Every season, we speculate throughout the whole entire 82 game season, who will win what award? It’s near impossible to get a perfect take on an award race this early on in the season without taking into effect possible injuries or inconsistencies later on in the season. We do have a nice sample size though to take a preview of who has really caught my eye with their play so far this season for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award.
It was really hard to sum it down to 5 players but, some honorable mentions that have really caught my eye as well are, Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Andrew Wiggins,and Devin Booker.
5. T.J. Warren - Phoenix Suns
When you’re trying to go through a rebuild mode like the Suns are currently, it is great to see your young players improve like Warren has. Entering his 3rd season in the NBA, T.J. Warren is really balling out to start the season and putting his name out there. Before this season, Warren had only played in 87 games in 2 seasons.
In his first season he averaged 6.1 points per game 2.1 rebounds and .5 steals. In his 2nd season, he improved to 11 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, and .8 steals. So far this season he is sprinting out of the gates with 17.7 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals. His field goal percentage has dropped so far comparable to last season but, his usage rate is up and he’s getting a lot more looks this season. If his counting stats remain consistent throughout the season, I can see T.J. Warren stealing some votes for Most Improved Player.
4. Jabari Parker - Milwaukee Bucks
Entering his 3rd season after being drafted 2nd overall in 2014, Jabari Parker looks like he has taken a huge step forward. After the news of Kris Middleton was going to miss extended time this season, the question was who will step up in scoring and shooting in his absence? Jabari is proving to be that guy now averaging 19.7 points per game, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
The previous season he averaged 14.1 points per game, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists. Last year, Parker only shot 35 threes and this season he’s already shot 39. Kidd is showing how he has gained trust in Jabari’s shot letting him shoot more from the outside. I look for Jabari to keep improving as the season goes on and for him to get even more looks on offense than he already is now. I think he has a really good shot at winning Most Improved Player this year with the way he’s played.
3. DeMar DeRozan - Toronto Raptors
One player that has really impressed everyone this season is DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan was an All-star last season so how could he be the most improved this year? He’s been unbelievable so far this season averaging 30.9 points per game on 49% shooting with 5.2 rebounds. Last season he averaged 23.5 points per game on 44.6% shooting and 4.5 rebounds.
What impresses me the most about DeRozan is that the Raptors didn’t lose a significant scorer so DeRozan had to step up; he’s just been a more efficient player and looks like he has taken the step to becoming an elite scorer in the NBA. If he keeps up this level of scoring for the rest of the season, DeMar is a sure fire candidate for Most Improved.
2. George Hill - Utah Jazz
Entering his 9th season in the NBA, George Hill is looking like he will have one of his best seasons in the NBA so far. During the offseason, Hill was part of a 3 team trade that sent him to the Jazz and with the way he’s playing, the Jazz aren’t regretting that deal. So far this season, Hill is averaging 20.4 points per game on 54% shooting from the field and 4.9 assists. He has improved mightily compared to his 12.1 points per game on 44% shooting and 3.5 assists last season.
Hill has missed a few games already this season due to injury but, if he continues to play like this when he is healthy he could do great things with this Jazz team and carry them further up in the western standings.
1. Harrison Barnes - Dallas Mavericks
When the Warriors went off to go peruse Kevin Durant, it pushed Barnes into the open market where he signed a max contract with the Mavs. Despite a lot of criticism of this deal, Barnes is really showing what he’s worth early this season. Last season in a limited role with the warriors, Barnes averaged 11.7 points per game on 47% shooting and 4.9 rebounds. Now being the go-to guy in Dallas, Barnes has increased his scoring by boasting 21.2 points per game on 46% shooting from the field and 5.6 rebounds. We knew Barnes’ totals would go up this season because his role would increase without having the two best shooters in the league on his team.
What I find impressive is that he is still basically shooting the same percentage this season while taking about doubled the amount of shots he did last season. This is Barnes’ breakout season and if he continues to play like he is he is undeniably the favorite to win Most Improved Player of the year.