The Most Improved Player (MIP) Award is usually given to the player who has greatly improved from the previous season, as voted upon by a panel of analysts and media members. Last year, Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors ended up taking the award after improving in nearly every single major stat category. This ladder will be updated at the beginning of each week, so hopefully you enjoy Week 1!
With that being said, let’s get into the list.
1. Bam Adebayo
2018-19 Stats: 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
2019-20 Stats: 15.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks
Adebayo’s first two years were filled with promise as he flashed potential of becoming an elite defensive center for the Heat. Still, with center Hassan Whiteside’s rise as an elite rim protector, Bam saw very little time on the court. That all changed with the Heat’s decision to move forth with Adebayo as their primary big man, as they opted to start all but one of the last 23 games of the regular season in 2019. With Whiteside’s trade to Portland, Adebayo has taken a tremendous leap for the Miami Heat, who are looking to surprise fans this season.
Bam has been getting all-star buzz this season, and rightfully so. He’s grown as a defender, but surprisingly, has also become of the best playmaking bigs in the league. He’s recorded his first two career-triple doubles this season, and is proving to be the second star the Heat need alongside Jimmy Butler to make a playoff run. He’s improved on both ends of the floor, making him one of the best two-way big men in the league. He still doesn’t have a reliable three point shot, but has shown signs of improvement and confidence thus far.
2. Brandon Ingram
2018-19 Stats: 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.6 blocks
2019-20 Stats: 24.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks
Ingram was by no means a bad player during his time for the Lakers, but he was far from what fans expected from a 2nd overall pick back in 2016. He was tall and lanky, but lacked a consistent jumper from the player Laker fans expected to be the second coming of KD. As decent as Ingram as, you could definitely tell the potential was there. He had all the tools of becoming an elite scorer and defender, capable of using his length to score at his will. Unfortunately, various recurring injuries held Ingram back from becoming a star in LA. Luckily for him, he seems to be flourishing as the first scoring option on a Zion-less Pelicans team.
Despite playing in less minutes per game (albeit the higher usage rate), Ingram is averaging career highs across the board, which is pretty impressive in itself. He is tied for 12th in points per game while shooting extremely well from the field, including an elite 40.1% from beyond the arc. Ingram and Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday are co-existing well on the Pelicans together, despite their poor record, simultaneously playing on-ball and off-ball with one another.
3. Andrew Wiggins
2018-19 Stats: 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks
2019-20 Stats: 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.7steals, 1.1 blocks
Entering the NBA, Wiggins was drafted with great hype surrounding his immense potential to become an elite two-way player. In his previous five years in the league, it has been hard to see that version of what many dubbed “Maple Jordan”. Before this season, Wiggins was known for his poor efficiency on the offense, opting to take long, contested, mid-range jumpers and not converting on most of them. Moreover, his lack of effort on the defensive end left a lot to be desired, and his general effort and passion for the game was questioned due to his tendency to “fall asleep” while playing off the ball.
This season changed everything for Wiggins, as he seems to be rejuvenated under Ryan Saunders’ coaching. He’s averaging career highs from nearly every major statistical category, including points, rebounds, assists, and blocks per game. His efficiency is also a career high, shooting around 44% from the field so far with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 49.4%. Wiggins and KAT have found their roll this season, so here’s to hoping that the talented duo could maintain it.
What truly shows his improvement more than the stats, is his impact on the court. Wiggins has proven himself to be a better and more willing playmaker as he now chooses to find the open man. His basketball IQ and shot selection have immensely improved. What’s more is his shots seem to be falling as well, all while he proves himself to be one of the NBA’s best closers. Wiggins is currently tied (with Jimmy Butler) for 5th in points per game (3.8 ppg) in the clutch with 52-36-88 shooting splits, just falling behind players like Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Trae Young. His defensive effort is a step in the right direction, which is a very encouraging for the young wing.
4. Devonte’ Graham
2018-19 Stats: 4.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
2019-20 Stats: 19.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks
I usually do not like to pkace sophomores on my MIP, especially because only a few players have won the award as sophomores in its history, with Monta Ellis and Gilbert Arenas being the most recent. However, Graham has been exceptional so far for the Charlotte Hornets, who were widely expected to finish towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference before the start of the season. Last season, Graham only played in 46 games, playing only 14.7 minutes per game. This season, Graham started off scorching hot, and has only continued to flourish since.
He started off the season with a 23-point night effort against the Bulls, showing off his incredible scoring ability. He recorded a career-high 10 threes against the Golden State Warriors, and a career-high 40 points against the Nets. He’s not bad defensively for his size, but is an exceptional playmaker for the Hornets. He’s shooting below 40% from the field this season, but a big part of that has to do with his usage rate, and how much focus he is getting from opposing defenders. He’s proven to be the Hornets’ primary closer this season, often being chosen to hit late-game shots in the clutch.
5. Domantas Sabonis
2018-19 Stats: 14.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks
2019-20 Stats: 17.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.6 blocks
The former sixth man of the year candidate has displayed his promise last season, putting up some great performances for the Indiana Pacers. He’s a phenomenal inside scorer and rebounder, but often spent time on the bench last season. He was sent to the Pacers alongside teammate Victor Oladipo for former Pacers star Paul George, and at the time of the trade, was looking like the Pacers gave away their star for nothing. Sabonis made the most of his limited minutes as he proved to be capable of stretching the floor, and even taking over games.
This season, he’s proven to be a much better player, playing better with front court mate Myles Turner in contrast to last season. He’s been upgraded to a starting role, playing around 34 minutes for the Pacers team that is surprising many fans as they find themselves 6th in the Eastern Conference. He’s had a couple of great performances, especially with respect to rebounding the ball, which shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing as Sabonis is top 5 in rebounds per game in the whole league.
6. Jaylen Brown
7. Pascal Siakam
8. Fred VanVleet
9. Malcolm Brogdon
10. Jonathan Isaac