The NBA’s Most Improved Player race is always one of the most entertaining to follow throughout the season. This award is generally given to the player who takes that “next step" with his game and becomes an All-Star or better.
Last season, Lauri Markkanen took home the honors after averaging 25.6 points per game in his first year with the Utah Jazz. He scored just 14.8 points per game the season prior, and no other players matched such a significant jump.
Who will follow in Markkanen’s footsteps in 2023-24? See the latest NBA Most Improved Player odds and the top picks to make below.
NBA Most Improved Player Odds 2023-24
These NBA lines are current as of Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. ET and courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
- Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers (+700)
- Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets (+700)
- Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons (+750)
- Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers (+1200)
- Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors (+1400)
- Jordan Poole, Washington Wizards (+1400)
- Alperen Şengün, Houston Rockets (+1600)
- Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers (+1800)
- Tyus Jones, Washington Wizards (+2000)
- Shaedon Sharpe, Portland Trail Blazers (+2000)
- Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers (+2000)
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Who Will Win NBA MIP?
Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets (+700)
Caesars Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit
Mikal Bridges was an excellent connector during his time with the Phoenix Suns, but after a midseason trade sent him to the Brooklyn Nets, he started looking like a superstar in the making.
In 27 games, Bridges averaged a career-high 26.1 points to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists. He also demonstrated his efficiency by posting .475/.376/.894 shooting splits, which were right in line with his career averages.
Bridges is the unquestioned No. 1 option in Brooklyn and appears to be well on his way to earning his first All-Star selection in 2024. He’s a strong choice to be named NBA MIP, and at (+700) odds, the value is there for me to recommend this as my NBA bet of the day.
NBA Most Improved Player Favorites
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers (+700)
Caesars Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.5 Units
No player figures to benefit more from James Harden‘s potential departure from the Philadelphia 76ers than Tyrese Maxey. The 22-year-old guard has improved through each of his first three seasons, and the door is (almost) officially open for him to step into a deserved No. 2 role behind Joel Embiid.
Maxey should flourish under new head coach Nick Nurse, too, especially when it comes to counting stats. Nurse never shies away from giving his best players heavy workloads, so Maxey’s usage could dramatically increase in 2023-24.
After averaging over 20 points per game in 2022-23, Maxey appears to be in position to make an All-Star-level leap this year. If he can maintain his usual level of efficiency, this award could be his to lose.
Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons (+750)
Cade Cunningham had a strong rookie season with the Pistons in 2021-22, but his 2022-23 campaign was cut short by season-ending shin surgery. Assuming he gets off on the right foot in 2023-24, there’s reason to slot him in as one of the favorites to win the NBA MIP race.
Cunningham was averaging roughly 20/6/6 this past season, showcasing his all-around game and versatility. He still has room to improve as a scorer, too — Cunningham has never shot above 31.4% from three-point range, and he connected on just 41.5% of his looks from the field in 2022-23.
Under new head coach Monty Williams, we could see Cunningham tap into his All-Star potential. However, with several other mouths to feed — including 2022 and 2023 first-round picks Jaden Ivey and Ausar Thompson — the usage may not be there for him to take such a leap.
NBA Most Improved Player Contenders
Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers (+1200)
Austin Reaves‘ steady improvement over the course of the 2022-23 season was impressive. After averaging 10.8 points through his first 36 games, he erupted over his final 27, bringing his scoring up to 16.5 points per game and tacking on another 5.0 assists for good measure.
However, it’s Reaves’ postseason performance that we should look to as a barometer of what’s to come in 2023-24. In 16 appearances, the 25-year-old scored 16.9 points per game on .464/.443/.895 splits and notched seven 20-point showings.
Reaves has proved that he can shine as the third option behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and his outings at the FIBA World Cup have shown that he can be a go-to scorer as well. An All-Star appearance isn’t out of the question, but it will take a pretty drastic leap forward for him to win NBA MIP.
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors (+1400)
Scottie Barnes burst on to the scene in 2021-22, winning Rookie of the Year after averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Fans expected a big leap forward this past year, but instead, Barnes turned in a statistical campaign that was nearly identical to his first.
Barnes did improve as a playmaker in 2022-23, averaging a career-high 4.8 assists per game, but he also wasn’t as efficient as a scorer. The then-21-year-old sank just 45.6% of his looks from the field and 28.1% from three, both of which were worse than his previous season.
If Barnes can add a reliable jumper and emerge as a legitimate go-to scoring option for Toronto, I wouldn’t rule out his candidacy for Most Improved Player. Fred VanVleet‘s departure should also help to open things up for him, but there are still better bets at this price.
NBA Most Improved Player Sleepers
Jordan Poole, Washington Wizards (+1400)
Caesars Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.25 Units
The green light is on for Jordan Poole, who finds himself on a depleted Wizards team after being traded from the Golden State Warriors. The 24-year-old guard averaged a career-high 20.4 points on 15.6 field goal attempts per game in 2022-23, but those numbers should drastically increase in D.C.
I’m not at all saying that Poole is on the same level as a scorer as Bradley Beal, but it’s important to remember that Beal is only a few years removed from posting back-to-back seasons in which he scored at least 30.5 points per game when he was with Wizards.
Poole may well take 22-25 shots each night, and assuming he can stay somewhat efficient, he could score somewhere around 28 points per game. Even if volume scoring is all he provides, such a leap forward would make him one of the more favorable NBA MIP candidates.
The people love points.
Alperen Şengün, Houston Rockets (+1600)
Caesars Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.25 Units
Don’t sleep on Alperen Şengün, who brings a Nikola Jokić-like quality to the table. The versatile big man posted career-high marks in points (14.8), rebounds (9.0), and assists (3.9) per game this past year in Houston, and he was especially potent with the ball in his hands down the stretch of the season.
Among the more important factors to consider here is Şengün’s age. He turned 21 in July, and his all-around game has already improved dramatically since he first entered the league in 2021-22.
The Rockets have a lot of young talent on the roster, including Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Amen Thompson, but no one player has emerged as the team’s No. 1 option. It’s certainly possible that Şengün does so this year.