Of all the annual NBA awards, the race for Most Improved Player might be the most entertaining and interesting to keep track of. Not only does it allow us to see young stars begin to blossom, but it’s also an opportunity for role players to prove that they’re something more.
Now, with less than two months remaining of the regular season, we’ve got a tight race on our hands.
Here’s a look at the latest Most Improved Player odds, as well as a prediction on who will bring home the hardware in 2022-23.
NBA Most Improved Player Odds 2023
These NBA gameday odds are current as of Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m. ET and courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
- Lauri Markkanen (+115)
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (+125)
- Jalen Brunson (+275)
- Mikal Bridges (+4000)
- Tyrese Haliburton (+4000)
- Cam Thomas (+5000)
- Nicolas Claxton (+7500)
- Alperen Şengün (+7500)
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NBA Most Improved Player Best Bet
Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz (+115)
Markkanen is a first-time All-Star and now the odds-on favorite to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. The 25-year-old forward is enjoying the best year of his young career with the Utah Jazz, who have surprisingly been one of the league’s better teams this season.
Despite this being Markkanen’s third team in as many years, he’s looked comfortable from the jump in Salt Lake City, averaging 24.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. He’s also knocking down a career-high 41.2% of his looks from deep.
Markkanen has some tough competition keeping pace with him in this race, but if he can continue to put up All-Star quality numbers throughout the remainder of the season, he’ll likely close as the favorite to earn the honor, making this my NBA bet of the day.
NBA Most Improved Player Favorites
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (+125)
Gilgeous-Alexander was among the preseason favorites to win this award, so it’s no surprise to see him still hanging around near the top of the board.
The fifth-year guard — and fellow first-time All-Star — has been downright phenomenal this year, averaging career-highs in points (30.8) and steals (1.6) while chipping in another 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Perhaps most impressively, SGA has been efficient in the process. Despite leading his team with 20.1 field goal attempts per game, he’s still connecting on 50.8% of his looks from the floor.
His mid-range game has been especially deadly.
As it stands, Gilgeous-Alexander is one of seven players averaging at least 30 points per game, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, Damian Lillard, LeBron James, and Luka Dončić.
Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks (+275)
Brunson’s move to New York has worked out extremely well for him thus far, as the 26-year-old guard is flourishing in his new role. The Knicks’ shiny new prize is averaging career-highs in scoring (23.9) and assists (6.2) while hauling in 3.6 rebounds per game and knocking down 41.1% of his looks from deep.
Brunson has also logged 15 games with at least 30 points on the year, including three with 40 or more. Since the calendar turned over to 2023, Brunson is averaging 29.7 points per game on 46.6% shooting from three-point range.
As a result, Brunson has made up some serious ground and closed the gap between himself and Markkanen and Gilgeous-Alexander. He appears to be well on his way to at least being named a finalist in this race.
NBA Most Improved Player Contenders
Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets (+4000)
This feels more like a “look-ahead" option than anything else. Bridges joined the Nets and subsequently obtained a larger role, but that may have happened too late in the season for him to truly be a part of the Most Improved conversation.
With that said, his first three games in Brooklyn have been encouraging. The 26-year-old dropped a career-high 45 points in his most recent outing, so there seems to be some optimism that he could become one of the league’s better two-way players in this new system.
However, unless he goes out and averages 30 a game for the rest of the season, I see no reason why he would end up being considered for this honor.
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers (+4000)
Haliburton was my preseason pick to win Most Improved Player, and since then, his number has fluctuated significantly. After opening at (+1900), he dropped all the way down to (+350), but he’s since climbed all the way to (+4000).
Still, the 22-year-old guard made his first All-Star team this year after averaging 19.9 points and 10.1 assists through his first 48 appearances. He’s also shooting 39.9% from three-point range on the year, highlighting his all-around efficiency.
However, Haliburton’s jump — while significant — will not be enough for him to outshine other players in this category.
NBA Most Improved Player Sleepers
Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets (+5000)
Thomas has flourished in the aftermath of the Kyrie Irving trade, averaging 27.7 points over his last seven. That includes a stretch in which he went for 43-plus in three consecutive games, showcasing just how effective he can be as a scorer.
However, like Bridges, this also feels like a “look-ahead" type of wager. Thomas’ body of work over the course of the season thus far doesn’t scream “Most Improved Player" by any means, which is why he’s so far down the list at (+5000).
I don’t doubt that he could very easily be in the running to win it next year, but this is more symbolic than anything else.