NBA betting: Can anyone catch Tyrese Maxey for Most Improved Player?
The NBA’s Most Improved Player Award might appear attainable for many, but it comes with particular criteria.
It’s not tailored for comeback narratives; instead, it recognizes individuals who are currently experiencing a season that stands out as their most influential. The focus is on players demonstrating significant development within a single season.
To qualify for the award, players must participate in at least 65 regular-season games during the 2023-24 season. The requirements ensure that the award goes to a fitting candidate who’s not just a flash in the pan but who consistently shines on the court.
Before diving into my betting recommendations, it’s crucial to consider some key trends when betting on MIP futures.
Small forwards and power forwards have won the award a high percentage of the past 20 seasons. It’s also worth mentioning that Jermaine O’Neal won the award back in 2002, the last true center to do so.
When it comes to MIP winners, the standard for statistical improvement has remained steady during the past two decades; 19 of the last 20 winners saw their points per game increase by at least five points as well as an increase in their rebounds per game. 18 of the 20 winners also increased their assists per game.
The MIP winners’ teams have averaged 45 wins over the last six years, so being on a competitive team is also important. How long the player has been playing in the league may be overlooked. There were 14 MIP winners in the last 20 seasons who were in their third or fourth season.
Last but not least, an Orlando Magic player has won the MIP award four times since 1999, and an Indiana Pacers player has won it each time afterward. Both the Magic and Pacers have had five players win the award.
Tyrese Maxey is the clear favorite to win the MIP. He’s putting up a career-high 26.1 points per game with 3.8 assists and 6.5 rebounds and has taken over as the second star in Philadelphia with James Harden traded to the Clippers.
Alperen Sengun has the next shortest odds, but he’s well behind Maxey. This season marks the first time he has been given a higher usage rate (27.8%) to showcase his skills, and in 32.0 minutes per game, Sengun has put up 21.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 5.2 assists.
Here are four others in the race with longer odds who could become a factor if Maxey and/or Sengun miss time.
Coby White, Chicago Bulls
White has been getting a lot of buzz lately. In the offseason, he signed a three-year, $36 million deal that has paid off handsomely for the Bulls, especially as Zach LaVine deals with a foot injury and constant trade rumors. White has averaged 35.1 minutes per game this season, a career high. This season, he averaged 22.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game without LaVine. With improved scoring averages and enhanced playmaking ability, White has really taken his game to the next level. There’s no doubt that he’s in the running for the award. White’s stellar performance is prompting the Bulls to reconsider their trade deadline strategy. Should they opt to part ways with LaVine, DeMar DeRozan or Alex Caruso, White emerges as a dependable young guard for a potential rebuild, further bolstering his MIP award candidacy.
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers
Haliburton was amazing last season. He made his first All-Star appearance and became someone the Pacers felt comfortable building around. Last season, he averaged 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. So far this season, Haliburton has been even better. He’s averaged 24.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 12.8 assists per game in 34.3 minutes per game. The Pacers rank first in points scored per 100 possessions and second in pace. Indiana is not far behind the Magic in the Eastern Conference standings. At the time of writing this column, Haliburton has scored at least 20 points and dished out 10 assists in 17 games. With one more such performance, he’ll tie himself from last season for the most 20-point 10-assist games in a season in Pacers franchise history. At these odds, it’s not a bad time to try to acquire Haliburton.
Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
The Magic are in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, and Wagner and Banchero have been the driving force behind Orlando’s fantastic play this season. Both have made huge leaps forward, however Wagner is my preferred target from a betting perspective. The third-year small forward has shown a steady increase in points, rebounds and assists per game every season and doesn’t miss games. Wagner has the second-highest usage rate on the Magic behind Banchero. With a distinctive blend of skills, he effortlessly moves between shooting from the mid-range and displaying deft ball-handling. Wagner’s versatility sets him apart, showcasing an underrated ability to create opportunities for himself. With a remarkable blend of finesse, strategic changes in pace, composed gameplay, and precise footwork, Wagner is a formidable challenge for opposing defenders. Over the last 15 games, he’s averaged 23.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Even at his current odds, Wagner, the league’s most underappreciated two-way wing, should not be overlooked.