The pandemic and the break in NBA action that occurred as a result, had an unintended consequence. It ended the season without truly ending it. The months long break in basketball effectively served as an offseason. Young players that had the opportunity to work on their game without the attrition of a hectic NBA schedule, saw notable improvements in their game.
These improvements would be typical between seasons for young, ascending players, or players entering their primes. This may have been most notable in players like Jamal Murray, TJ Warren, and even Devin Booker. Sample size may have made it easier to write off the improvements of these players among others as flukes. However, given the time off between the break and restart, this may have been seen as almost expected had it been a fresh season.
This may have prevented some potential candidates, such as Luka Dončić, from winning Most Improved Player of the Year due to the awkward timing. The improvement for many occurred during the bubble in Orlando and by itself would have lessened the consideration for that player over the course of the entire fragmented season. Additionally, because NBA analysts and fans alike have essentially gotten a “preview” of the improvements these players flashed in the bubble, that will be taken into consideration by many [albeit subconsciously] for next year’s award.
The result of this is a field of candidates that seem relatively weaker than usual. There will still be many players that have improved between the NBA bubble and now to be sure. However, the new expectation of improvement that already occurred will be so baked into the minds of viewers that additional improvement will seem marginal at best in comparison.
With all of this is mind, here are the players most likely to stand out in this upcoming season of most improved player.