The NBA awards landscape has been a mix of markets that are basically decided and those that are pretty wide open. We know LaMelo Ball will most likely win Rookie of the Year. We know Jordan Clarkson will most likely win 6th Man of the Year. NBA MVP is up in the air. Defensive Player of the Year is .... well, a pointless award. So that brings us to Most Improved Player, which has seen a fair bit of movement since before the All-Star break.
At the beginning of the season, the award was up for grabs basically. This isn’t anything new. It’s Most Improved Player. This type of field doesn’t develop until we get a good look at second-year players, players on the cusp of stardom, that type of deal. Julius Randle was one of those players. He started the season 12/1 to win MIP in his second season with the New York Knicks. The team brought in new coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks drafted Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. Thibs got the team playing hard for four quarters. He also got Randle playing like an All-Star, which he was eventually voted.
The crazy thing about Randle is he opened as a decent bet to win Most Improved Player. Because of the emergence of Detroit Pistons F Jerami Grant and the season he put together, Randle was as high as 50/1 to win MIP last month. Randle has truly had an ascension to +250 to win Most Improved Player as of Tuesday. The line on Grant was above -400 and is down to -200.
That line continues to shrink and you’ve got to think eventually Randle will overtake him. The Pistons are awful and Grant hasn’t sustained his play. Randle on the other hand is going to be the best player on perhaps a playoff team in the Knicks, who are 20-20 entering Tuesday and in the 7-seed in the East. Even if the Knicks don’t make the postseason, chances are they’ll compete in the play-in tournament. The season has already been a success and Randle is a big reason why.
So to answer the question: Is now the time to snag Julius Randle to win Most Improved Player? No. Last month was the time to snag Julius Randle to win Most Improved Player, when his odds were 50/1. At +250, the line is still reasonable and, like I mentioned above, it looks like Randle will eventually overtake Grant. Even if Randle doesn’t become the betting favorite at any point, that doesn’t mean he won’t win MIP. I still think Grant’s case of improving his numbers on a bad team as a starter isn’t viable. Randle became an All-Star and his team has benefitted from it.
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