Forecast: Paul George for MIP

From role player to leading man, Indy's Paul George has the inside track on the most improved award. Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images

The NBA Most Improved Player award is usually the hardest race to predict because there are so many ways people can interpret improvement.

But, according to our panel, one player has stood out among yet another deep field of worthy candidates this season: Indiana's Paul George. In fact, our panel thinks he should and will win the MIP award.

Although his numbers don't transcend his stats from last season, his role has expanded immensely. In the wake of Danny Granger's injury, George has played nearly 38 minutes per game (12th in the NBA), was named to his first All-Star Game and led the Pacers to a top-three seed in the East. His sudden leap to stardom, and the fact that he's a two-way star, has him as the heavy MIP favorite.

Another first-time All-Star, Philly's Jrue Holiday, also received strong support from our panel. With Andre Iguodala traded to Denver and Andrew Bynum missing the entire season to injuries, Holiday was the lone bright spot in another disappointing Sixers campaign.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee's Larry Sanders had a breakout season as one of the top defenders in the league, Orlando's Nikola Vucevic (Dwight Howard's replacement) averaged a double-double this season, and New Orleans' Greivis Vasquez, who might also be in the running for the most underrated player award, finished third in the league in assists (9.0) and averaged 13.9 points per game.

Here is the full voting breakdown by our ESPN Forecast panel.

ESPN Forecast: Who should win the NBA Most Improved Player award?

Voters ranked their top three picks, with a 5-3-1 scoring system

ESPN Forecast: Who will win the NBA Most Improved Player award?

Voters selected one name each