There is a lot of controversy surrounding the Most Improved Player of the Year award, mostly because it is difficult to define who is the most improved. Whether it is the increase in points per game, or a player’s overall increase across the board, there are a lot of candidates for the award this season. One thing’s for sure, the voting is going to be a really competitive procedure, as there have been break-out performances by a lot of players this season.
Here is a rundown of the players who should be considered for the award:
10. Jeremy Lamb
Jeremy Lamb was stuck behind Russell Westbrook in his first three seasons in the NBA with the Thunder. However, since he was traded Hornets his numbers have been increasing year after year, with last season’s 9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg and 3.1 apg all being career-highs.
However, this season he has been unleashed. He took advantage of Nicolas Batum’s injury through the start of the season, and has been impressive in his 24 matches so far.
He has increased his points production to a respectable 14.8 per match, while he also increased his rebounds to 4.9 per game. Not too shabby for a man playing in the G/F positions.
9. Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn was selected in the 5th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but had little to show in his rookie season. Being stuck behind Zach Lavine gave him little playing time (17.1 mpg), and his numbers were far from impressive. With 3.8 ppg, 2.4 apg and 2.1 rpg, he had nothing to brag about.
Even so, Dunn was traded to the Chicago Bulls in the off-season, along with Lavine and the rights to Lauri Markkanen, in exchange for Jimmy Butler. Even though he made a slow start coming off an injury, Dunn has emerged as the starting point guard for the Bulls. He has vastly increased his production from 3.8 ppg to 12.8 ppg, while also posting 4.9 rpg, 5.1 apg and 2.0 spg. Lavine is still out with an injury, and Dunn might take a hit when he comes back, but he has grabbed the starting job by the horns.
8. Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans was one of the most promising players coming into the NBA, and he was excellent in his rookie season, winning the Rookie of the Year Award. He created a massive career-high in points (20.1 per game), with 5.3 rpg, 5.8 apg and 1.5 spg. However, his career has been really challenged by injuries to his legs, resulting in career-lows in points last season.
However, he is now playing for the Memphis Grizzlies, and this season he’s been killing it. He brought his scoring from 11.6 ppg last season to 18.5 ppg, to go along with 5.1 apg and 4.0 rpg. He has been filling in as the starting point guard for Mike Conley who is injured, but Tyreke will most likely keep his production steady even when he comes back. Quite an impressive turn-around for a guy with his injuries.
7. Jaylen Brown
The 3rd overall pick in last season’s NBA Draft has surely turned a lot of heads this season, but he has probably taken advantage of a tough situation. Just five minutes into their season premiere, they saw newly-acquired F Gordon Hayward suffer a gruesome injury that will probably cost his the season.
However, Jaylen Brown immediately stepped up to the occasion, and he has been one of the Celtic’s best players this season. While he only posted 6.6 ppg and 2.8 rpg last season, he has almost tripled the production in both areas. Through 26 matches in the new season, Brown averages 14.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 apg and 1.1 spg. He gets consistent minutes in the 30s, and he is considered one of the top talents in the team. He’s been seriously improved this season and could be easily considered for the Most Improved Award.
6. Clint Capela
Clint Capela saw both his playing time and his overall per game numbers sky-rocket last season after Dwight Howard signed for Atlanta. He increased his productivity from 7.0 ppg to 12.6 ppg last season, also seeing an uptick in minutes, rebounds and blocks.
This season, he is on the receiving end of a big-man friendly back-court of James Harden and Chris Paul.
He is only 23 years old, and the potential in his is impressive. He is a breakout candidate, and he is already posting career-highs in ppg (13.2), rpg (11.5) and bpg (1.8). His only weakness is his FT% but his 62.3% this season is also a career-high. His massive 66.5% in the FGs has him sitting among the best in the league in that department.
5. Aaron Gordon
He has been dubbed as the future for the Orlando Magic, but Aaron Gordon was far from impressive in his first two seasons in the NBA. Last season he showed glimpses of improvement, mostly because he increased his range.
While having not scored more than 1.0 triple per game through his first three seasons, Gordon is scoring 2.2 triples per game this season. Really impressive improvement if you ask me, and it has pushed his points per game to a career-high 18.5 (up from 12.7 last season). His rpg have gone up from 5.1 to 8.1, as Gordon has seen an increase in pretty much every statistical category. He is going to be Blake Griffin-esque in a couple of seasons.
4. Kristaps Porzingis
I wasn’t so sure if The Unicorn had a place on this list because he can easily be an MVP candidate this season. You all remember the booing from some of the Knicks’ fans in his draft day, but Porzingis has proven everyone terribly wrong in his career so far.
After a greatly successful rookie season, Porzingis got even better last season, increasing his productivity from 14.3 ppg to 18.1 ppg. However, this season Carmelo was traded to the Thunder, so Porzingis is the top player in New York. He is posting a massive 25.5 ppg, to go along with 6.6 rpg, 2.0 bpg and almost two triples per game. He is surely one of the most improved players, and he can even make a case for the MVP award.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
We have a similar case with Porzingis here, but even stronger in my opinion. Giannis has been a beast this season, having broken multiple records in scoring so far. Last season he got his first ever NBA All-Star appearance, as a starter too. He also won the Most Improved Player last season, increasing his points from 16.9 per game to 22.9. Moreover, he leads his team in ppg, rpg (8.7), apg (5.4) spg (1.6) and bpg (1.9).
His impressive athletic abilities are already making a case for a super-star, and Giannis looks unstoppable at times. This season he is posting insane averages with 29.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.7 spg and 1.6 bpg. It might not be fair to put him in this list, but he is strongly considered to win the Most Improved Player for the second consecutive year.
2. Andre Drummond
Drummond’s talent is undeniable, but despite his ability to rack up massive double-doubles, his overall outlook was always hindered by his terrible free-throw shooting. Posting a horrible 38.1% in FTs through-out his career, Drummond was often in the receiving end of a hack-a-Drummond.
However, this season he has been one of the greatly improved players, not only because of his FTs improvement, but for his overall leap. While his ppg might not have increased a lot (just 0.7 ppg more than last season), Drummond is grabbing a career-high 15.3 rpg, a massive 3.8 apg, 1.5 spg and 1.2 bpg. The 3.8 assists per game is impressive for a Center, but his biggest feat is the increase in his FT%. He is shooting at a really respectable 60.7% from the stripe, up from 38.6% last season. Drummond surely makes a case for Most Improved Player, due to his improvement all across the board.
1. Victor Oladipo
Victor Oladipo is another example of a player who got unleashed after leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder (James Harden, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb). Oladipo was always overshadowed by other players in his career so far and never had the chance to fulfill his true potential. Last season he played for the Thunder, posting solid averages of 15.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.0 apg.
However, he was traded to the Pacers in the Paul George trade, and this season he has done it all. He increased his ppg from 15.9 last season to 24.5 this season, but his overall improvement is scary. He is also posting career-highs in rpg (5.3), spg (1.8), bpg (1.1) and triples per games (2.7, up from 1.9 last season). The Pacers have a new leader now, and Oladipo is surely going to leave his mark in history with the Pacers. Sit back and enjoy his show.