Anyone who follows NBA stars on social media knows just how much the league’s top players love boasting about their offseason regimes. Julius Randle regularly posts photos of his crazy back alley workouts and LeBron James likes to remind us that he’s still the King with his oddly intense shirtless dance routines.
And while (almost) every player commits themselves to improving, not everyone does so to the same degree. Some add a new post move or subtly hone their jump shot, while others completely make over their bodies. And the league takes notice, rewarding its players for the hard work put in with its annual Most Improved Player Award.
Introduced in 1986, the award has been given to future All-Stars like Kevin Love, future Hall of Famers like Tracy McGrady, and future bald broadcasters like Scott Skiles. Now that a new NBA season is just around the corner, we’re wondering who will receive it next. And while we’re on the topic of a new NBA season, after taking in all the info below, check out our list of the top five sportsbooks, where you can find all the necessary information to place a bet.
Earlier this month we shared our Rookie of the Year props and now it’s time to share our Most Improved Player odds. We’ve ranked the young stars we think are poised for a big breakout and have included props on their production for the year ahead.
NBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER ODDS
Brandon Ingram (LA Lakers): 5/1
D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets): 7/1
Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers): 8/1
Rodney Hood (Utah Jazz): 9/1
Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets): 11/1
Nerlens Noel (Dallas Mavericks): 15/1
Kristaps Porzingis (NY Knicks): 17/1
Justise Winslow (Miami Heat): 25/1
Justise Winslow (Miami Heat)
The Miami Heat suffered from a serious lack of Justise last year when the forward was sidelined 18 games into his sophomore season with a torn labrum. The injury was especially disappointing as Winslow had laid claim to the Heat’s small forward spot after a strong opening month where he averaged 10.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 34.7 minutes per game. Now that he’s fully healthy, Winslow is eager to get back on the court and continue his development. Look for him to shore up Miami’s perimeter defense while contributing more offensively with his improved jump shot.
Over/Under on the number of steals Justise Winslow will average in 2017-18: 1.7
Kristaps Porzingis (NY Knicks)
A year ago we wouldn’t have included an established star like Kristaps Porzingis on our list, but that was before Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Voters made it known that it didn’t matter how gaudy a player’s stats were the previous season so long as he elevated his game to a new level the following year. According to that logic, we believe Porzingis is a prime candidate for this year’s MIP trophy.
Porzingis will be entering his third year in the league and the 22-year-old Latvian is the Knicks undisputed centerpiece moving forward. That should remove any lingering doubt about his role and will reduce the drama that swirled around the team like an infestation of gnats during the Phil Jackson regime. Trading a certain hooded superstar would go a long way towards unleashing Porzingis even further, but for now he’ll have to be content knowing he can buy a SoHo condo without getting shipped away in the middle of the night.
Odds Kristaps Porzingis will be selected to the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2017-18: 2/3
Nerlens Noel (Dallas Mavericks)
It’s easy to dismiss Nerlens Noel as a Sixers castoff playing on a one-year contract. But make no mistake about it, this is the same player the Mavs wanted to sign to a four-year, $70 million deal as recently as July 1st. Noel bet on himself this summer and ultimately lost when the free agent money went elsewhere, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s still a phenomenal athlete with huge upside.
Noel averaged 8.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game after arriving in Dallas in late February, and provides the Mavs with the rim protection and board cleaning they need if they insist on keeping the withering remains of Dirk Nowitzki on the floor. Look for him to rack up plenty of double-doubles this season as he brings the “D” back to Dallas.
Over/Under on the number of double-doubles Nerlens Noel will record in 2017-18: 20.5
Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Sometimes all it takes is a little pick-up game to get yourself going. That was the case for Jamal Murray, who earned MVP honors at the 2017 Rising Stars Challenge after pouring in 36 points and a game-high 11 assists to lead Team World to victory. The scoring spree sparked his confidence and led to a second half explosion that included a 30-point game against the Pelicans followed by a 27-point effort against the Thunder.
The 6’4” Canadian should continue to roll this year thanks to the presence of pass-happy big men Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, and Mason Plumlee, and the fact that he’s fully recovered from a painful sports hernia that took its toil during his rookie campaign. Expect many more big nights from Murray as he takes command of the Nuggets fast-paced offense.
Over/Under on the number of 30-point games Jamal Murray will have in 2017-18: 4
Rodney Hood (Utah Jazz)
Things are going to look a whole lot different in Salt Lake City this year. The departure of Gordon Haywood and George Hill means the Jazz could have more trouble scoring than Steve Urkel at prom. Fortunately, they have Rodney Hood to help pick up the slack. The 6’8” shooting guard averaged 12.7 points in just 27 minutes per game last season and has gradually increased his range and improved his stroke in each of his three seasons in the league. He’ll see the ball far more often in 2017-18 and should come close to dropping in 20 points per game as the team’s primary scorer.
Over/Under on how many points per game Rodney Hood will average in 2017-18: 19.2
Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
There are dozens of reasons why you shouldn’t waste your time on the post-Paul George Pacers, and one reason why you should: Myles Turner. The 6’11” pivot displayed flashes of brilliance last season en route to posting career-high averages of 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. As good as those numbers are, they’re really just the tip of the iceberg.
Turner scored 20 or more points 15 times last season, including a 30-point outburst against the Mavericks on October 26th. He also discovered a decent three-point stroke, nailing 40 of his 115 three-point attempts (that’s 34.8% in case your calculator isn’t handy). The University of Texas product will be asked to ratchet up his scoring in George’s absence, and we’re betting that he’s more than capable of shouldering the load.
Over/Under on the number of three-pointers Myles Turner will make in 2017-18: 87
D’Angelo Russell (Brooklyn Nets)
No one will benefit more from a change of scenery this season than D’Angelo Russell, whose brief tenure in Los Angeles included long stints in Byron Scott’s dog house, social media gaffes, and a very public undressing by Magic Johnson. The Lakers president didn’t just throw him under the bus, he repeatedly ran over him until all that remained was a pair of purple and gold Nikes.
Lost in all Magic’s criticism is the fact that Russell is actually a dynamite player. The 6’5” combo guard became the youngest player in NBA history to make eight three-pointers in a game during his rookie campaign, and joined Kobe Bryant as the only other Laker to average 20 points per 36 minutes in an age-20 or under season. Russell can flat out score and he should have the freedom to shoot until his arm falls off next year for the rebuilding Nets.
Over/Under on how many points D’Angelo Russell will average in 2017-18: 21.5
Brandon Ingram (LA Lakers)
We’ll be the first to admit Brandon Ingram had a rocky rookie season. The spindly 6’9” forward was manhandled by larger and more experienced opponents all year long and was thrown around like a crash test dummy every time he ventured into the paint.
However, anyone who caught his lone appearance at the Las Vegas Summer League knows those struggles are destined to be a thing of the past. Ingram looked bigger, stronger and far more confident, and didn’t hesitate to attack the hoop. Sure, his 26-point stat line against scrubs and free agents was mostly meaningless, but his progression from awkward skinny teen to a man among boys was undeniable. The many comparisons to Kevin Durant should bear more fruit this season as Ingram gets better at absorbing contact and works hard to develop his inside-outside game.
Odds Brandon Ingram will lead the Lakers in scoring in 2017-18: 2/1