NBA Most Improved Player Predictions
This NBA season, the Most Improved Player Award has many different options. We have seen some early star-studded performances this season that could lead to candidates for this award. Last season, Brandon Ingram excelled and won himself the award over Luka Dončić and Bam Adebayo. Check out who could take home the award, after seeing the early part of the 2021 season.
Michael Porter Jr
Michael Porter Jr. was a highly sought-after recruit coming out of high school. Injuries shortened his time at Mizzou and the first year of his NBA career. Last season was his true rookie year, and he averaged 9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 16.4 minutes per game. His potential showed a little more in the Denver Nuggets‘ playoff run to the Western Conference Finals in the bubble. In the playoffs, he averaged 11.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 0.8 assists per game, shooting 47.6% from the field. Now, through four games, he has averaged 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 29.3 minutes per game. The league saw this one coming, they were just waiting for him to develop. If he can stay healthy, he will be in the conversation for the Most Improved Award.
The 22-year old Canadian came into the league in 2018 after being drafted to the Los Angeles Clippers and is now the face of the Oklahoma City Thunder. As the prodigy of Chris Paul last season, he averaged 19 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists to help with the Thunder’s “Cinderella” playoff berth that ended after the first round. Now, after Sam Presti’s outrageous draft haul project in the offseason, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort are the two centerpieces left on the Thunder. Now that Shai has the reins of the young and rebuilding Thunder team, he is free to show off his talent. The NBA saw what he could do last season, and if he can continue the same consistency he could see the Most Improved Award.
Jamal Murray gained a lot of attention from the playoff bubble after coming back from a 3-1 series twice in the playoffs. In the playoffs, Jamal averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 6.6 assists, shooting lights out – 50.5% from the field and 45.3% from three. He has career averages of 15.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. This season, he is averaging 22.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. He has his highest Offensive Box Plus/Minus with a 2.3 value right now. The most impressive credibility of Murray’s resume is that his statistics and gameplay have risen with the same usage percentage and nearly the same minutes per game in his entire career.
Maybe too early? Maybe. But, it’s hard to deny how well Julius Randle is playing with the New York Knicks, who are 5-3 on the season. Julius Randle has career averages of 16.2 points per game, 9.1 rebounds per game, and 2.9 assists per game. He is also a career 49.3% shooter from the field and a career 29.7% shooter from distance. This season, he is averaging nearly a triple-double. He is averaging 23.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game. Randle is shooting 48.5% from the field and a majorly improved 34.4% from behind the arc. He has recorded the best player efficiency rating (19.1) while having his average minutes increased up to 38.6 minutes per game. Julius Randle will most likely cool off, but if he keeps his play up, he surely will be in the running for the award.
At this point, I’m not sure if Jaylen Brown should be in the running for the Most Improved Player or the Most Valuable Player in the NBA. Right now, Brown is averaging 26.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game for the Boston Celtics. Brown also has his best offensive box plus/minus in his career right now, with a 5.0 point value. Last season, Brown averaged 20.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game. In every season of his career, Brown has improved in every shooting and total category. Brown has never played this well and this efficiently in his career, and he could certainly be in the running of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
Similar to the last two players, Collin Sexton has been recently balling out with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season, Sexton averaged 20 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. This season, he is averaging 25.1, 2.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He is shooting a career-best 53.1% from the field and 51.6% from behind the arc. Plus, his defense has drastically improved from the first two years of his career. He nearly has more defensive win shares in eight games this season than he did in 65 games last season. His -0.1 defensive box plus/minus is closer to being an average defender in the NBA too. Sexton has led the Cavs to a 5-4 record this season and has been playing extremely well.
While there is some recency bias in this article, with players like Julius Randle, Jaylen Brown, and Collin Sexton — their statistics are warranted. But, all of the candidates have shown improvements to the start of the season or continuing it from the playoff bubble. But, Jamal Murray is the likely frontrunner for the award at the moment.