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Most Improved Player of the First Trimester

Jimmy Butler, the East's reigning Player of the Month, is the early runaway favorite for MIP honors. Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

Most Improved Player of the First Trimester: Jimmy Butler, Chicago

After years and years (and years) of whining from us about how hard it is to sift through the wide range of players who are nominated for this award and then zero in on a name or three, 2014-15 appears poised to give us our first overwhelming MIP favorite in memory.

‎Have to believe Chicago's Jimmy Butler would be a unanimous hoister of the MIP trophy if the voting were done on Christmas.

Even with Draymond Green making his own mega-leap in Golden State, what Butler has achieved defies explanation, even after we've had a couple of months to let the transformation sink in. He's hiked his shooting percentage from .397 last season to .483, which bumped his scoring average from 13.1 PPG to 21.6 PPG and, more than any other Bull, has helped Tom Thibodeau cope with the steady stream of injuries Chicago has faced by happily taking on a league-leading 40.1 minutes per game.

He's tireless. The offensive spike means he's now an impact player at both ends. And Butler has been seen taking shifts at every position but center, which is why Green -- despite his transformative emergence as a perimeter threat out West -- would have to make another leap in-season to close the gap on the guy setting the MIP pace.

The guy who won Eastern Conference Player of the Month honors for October/November out of nowhere.

Rewind to Halloween and Butler was in the headlines thanks to his thoroughly unsatisfying contract extension talks with the Bulls, who were unwilling ‎to offer more than $40-44 million over four years. Now? Butler and agent Happy Walters look rather wise to have opted for patience, with rival GMs routinely saying that Butler is on course to generate four-year max offers as a restricted free agent come July, a la Gordon Hayward last summer from Charlotte.

Best of all? Butler and Green have been so good that we don't even have to launch into our usual speech about how second-year players (like our beloved Dennis Schroder and Giannis Antetokounmpo) and high lottery picks who are supposed to keep developing toward stardom (like Klay Thompson and that Anthony Davis kid) really aren't the sorts of candidates we're looking for in keeping with the true spirit of this award.

An agony-free MIP dissertation?

Butler did it.