The NBA Most Improved Player award is one of the hardest to predict a winner for each year. While players get opportunities for increased minutes, not all can take advantage.
There are a ton of great young players in the NBA today, all working hard to improve their game each day. The 2023 season will see a number of players looking to take the next big step to become a part of the NBA’s elite.
Here are four candidates for the Most Improved Player award in the 2023 season.
NBA Most Improved Candidates in 2023
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks
While Jalen Brunson could surely be in the running for this award, I would argue that Obi Toppin is a more viable candidate. Following an incredible finish to the 2022 season, Toppin could be in for a minutes increase next year.
The sophomore forward posted 9.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 72 games playing 17.1 minutes per game. In the final 10 games, Toppin proved he is worthy of a more prominent role in the Knicks lineup.
He recorded 20.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. This included a 58% shooting percentage from the field and a 45% shooting percentage from three-point range.
In the final two games of the season, Toppin scored 35 points against the Wizards and 42 against the Raptors. If that stretch is any indication of what the future holds, Toppin’s third year in the NBA will be a successful one.
Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs
Jakob Poeltl quietly had a very good season for the San Antonio Spurs last season. He averaged a career-high 13.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in 29 minutes per game.
In addition, he finished fourth overall in the NBA in total offensive rebounds (262) and fifth in blocks per game (1.7). With Dejounte Murray now on the Atlanta Hawks, Poeltl will likely become the Spurs’ number one guy.
That means an increased role which could mean a huge numbers increase for the Austrian big man. If he is able to take advantage of the opportunity, Poeltl will surely be in the running for the Most Improved Player award.
Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans
Herbert Jones has a chance for a big sophomore campaign as a member of the ascending New Orleans Pelicans. While Jones may not have the greatest impact on scoring, he has an opportunity to build as an all-around defender.
As a rookie, Jones tied for third in the NBA in steals per game (1.7). He played a huge role in New Orleans’ playoff run averaging 10.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals.
Jones will be a key component to a Pelicans team looking to become a contender in the Western Conference. That could potentially bring recognition for his play with the Most Improved Player award.
Jalen Smith, Indiana Pacers
Jalen Smith’s midseason trade to the Indiana Pacers may have quietly been one of the best moves the team has made in the past year.
In 22 games with Indiana, Smith amassed 13.4 points on 53% shooting and 7.6 rebounds. He scored in double figures in all but four games with the team.
When given minutes, the 22-year-old big man took full advantage of the opportunity. In games playing over 25 minutes, Smith averaged 15.3 points on 53% shooting and 8.6 rebounds.
Smith will almost certainly be in line for a minutes increase in his first full season with Indiana. If he plays well enough, the NBA Most Improved Player award will certainly be within his grasp.