Since getting into the NBA, the Most Improved Player Award has always been one of my favorite awards. It congratulates a player solely for improving in any way. The greatest thing is, roleplayers, as well as superstars, can compete for this award and it is often one of the hardest to predict.
In the past five seasons, the most improved player has been given to players that are now NBA stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo, C.J. McCollum, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, and Paul George. Who could be the next breakout star in the NBA?
Kent Bazemore – Atlanta Hawks – SG/SF
Though he may already be 28 years old while only playing 5 seasons in the NBA, Kent Bazemore may be in the perfect situation to break out next season. Of the Hawks’ top four scorers from last season, only one remains. The one that does remain is a point guard known mainly as an athletic playmaker: Dennis Schroeder.
Surrounding Bazemore and Schroeder, the Hawks have two great set shooters in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova along with an athletic, rebounding center, Dewayne Dedmon. With this kind of situation surrounding him, Kent Bazemore could turn the Hawks into his team.
I can totally imagine Bazemore breaking out for over 20 points, to go with around 5 rebounds and assists. Especially if he can find a way to bring the Hawks back to the playoffs, this award will certainly be in his hands.
Myles Turner – Indiana Pacers – C
Myles Turner is playing in a similar situation to Kent Bazemore. Paul George, the former Indiana Pacers’ star, is now playing in Oklahoma City. They also lost their starting point guard to the Timberwolves. They did bring two very athletic guards to the team though in Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison.
Playing alongside arguably the most athletic backcourt in the league could be perfect for Turner. Especially if he can continue to improve on his three-point shot like he did last year, he could be the perfect big man to play alongside this new look Pacers team.
I could see Turner averaging somewhere around 17-18 points per game with about 10 boards. Like Bazemore, if Turner can bring the Pacers to the playoffs, his chances of winning will only be raised a little bit more.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks – SF/PG
This may seem obvious, but winning back to back most improved player awards has never happened in NBA history. If there is a player to do it, it would be Giannis Antetokounmpo. His potential is literally through the roof. It really is impossible to tell how good he can be.
In his first season, he averaged 7 points per game. The next year, he averaged 13, the next was 17, and last year he broke out for 23 points. That’s all without mentioning that literally, every major statistical category (rebounds, assists, blocks, steals) has improved after every season. With Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker both struggling with injuries, Giannis could be asked to do more than any other player in the league.
With a guy like Antetokounmpo, anything can happen. The Bucks are expected to be in the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be too surprised seeing them lock in homecourt advantage in the East. Who knows? Giannis could be taking Lebron’s throne as we speak.