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Unlocking Value: Bettor’s Guide to the NBA’s Most Improved Player

What Is the NBA Most Improved Player Award?

At the end of every NBA season, awards are handed out, with the most common being Most Valuable Player (MVP), Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), and Rookie of the Year (ROTY). But other NBA lines are opening up for awards to bet on.

One award that is sometimes overlooked is the Most Improved Player (MIP), mainly because it is hard to predict. However, sometimes that can be a reason to pay more attention to online betting odds because there are always value picks throughout the season.

Unlocking Value: Bettor's Guide to the NBA's Most Improved Player
Jonathan Kuminga #00 of the Golden State Warriors | Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP

 

How Does NBA MIP Work?

The MIP award is pretty self-explanatory. The award is handed to the player who showed the most improvement throughout the NBA season.

Sometimes, the award comes down to how much your stats increased. A great example of that is Pascal Siakam. Siakam, the 2018-19 season award winner, was a pivotal member of the Toronto Raptors that won the NBA Finals. In his prior two seasons, Siakam averaged six points, four rebounds, and 1.3 assists. Then, in the 2018-19 season, Siakam won the MIP by averaging 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists. That is a quantifiable improvement.

However, it does not always work like that. Ja Morant won MIP for the 2021-22 season, the same season he was an All-Star, and two seasons after winning Rookie of the Year in 2019-20. His scoring stats did improve from 19.1 points to 27.4. However, the issue is that everyone already knew Morant was good.

Instead, Morant just went from a rising star to a Most Valuable Player candidate. He even won the award over fellow teammate Desmond Bane, who finished fifth in the MIP voting and had an excellent case for the award, going from 9.2 points to 18.2 per game. Based on how Siakam won the award, Bane was the perfect candidate that season.

Those two recent examples explain why MIP finalists in the NBA can be complicated and challenging to bet on. But if you do some thorough studying, there is a chance of predicting the next winner of the award.

 

Betting Strategy

The primary betting strategy for MIP is determining what players could have a big season that others might not expect. Before Siakam made an impact for the Raptors, he was on their G-League team, dominating in the NBA’s developmental league. When he became a starter for the Raptors and got regular minutes, it was clear he would have success.

In the case of Morant, it’s more about being a young player who rose to immediate success. He was already on the rise, but Morant became an All-Star in the 2021-22 season, leading the Memphis Grizzlies to second place in the Western Conference. The improvement was more about going from a potential All-Star to an MVP candidate.

Another thing to keep track of when looking to bet on NBA Awards is a change of scenery. Three of the last six recipients – Lauri Markkanen, Brandon Ingram, and Victor Oladipo – were traded in the offseason before winning MIP honors. Furthermore, Julius Randle won in 2020-21 in only his second season with the New York Knicks. Often, it takes a player to be empowered to reach their full potential, and all of these players were given that opportunity in a new team.

 

Player Props

Betting on awards is inheritably a futures prop. You can bet on the award before the season to maximize your winnings or place the wager during the season, doing so with much more information.

The sportsbook will create a list, with odds for many players to win the award.

 

Betting Guide

Picking a Young Star

Betting on a rising young star might be the best option for NBA Awards betting. It is often easier to predict with a high draft pick that has put together two or three solid seasons and is now blossoming into an All-Star.

The most recent example of that is Morant, but it has happened to players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo (2016-17), Paul George (2012-13) and Kevin Love (2010-11). All three players went from looking like the league’s future in the first two or three seasons to cashing in on those predictions by winning the MIP.

In 2023-24, a prime candidate fits that mold and is an early favorite. In his fourth season with the Philadelphia 76ers, Tyrese Maxey has emerged as one of the league’s stars. He made his first All-Star appearance in 2023-24. This is not the first time Maxey was on the NBA’s most improved list, finishing sixth in 2021-22 after going from 8.0 points per game in his rookie season to 17.5.

As the team’s main point guard after the 76ers traded James Harden, his points and assists jumped from 20.3 and 3.5 to 25.9 and 6.2 in 2023-24. What also helped his numbers increase was Joel Embiid’s late-season injury, making him the focal point of the offense.

 

Betting on the Rise of a Player

The second most reliable option for NBA betting fans is to wager on a player improving from the back of the bench and becoming a significant role player.

Siakam is, again, the perfect example of that. If you were paying attention to the Raptors’ G-League teams, you obviously knew once Siakam got some NBA minutes, there was a chance he could capitalize on that. Other examples could be CJ McCollum (2015-16) and Jimmy Butler (2014-15).

When McCollum won the award, he averaged 34.8 minutes and 20.8 points per game. The previous season, he averaged 15.7 minutes and 6.8 points. Butler was a little different, averaging 38.7 minutes but putting up only 13.1 points per game in the season before he won the MIP. In the season that Butler won the award, he played the same amount of minutes but got better offensively, averaging 20 points.

Two players fall into that mold for 2023-24: Coby White and Jonathan Kuminga. In the 2023-24 season, White averaged 19.1 points, compared to 9.7 in 2022-23. A big reason for his success has been his minutes jumping up to 36.5 per game from 23.4 the prior season.

Kuminga, in his third season with the Golden State Warriors, has played 26.3 minutes per game in 2023-24 and solidified himself as a starter, leading to 16.6 points per game.

Neither is favored in our NBA Most Improved Player odds to win the award, but both fall into the category of a style of player that has won before.

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New Place, New Player

No player in the 2023-24 season stands out in this category. Unlike with Markkanen in 2022-23, none of this season’s favorites have gone through a trade or joined a team that has opened up more opportunities for them on the court.

However, it is still something that has happened enough times to become a pattern. Markkanen spent his first five seasons in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers, being a solid player who averaged 15.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.

When Markkanen was traded to the Utah Jazz, something clicked. In the season that he won the MIP, Markkanen averaged 25.6 points and 8.6 rebounds and became an All-Star. For some reason, the Jazz were able to unlock something in Markkanen’s court production to get him to reach another level of play. Where you are is vital within the NBA, so a player struggling for one coaching staff could succeed on a different team.

 

FAQ NBA Most Improved Player:

How do you read NBA MIP odds?


MIP odds are very similar to any future prop bet. There is a favorite with the lowest line set for them, with players behind them having a lower chance of winning the award but better overall odds.

How is the Most Improved Player determined?


At the end of the regular season, the MIP award is voted on by the people that the NBA deems worthy of voting rights. Most are journalists or former players now in the media.

How do odds work for NBA Most Improved Player betting?


The odds for NBA MIP work the same as every other season-long future prop bets. There is a list of names, all assigned different odds based on their chances of winning the award.

Who will win the next NBA MIP Award?


Tyrese Maxey is the heavy favorite to win the MIP, with odds set at -400 at the All-Star break.

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