Over the course of this week, we’ve discussed a handful of awards for the 2019/20 NBA season, exploring what your ballots might look like if the regular season ends up being over. After tackling MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Defensive Player of the Year, we’re moving on today to Most Improved Player.
As Dan Devine of The Ringer notes, there was no shortage this season of candidates for the MIP award. Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham, and Heat sharpshooter Duncan Robinson were among the many second-year players who made substantial improvements in year two.
For those who prefer to shy away from second-year players – who are, after all, expected to improve – Pistons big man Christian Wood could be a strong candidate. So could Celtics wing Jaylen Brown or Magic point guard Markelle Fultz, former top picks who had breakout seasons in 2019/20 — both earned honorable mentions from Zach Harper of The Athletic.
Many of the names that ultimately landed on Devine’s and Harper’s hypothetical ballots overlap. Heat big man Bam Adebayo, who was Devine’s runner-up, was Harper’s top choice. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram rounded out Harper’s top three, and also tied for third place on Devine’s list.
Devine’s choice for the award was a second-year player: Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who evolved from the league’s top rookie into a legit MVP candidate.
Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald, meanwhile, picked Tatum as this year’s Most Improved Player and gave honorable mention to Kings sharpshooter Buddy Hield and Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis. I’m not sure I’m on board with the Hield pick – many of his numbers were better a year ago and he was removed from Sacramento’s starting lineup in January – but Sabonis is a strong candidate after emerging as one of the top centers in the conference.
The names provided by Devine, Harper, and Murphy don’t form an exhaustive list of candidates — you could identify at least one player who made major strides on just about every NBA team. Hawks star Trae Young, Wizards marksman Davis Bertans, Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks, and Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet are among the others I’d look at if I were considering my own ballot.
But we want to know what you think. If you were putting together a three-man ballot for Most Improved Player in 2019/20, who would be on it?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!