The 2021-22 NBA season kicks off October 19 when the heavy title favorites Brooklyn Nets meet the defending champions Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Golden State Warriors. The honor of Most Improved Player is always a tough category to judge, given the unpredictable nature of team rotations and player roles. The names on this year’s list, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook, makes the category even more crazy. Here are the contenders for Most Improved Player in the 2021-22 season.
Most Improved Player 2021-22 odds
The favorite: Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets (+800)
I’m not sure Porter Jr. should be in this category given his production, but he’s going to have the chance to take a giant leap this season with Jamal Murray sidelined for the beginning of the year. Porter Jr. has the offensive arsenal to be a 25+ points per game player this year, a leap that should be enough to give him this honor.
Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets: +900
Porter Jr. is playing on a rebuilding team with little chance of making the playoffs, so it’s interesting to see him here. He’s not the type of player who usually finds his way into these lists, but Porter Jr. has a great opportunity to show he can be part of the future in Houston. The Rockets will lean on him more offensively until Jalen Green, Josh Christopher and Alperen Sengun get ready to take over.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder: +1200
Like Porter Jr., Gilgeous-Alexander is going to be on a rebuilding team with little chance of making the playoffs. He signed a massive contract extension this offseason and is going to play well for the Thunder, but this is a bit much. I expect Gilgeous-Alexander to have a strong season but can’t back him to win this award.
Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans: +1400
It’s ridiculous for Williamson to be on this list. He fits the bill as a player who will potentially lead his team to the playoffs, but the dude was already averaging 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. The Pelicans could get a boost in the win column, but that shouldn’t mean Williamson gets the designation as the Most Improved Player. Like I mentioned above, this award field is a bit wonky.
Best bet: Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers (+2500)
This list is truly filled with some ridiculous candidates, largely because of the unpredictable nature of who will truly break out this year. I’ll back new Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle to take Sabonis to another level this year. Indiana is likely to make the playoffs in the East, so the big man will be on a winning team. He averaged 20.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game last season, but look for that point and assist total to go up even more this year. The value is there at +2500 and there’s a floor for production. Carlisle’s coaching gives Sabonis some upside a lot of other candidates with good statistics won’t have.
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