The NBA 2019-20 regular season is nearing its halfway point. That’s more than enough games for meaningful conclusions about the state of the different teams and the individual performance of the players so far.
This post will focus on the NBA Most Improved Player Award and the main candidates to take it home. The starting point are the odds of the leading online sports betting sites, as they are usually a good indicator of the chances of each athlete.
Of course, that’s not the only way to evaluate them, so some stats and a pinch of common sense will be added to the equation.
One of the most obvious candidates for the NBA Most Improved Player is Brandon Ingram. The forward was part of the deal that sent Anthony Davis to the LA Lakers. The move couldn’t have been better for him and Ingram has been the main man for the Pelicans in the absence of Zion Williamson.
He’s averaging about 25 points, 7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Ingram is a scoring machine that is also shooting around 40% from three on close to 6 attempts.
That’s a huge jump from his last season with the Lakers when he was below average from deep and produced much lower numbers. He scored just over 18 points and his true shooting percentage was worse.
It’s safe to say that the improvement of Ingram is excellent compared to last season and his overall contribution is enough to consider him for the award.
The big question here is if the team results won’t hurt him a bit. The Pelicans will likely be among the worst teams in the regular season. That means that the individual brilliance of Ingram is not bringing the franchise many wins.
Most NBA specialists predicted that Malcolm Brogdon would have a strong season with the Indiana Pacers. He already showed a lot of promise in his limited role with the Bucks, so when his new team gave him more freedom and responsibility Brogdon delivered.
The guard has been running the offense well and is averaging about 19 points and 7 assists per game so far. Both are career-high achievements, so the improvement in terms of stats is certainly there.
His team is also doing well and there is an argument that Brogdon could become even better when Victor Oladipo returns.
The main area where the young guard could become better is his percentage from deep. Since the start of the season, Brogdon has been below average for the league, hitting about 34.5% of his shots from behind the arc.
His career average is around the 40% mark, so it won’t be a shocker to see the number for the 2019-20 campaign improving. If that happens and Brogdon keeps playing on the same level in other areas, he is certainly a strong contender for the Most Improved Player Award.
It might be weird to see the name of the guy who actually won the prize last season once again, but Siakam has been that good. He’s scoring close to 8 points more compared to 2018-19. You can add to that 1.5 more rebounds and 0.5 more assists per game.
The man is also a beast on the defensive end and the leader of the Toronto Raptors after Kawhi Leonard has left. Siakam is the main reason why the reigning champions are one of the best teams in the NBA Eastern Conference.
If he didn’t win the award last season, he could have been the favorite for this one. It’s hard to expect back-to-back triumphs for Siakam but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation.
Next in line is Miami Heat’s center Bam Adebayo. His team has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season and a defensive juggernaut. Adebayo’s presence under the rim has been one of the main reasons why the Heat are so tough to break.
The guy is having a career year in pretty much all statistical categories. He is scoring about 15 points per game on close to 60% shooting from the field, grabbing more than 10 rebounds and providing more than 4.5 assists.
All of the numbers above are career-best for Adebayo and he is quickly becoming one of the best big men in the league. He has a strong case for being the most improved player but there are several factors to consider.
First of all, he is not shooting that well from the free-throw line. His percentage currently stands at 65% or so. That’s not bad for a center, but Adebayo needs to improve. He was over 70% in his first two NBA season, so that’s not out of the question.
The bigger issue is that he is not that popular among casual fans. While this prize is decided by journalists, we all know they get affected by the hype as well.
One of the guys that have been under the radar but certainly showed a ton of improvement is Davis Bertans. The Latvian Laser was traded by the Spurs to make space for Marcus Morris who ended up in New York instead.
Popovich wasn’t happy with the way things worked out and the performance of Davis is certainly not helping.
The man has been on fire this season, scoring more than 15 points per game from the bench on an effective field goal that’s close to 65%. The main reason is his almost 4 successful threes from just above 8 attempts per game.
Bertans has an insane range and teams are now guarding him the moment he enters their half. On top of everything else, the forward has added more assists, rebounds, and blocks to his game.
Several players in their second NBA season are in the conversation for the Most Improved Player of the NBA. However, the award is rarely given to a sophomore for the simple reason that we expect improvement from them.
A quick look at the five previous winners shows not a single guy that was in his second NBA year. That’s why the current sophomores will be touched only briefly here.
The Slovenian wonder kid has been on another level this season and his name is actually in the conversation for the MVP award. He is leading the Mavs to a top seed in the stacked Western Conference, almost averaging a 30-points triple-double.
It won’t be a complete shocker if he grabs the Most Improved Player Award, but he was Rookie of the Year last season and the expectations were high. In a way, his trajectory makes sense, despite the fact he is a couple of steps ahead.
The situation is similar with Trae Young. The Atlanta Hawks point guard is quickly becoming a superstar in his second NBA season. The guy’s averaging more than 25 points and 8 assists per game on excellent shooting splits.
The problem is that the Hawks are still struggling and similarly to Doncic, Young was already impressive last year.
Alexander already showed a lot of promise in his rookie season with the Clippers and now is making even more steps in the right direction. He is looking like one of the most valuable pieces of the Thunder in the rebuilding process ahead.
The guard has improved in all areas but it’s not like he has made a huge jump like some of the other names on the list, so winning the award seems unlikely at this point.