The award markets in the NBA can be extremely volatile, as injuries, media narratives and head-to-head matchups can certainly sway things in the end of season voting.
While some of those things apply to the league’s MVP market much more than the Most Improved Player market, I do think the odds for the MIP are off, creating value on one candidate to win the award.
Latest odds to win NBA’s Most Improved Player Award
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is best bet to win Most Improved Player
Since the beginning of the 2022-23 season, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been in the conversation for the MIP, but he is no longer the favorite, with that designation going to Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen.
Both players are having terrific seasons and leading teams that were expected to be in the top-five draft pick conversation to play-in tournament status in the Western Conference.
However, Gilgeous-Alexander’s price has dropped considerably despite there being no drop off in his play. In fact, SGA and the Thunder are in the middle of one of their best stretches of the 2022-23 season, sitting just a game below .500 after winning seven of their last 10 matchups.
Markkanen has revived his career in Utah, going from an afterthought in the DeMar DeRozan trade two offseasons ago to a building block for the future for the Jazz after the Donovan Mitchell deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But, he hasn’t made the same leap that Gilgeous-Alexander has, arguably the hardest one to make in the NBA, going from a good player to an All-NBA caliber player.
SGA is fifth in the league in scoring, and he has a serious shot to be a first or second team All-NBA guard this season if he keeps this play up. Meanwhile, Markkanen may be on the outside of the All-Star conversation in the West.
This isn’t to discount Markkanen’s season. He’s been unbelievably efficient, shooting 43.2 percent from 3 and 52.0 percent from the field while averaging 24.9 points per game.
However, Markkanen’s leap has partly been because of an increased role, taking nearly five more shots per game than he did last season. After several seasons of looking like a solid role player, Markkanen is attempting to break in as a first-time All-Star.
It’s a huge accomplishment, but going from All-Star to All-NBA is a whole different story.
That’s the leap that last season’s Most Improved Player, Ja Morant, made for the Memphis Grizzlies.
And, it’s currently the path that Gilgeoous-Alexander is on. He’s taken a Thunder team that has been a perennial lottery team to close to .500 by averaging 30.9 points per game on incredible shooting from the field (51.3 percent) given his usage of him.
At +135, I think there is a ton of value in betting on SGA, who has also increased his production in a big way from previous seasons, without seeing his role change much. That’s more than an improvement compared to an increased usage or role.
The Most Improved Player award is an ambiguous one in the NBA, as sometimes it goes to a player having a career season (Julius Randle a few seasons back) and other times it goes to a rising star like Morant.
Markkanen falls more in the Randle column, but he and Gilgeous-Alexander have both made major leaps in their careers. The difference is that Gilgeous-Alexander has thrust himself into the top-10 to top-15 player conversation.
If OKC stays in the playoff picture with Utah, it’s hard to overlook what SGA has done this season, especially after the previous Morant set in the 2021-22 season.
As long as SGA is being offered at plus money, he’s a worthwhile bet for MIP.
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.