Ja Morant has made a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament thanks to his dazzling playmaking abilities. He is one of the most exciting prospects available in this year’s draft class, and he will be an All-Star sooner rather than later.
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We have a good idea of who the key candidates for the Most Improved Player Award are now that the season is well underway. Some players have surprised me, while others have simply met or surpassed my expectations thus far this season. These 10 players have progressed in numerous aspects of their games, whether it be the former or later.
Improvements in a player’s game are the consequence of more league experience, more minutes, or just hard effort paying off. Because of the abundance of materials accessible in the present day, players have a limitless amount of opportunities to enhance their games. There are no excuses for athletes with exceptionally high ceilings not to fulfill their full potential. That is why guys like Ben Simmons are vilified, since skill does not always translate to greatness.
Ten players have distinguished out as improved contributors to their clubs thus far in the 2021-2022 season. It becomes clear which players have improved at doing what they do best by studying their statistics, influence, and team’s win-loss records. These 10 players may have improved their scoring or other aspects of the game, and now is the time to recognize them for their chances for the Most Improved Player title.
Dejounte Murray (10)
Statistics for 2021-2022: 17.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.3 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 15.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.5 SPT, 0.1 BPG
Dejounte Murray’s development as a starting point guard has been outstanding, but the Spurs’ terrible record will prevent him from seriously contending for the Most Improved Player title. Murray has grown as a scorer and floor general under Gregg Popovich’s tutelage, and he will continue to do so.
His mid-range shooting has improved, and he’s already showed signs of being able to create offense on his own. San Antonio will almost certainly be in the lottery this year, but if Murray continues to play well, it won’t be long until the franchise is competing for playoff berths once again. Murray’s two-way play is definitely a favorite of Popovich’s, and he will continue to nurture him until he retires.
Keldon Johnson (nine)
Statistics for 2021-2022: 16.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 12.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Keldon Johnson has made significant progress as a forward with Dejounte Murray. Johnson has started every game this season with the Spurs, averaging 16.2 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting. Johnson’s increase in statistics has not been as significant as Murray’s, but he has played well this season. Not to mention the fact that he has a shot to be a long-term starter for the Spurs.
Johnson, who is just 22 years old, has made tremendous strides since his first season. The 6’5″ swingman possesses a reliable mid-range shot and has shown a willingness to attack the basket on the fastbreak. Johnson’s three-point shooting needs a lot of work, but he’s come a long way in just his third season, which speaks something about Gregg Popovich’s legacy as an all-time great coach. With Popovich on the verge of retiring, Johnson would be wise to take advantage of one of the finest winners in NBA history.
Terance Mann (#8)
Statistics for 2021-2022: 11.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 7.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.2 BPG
With Kawhi Leonard out for the season, Terance Mann’s stats are up and his influence has been spectacular. The Clippers have stayed afloat thus far because to Paul George’s MVP performance, but Mann has been a valuable player off the bench. Last season, the swingman had a terrific postseason performance and has continued to enhance his defensive and offensive abilities.
Mann will almost certainly never be an All-Star, but he is quickly maturing into a starting-caliber swingman in the NBA. Mann will always be productive owing to his defensive qualities and increasing offensive ability as long as he is surrounded by offensive quality such as George and Leonard. Los Angeles is in survival mode without Leonard, and Mann’s progress on both ends of the floor will help them keep their postseason hopes alive.
Anthony Edwards, no. 7
Statistics for 2021-2022: 23.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.46SPG, 0.6 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 19.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG
If Karl-Anthony Towns begins requesting a trade, the Minnesota Timberwolves might be in danger, but Anthony Edwards’ presence could mitigate the damage. Edwards is a fantastic young player who can score from both the inside and the outside. In his second season, the 20-year-old is already averaging 23.4 points per game and has showed signs of becoming a future All-Star.
Edwards is an unequivocal star, even if Towns is no longer a part of the franchise in the future. Through eight starts, he’s shooting 31.4 percent from three, 40.8 percent from the field, and 77.4 percent from the free-throw line. Minnesota might be a concern in the road if they can keep their nucleus of Towns, Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell together.
