Whether if it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo leaping from 16.9 points per game and being all hype to 22.9 points per game and a legit borderline superstar in 2017, or Jimmy Butler at one point being a 2.6 points per game scorer and now one of the NBA best players, the Most Improved Player award generally goes to the player that has the most significant increase in production from the previous year.
- The award is usually awarded to a young player in his early 20’s. Potential and opportunity has played a huge role in each of the past winners. The most impressive winner to me was when C.J. McCollum leaped from averaging 6.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game to 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game in 2016. The biggest note was the 15.7 minutes per game compared to the 34.8.
- When Kevin Love won it in 2011 his production leaped from 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds to 20.2 points and a league leading 15.2 rebounds per game. All of these players were under the age of 27.
- Here are a few players who are in changing situations that may give them the opportunity to win the award in 2018, all under the age of 25:
- Devin Booker, at only 20 years old is already one of the best scorers in all of basketball. Only in year two he became 1 of 4 players in NBA history to record at least 70 points in an NBA game. From year 1 to year 2 Booker leaped from 13.8 points to 22.1 per game.
- Joel Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career. In year three, he only played in 31 games, and in those games Joel Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in only 24 minutes per game. When healthy, Embiid is one of the best centers in the NBA. He’s never healthy though, so that’s the only question mark. Hopefully playing with the potentially great young core of Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric, Embiid can stay on the floor.
- In three years, Andrew Wiggins is a career 20.4 points per game scorer. In 2017, Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game on a sub .500 win Timberwolves team. In order for Wiggins to win the award, he would have to lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs. Even with the addition of Jimmy Butler and keeping Karl Anthony-Towns, Wiggins should still be a more focused offensive player.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been one of the more consistent 2-way shooting guards in the league since he was drafted back in 2013, but he has pretty much hang his hat on potential. The former Detroit guard was the defensive ace for a young Pistons squad and has been amongst the league leaders in minutes player over the last 2 years. He’s one of the more consistent defensive players, but his career 40% shooting from the field and 33.4 from 3-point range while averaging 11.7 points for his career is why Detroit was hesitate on making Pope a max contract player. Pope has had explosive games, he scored 38 points including 8 3-pointers, then scored 2 points the next game. Playing in the open court with the Lakers should give him more freedom and more of a consistent green light.
- After the departure of Carmelo Anthony, the weight of the New York Knicks franchise is now in the hands of the 3rd year budding star, power forward Kristaps Porzingis. In 2016-2017 he averaged 18.1 points with 7.2 rebounds per game in the dysfunctional Knicks offense. He’s only 21 years old, but in 2 years he’s been one of the 10 players at his position. The offense will clearly be built around him, so I expect for him to average in the mid 20’s points per game and be an all-star in the star-less Eastern Conference.