- BetOnline lists Brandon Ingram (+100) as the favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year
- The Pelicans star boosted his points-per-game average from 18.3 to 24.6 in his fourth year
- Bam Adebayo (+250) is on track to become just the sixth player in NBA history to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block per game
Whenever a sport’s best player fails to make the postseason, there’s always an argument over the definition of ‘valuable’ when it comes time to hand out league MVP.
Those debates are much simpler than the ones surrounding who should win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. To claim the hardware, players need to show improvement, of course, but what if they made a big leap the year prior, or what if everyone expected them to get better because they were a high draft pick?
Reigning MIP Pascal Siakam isn’t even listed below because he falls into the former category, while last season’s Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic (+500) falls into the latter.
Let’s examine the odds at BetOnline and clear up any confusion around who is going to win this award.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR ODDS
THE FAVORITE: BRANDON INGRAM
The centerpiece to the blockbuster trade that delivered Anthony Davis to LeBron and the Lakers, Brandon Ingram has thrived in the Big Easy, upping his points per game from 18.3 to 24.6 and adding an extra rebound (6.2) and assist (4.3) to his totals from last year.
However, the 6-foot-7 beanpole spent most of the season without Zion Williamson on a bad Pelicans team that simply needed him to score. Given that New Orleans is a longshot to make the playoffs and that Ingram is destined to be overshadowed by Zion for the remainder of the year, the fourth-year forward isn’t a great bet at even odds (+100).
— LakeShow (@LakeShowCP) February 25, 2020
While his numbers are certainly nothing to sneeze at, Ingram also doesn’t fit the profile of recent Most Improved Player winners such as Siakam, Victor Oladipo, Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. McCollum and Jimmy Butler. The 22-year-old probably isn’t on the same skyward trajectory as most of those stars, although he could prove me wrong.
THE BEST BET: BAM ADEBAYO
Much like our Coach of the Year pick Nick Nurse, this one seems obvious. Somehow available at +250, Miami Heat All-Star Bam Adebayo is set to become just the sixth player in NBA history to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block, joining Larry Bird, Chris Webber, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Garnett and Giannis.
Setting career-highs across the board, the third-year power forward has almost doubled his point total from last season (8.9 to 16.2) while averaging three more rebounds (10.5) and assists (5.1) per contest.
"He is the strongest guy we've ever had, and as ferocious a competitor as has ever been through these walls." ICYMI amid All-Star fun, here's my profile of Bam Adebayo from last week: https://t.co/RAtL0Mx5HW
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 20, 2020
Unlike Ingram, Adebayo should also get a boost from playing meaningful games down the stretch for the playoff-bound (and much improved themselves) Heat team. Bam played a major role in Miami’s 105-89 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday night, limiting the Greek Freak to a season-low 13 points.
Antetokounmpo went 1-of-10 with Adebayo as his primary defender, including 0-of-7 on contested shots.
Respected around the league for his toughness, defense and character, the 22-year-old is exactly the type of budding star that is awarded with Most Improved Player trophies. Place your bets.