The next LCS Award for the 2022 season has been given to Counter Logic Gaming’s (CLG) jungler Juan “Contractz” Garcia: this is the second award CLG has earned this split after claiming the Coaching Staff of the Split award earlier this month.
Earning himself this year’s FTX Most Improved Player award, Contractz has rebounded tremendously from his disappointing Spring Split showing. He has played an integral role in CLG’s rise to the top this split; alongside, of course, outstanding performances from Dhokla, Palafox, and CLG’s five-man coaching staff. After bringing an 8th place team in the Spring Split to a 4th place finish in Summer, Contractz has done more than enough to earn himself this year’s FTX MIP award.
What Is the FTX Most Improved Player Award?
The FTX Most Improved Player award is given out annually following the conclusion of the Summer Split. As part of the LCS Awards, the FTX MIP is given out alongside the split’s All-Pro Teams, the Coaching Staff of the Split award, the Rookie of the Year award, and the Most Valuable Player award.
So far, the winner of every award except for the MVP has been announced. The MVP award, often regarded as the most important award of the year, will be announced on September 9th, the day before the lower bracket finals.
This is only the second year that the FTX MIP award has been given out. Prior to 2021, the LCS only recognized All-Pro, Coaching Staff of the Split, MVP, and Rookie of the Year. Since 2021, however, Contractz joins the likes of Cloud9’s Fudge—the previous winner of the award—as the first players to be recognized for development across a season.
With teams frequently changing their rosters and spending exorbitant amounts of money on imports in hopes of producing a winning season, the LCS has struggled with individual player development. Underperforming rookies are frequently sent back to the Academy scene or released all together. Awards like the FTX MIP help encourage roster stability and promote player development over multiple splits.
FTX MIP: The CLG Roster
Contractz was not the only CLG player to be in contention for this award. Both Dhokla and Palafox were viewed as players who had seen massive improvements over the year; however, Dhokla did not qualify for the award as he only just started playing this split after winning the Most Valuable Prospect Award in Academy for the Spring Split.
Palafox, on the other hand, was also seriously considered. Despite being in the league for nearly two years, Palafox has never been considered a particularly “good” mid laner. However, with the help of Dhokla and CLG’s coaching staff, Palafox has shown incredible development since the team’s underwhelming Spring Split performance.
Of course, everyone on the team has improved tremendously to bring CLG to a top-four level; however, Luger and Poome were previously already thought to be very skilled and their improvements in Summer were almost expected. Entering the LCS for the first time this year, the rookie duo have proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with.
With each member of CLG improving on a game-to-game basis, identifying which member would earn the award was very difficult. However, Contractz was ultimately chosen to earn the award because of how significant his transition was.
After being deemed a “bottom five player” in the league by some, Contractz flourished in Summer to be called a “top four jungler” in the league. His activity in the early game was a major part of CLG’s win. With the shortest first blood time of any team in the league, Contractz’s plays in a scaling-heavy meta made him shine above his teammates and is likely the reason he was chosen as this year’s FTX MIP.