struggles of the Clippers midway through the season, but his play over the last month was a huge factor in the team’s bounce back. Guess who leads the NBA in 3-pointers made since the All-Star break? That’s right — Randy Foye. Over time, Foye has turned into a pure spot-up shooter, a far cry from the player he was at the beginning of his career.
Even just throughout the season, Foye’s transformation as a player has been impressive. When he joined the Clippers, Foye’s favorite shot was the long two — the most inefficient shot in basketball. He shot it with impunity, stepping all over the 3-point line, firing off his own dribble, basically doing everything an inefficient shooter does. Foye was a fairly brutal player to watch in 2010 with Washington — he was too hampered by injuries to get into the paint, so Foye shot 3.8 attempts per game from 16-23 feet and only 2.6 attempts from behind the arc. All bad. This year, he shoots just 2.1 attempts from 16-23 feet and 4.9 threes. That’s a huge improvement, and the type of stylistic change rarely seen from a relatively young player.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2011, probably the first time Foye had ever been completely healthy in his entire NBA career. Before the lockout hit, the Clippers held voluntary workouts at their training facility in Playa Vista. Blake Griffin, workout monster that he is, had a near-perfect attendance record to these workouts, which could sometimes be pretty intense. The only player who might have attended more workouts than Griffin? Randy Foye.
It’s nice to see humility, professionalism and a dogged work-ethic eventually pay off for a guy. After playing multiple different roles throughout the year and his career, Foye solidified himself as the starting shooting guard on a playoff team, warts and all.
In the month of March, Foye started to really turn it on, shooting 39.8 percent from behind the arc with 2.3 makes a game…but that was nothing compared to his month of April. Foye kicked off the month of April with 28 points against Dallas on a Clippers record-tying eight made 3-pointers. A few nights later, he flirted with the record again, knocking in seven 3-pointers in a victory over Sacramento. Foye’s been pretty consistent since the All-Star break, as he’s failed to register double-digit point totals in only two of his last 16 games.
The percentages are even better. Foye is shooting 44.3% from behind the arc in the month of April, which would put him amongst league leaders if he were able to do it over the course of a season.
Foye is still a limited player in that he doesn’t rebound, slash, or create for others, but like Chris Paul said earlier in the season, “he’s better than he thinks he is.” When Foye doesn’t hesitate and plays with confidence, he’s a capable weakside threat who can remove some of the pressure placed on Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to score.
The fact that Randy Foye went from potential odd man out to entrenched starter on a playoff team more than earns him the 2011-12 Most Improved Clipper award.