Who Will Win NBA Most Improved Player


As the NBA season is coming near its end, most of the award races are taking shape. The MVP race gets the most coverage from media, and rightfully so as James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Paul George are all viable candidates. However, it is the Most Improved Player award race that has been an underrated storyline of the 2018-19 NBA season.

The NBA Most Improved Player Award was introduced in 1985-86 season to celebrate players who took the largest leap in progress from one season to the next. The award is significant when you take into account the previous winners of the award. Current MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George, along with All-Star Victor Oladipo have recently won MIP. Other notable names to win the MIP award includes Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady, Kevin Love, Gilbert Arenas, Zack Randolph, and Goran Dragic. 16 of the 33 Most improved players became all-stars, and sustained success for years.

The race for the 2018-19 MIP is extremely competitive, with multiple guys who have elevated their games to a new level, and deserving of winning the award. The tough part about predicting this awards winner is the lack of consistency when it comes to the winners. Should the player with the biggest statistical leap win despite his team being dead last in the standings? Or the player who improved significantly while also helping his team win games? We even seen all star level players seize this award, we have seen sophomores and veterans win, so the candidate are often endless. But here are my rankings for the 2018-19 MIP Award.

1. D’Angelo Russell

When Caris LeVert went down with a gruesome broken leg on November 12th, the Nets season was expected to be over. That was until D’Angelo Russellput the team on his back on his way to having a career year. The talent has always been there, along with big time expectations for him to “pop” into an all star player. This season Russell is averaging 20.4 points and 6.8 assists per game, both career highs and up from 15.5 points and 5.2 assists last season. Even-more impressive is Russell’s improved efficiency as he is shooting a career high from the field, from three, and from the charity stripe. All of these accomplishments earned Russell his first all-star game selection, something the rest of the players on this list are still searching for.

But more importantly, Russell is the leader and best player on a playoff team, a long ways away from the immature kid he was in Los Angeles. When I take in the whole picture of his development, the team success along with his individual success, and his role on the team, I have Russell taking home the award. But the next guy on this list is right there with him.



2. Pascal Siakam

Toronto Raptors Forward Pascal Siakam is quickly becoming a known player amongst fans outside of Toronto with his improved play over the past couple of seasons. In just his third season, Siakam has become a key component of both the present and future of the Raptors. The forward is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, FG%, 3P%, FT%, and minutes. With a stat line of 16/7/3 up from his 2017-18 stat line of 7/4/2, Siakam would win the MIP award in nearly any season. I do have he and Russell neck and neck, so these last few games of the season could swing my vote in favor of Siakam. I also expect Siakam to continue to develop into an all-star level player as soon as next season. If he does not win the award this year, don’t be shocked if he is in the running for it again next season.

3. De’Aaron Fox

Sacramento Kings Guard De’Aaron Foxhas quietly put together a great season while leading the way for the forgotten California team. Behind Fox’s jump in production from 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per game to 17.5 points and 7.2 assists per game, the Kings are the 9th seed in the Western Conference, and have won 34 games for the first time in a decade. Don’t look down on that number, considering most people had the Kings finishing either dead last, or next to last. But back to Fox.

As a whole, the 2017 draft class is struggling in their sophomore campaign. Kyle Kuzma, Jason Tatum, and Donovan Mitchel have all stagnated or declined since their rookie season. However Fox is the outlier as he polished aspects of his game and improved immensely. His rookie season featured a lot of athleticism and speed but lacked shooting from deep. This season he has upped his FG% to a respectable 47%, while connecting on 38% of his three point attempts (up from 30% last season).

One thing holding back Fox from winning the award, besides the insane seasons of Siakam and Russell, is the history behind the award. The average age of those who win the award is 24 years old, and only two sophomores have won the award; Gilbert Arenas and Monta Ellis. Most of the winners were in their year three and year four (like Siakam and Russell), so for Fox to be on this trajectory in just year two must make Vlade Divac and the Kings front office very happy.

Honorable Mentions

Bulls Guard Zach LaVine

Kings Guard Buddy Hield

Magic Center Nikola Vucevic

Clippers Forward Montrezl Harrell

Hawks Forward John Collins

Leave a Reply