By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Not long time ago Ersan Ilyasova and Nikola Pekovic were – for US fans – just two strange names in the NBA. Not any more. The Bucks forward from Turkey and the center from Montenegro who dons Minnesota’s jersey have earned respect and came really close to winning the NBA most improved player of the year trophy.
Orlando’s Ryan Anderson is the recipient of the award with 260 points in the voting, but Ilyasova came second (159) and Pekovic third (104) as the league announced. Players were awarded five points for each first place vote, three points for each second place vote and one point for each third place vote received. Anderson got 33 first place votes, Ilyasova 21 and Pekovic 10.
Not bad for the two Euros who started their season in Euroleague, due to the NBA lock out. Ilyasova was playing for Anandolu Efes and Pekovic for Partizan Belgrade. This fact and the truncated NBA season may have help them to be more ready than other players and produce the best stats in their NBA career.
Ilyasova had career highs in points per game (13), assist per game (1.2), rebounds per game (8.8), minutes per game (27.6) and three points shooting percentage (45%). Pekovic had also a break out season with 13.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg.