The race for NBA Most Improved Player in 2019-20 could be a heated one, with many young players in new or different situations looking to make the leap.
If history teaches us anything, it is that Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors will not be the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2019-20.
There are only two major NBA awards that have never had a two-time winner: Rookie of the Year (for obvious reasons) and Most Improved Player. Since Alvin Robertson of the San Antonio Spurs earned the first Most Improved Player award for the 1985-86 season, there have been 34 different winners in 34 seasons. There hasn’t even been a case where players from the same team won the award in back-to-back years.
With the massive shakeups undergone by almost every team in the NBA this offseason, there will be young players in new places or returning to their same teams, but under vastly different situations. That’s a volatile mixture that could create a plethora of Most Improved Player candidates in 2019-20.
Injuries, as always, could have an impact on the race as well, as the last player to win the award while missing more than 10 games was Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls in 2014-15 (played in just 65 games). If recent voting trends tell us anything, it is that (a) the winner will come from a playoff team and (b) the winner will be someone who has not earned any major honors — such as All-Star bids — previously.
The last winner from a team that missed the playoffs was Goran Dragic with the Phoenix Suns in 2013-14, with the caveat being that club won 48 games — tied for the second-most in NBA history for a team that was gone fishing when the playoffs began.
Otherwise, you go back to Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010-11 who was named Most Improved Player despite Minnesota’s 17-65 record.
Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks made some NBA Most Improved Player history last season, becoming the first former winner to add an NBA MVP trophy to his collection.
So given all of this, let’s throw open the race for the top 10 candidates (for now) to be named the NBA Most Improved Player in 2019-20.