Harrison Barnes, no. 6
Rocky Widner/NBAE courtesy of Getty Images
Statistics for 2021-2022: 22.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 16.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Since his time with the Golden State Warriors, Harrison Barnes has been a consistent performer on both ends of the court. Barnes’ versatility helped Golden State play an uptempo style of basketball with lots of scoring, and the swingman is doing the same for the Sacramento Kings.
Barnes is a big part of what Sacramento does on the floor, even if they aren’t very good. Barnes, a 6’8″ forward, is the ideal stretch-four in today’s game, shooting 43.5 percent from three-point range to open the season. Barnes is certainly one of the candidates for Most Improved Player, averaging a career-high in PPG. The only thing holding him back is the Western Conference’s immense talent, but Barnes can only focus on continuing to affect the game on both ends of the floor.
5. Anunoby, OG
Statistics for 2021-2022: 20.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 15.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG
This season, the Toronto Raptors have shocked a lot of people, particularly without their franchise star Pascal Siakam. OG Anunoby, a talented two-way forward, is the key reason. Anunoby is just 24 years old, but due to the Raptors’ 2019 championship run, he has postseason experience. He’s taken that knowledge and applied it to a high level of two-way play.
OG had a good season last year, averaging 15.9 points per game, but increasing that to almost 20 points per game is astounding, particularly considering the sort of defense he plays every game. Anunoby is a guy that Toronto should prioritize since a 6’7″ defender who can also score is difficult to come by in the NBA. There’s no reason why the Raptors can’t reach the playoffs every season if they retain their core of Siakam, Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet intact.
Tyler Herro, No. 4
Statistics for 2021-2022: 20.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.0 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.0 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 15.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Tyler Herro is certainly giving it his all in order to get a huge deal, as he is determined to rebound after a disappointing season last year. Herro is now exhibiting his excellent offensive skill by scoring the ball at a high level after failing to take a significant stride forward during his rookie season. Herro’s shooting statistics are especially excellent, as he is shooting 45.8% from the field and 40.0 percent from three-point range.
While Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry are all superstars, Tyler Herro’s scoring has propelled Miami to the next level as a championship candidate. The Heat have been an exceptionally remarkable team in the East this season, and they will continue to progress if Herro continues to play like a superstar off the bench. Herro’s season-long average of almost 21 points per game implies he might get the hefty deal he believes he deserves.
Jordan Poole (#3)
Statistics for 2021-2022: 18.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 12.0 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Jordan Poole blossomed as a bench player last season, scoring 12.0 points per game and shooting 35.1 percent from outside the arc in his second season. The shooting guard was confident in his ability to get shots up and was very good at spotting up for three-point attempts. Poole has had the opportunity to learn from one of the greats and how to be an efficient scorer while playing with Stephen Curry. Poole has had a fantastic start to the season, averaging 18.2 points per game in nine games. With Klay Thompson out, Poole has filled in admirably as Curry’s sidekick.
Poole has already started more games this season than he did last year. The shooting guard had a fantastic preseason and is continuing to do so throughout the regular season. Poole is averaging more over 7 three-point tries per game, with a 34.2 percent success rate. He’s more confident in his shot-making, and as long as he continues to learn from Steph, he’ll be a starter for years to come.
Bridges of Miles
Statistics for 2021-2022: 22.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 12.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Miles Bridges has always had a lot of potential as a 6’6″ forward with a lot of bounce who can play both inside and outside the paint. Bridges, who averaged 12.7 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game last season, is in fantastic form this season, scoring 22.3 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game. While LaMelo Ball is gaining headlines, Bridges’ explosiveness isn’t far behind.
The forward has started all 1 games this season and is hitting 34.8 percent of his threes and shooting 44.7 percent from the field. Bridges may be small as a power forward, but he possesses the athleticism to play with Terry Rozier and Ball. If it weren’t for one blossoming superstar, Miles Bridges would be the undisputed Most Improved Player.
Ja Morant is number one.
Image courtesy of Getty Images
Statistics for 2021-2022: 26.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Statistics for 2020-2021: 19.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 7.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Ja Morant is quickly becoming an All-Star, and the point guard might be a superstar in a few of years. With so much chatter about LaMelo Ball and Zion Williamson as possible NBA faces in the future, Morant needs to be acknowledged. The explosive point guard resembles a young Russell Westbrook, with the exception that he shoots a higher percentage from beyond the arc and plays with greater control.
Morant might become a very dominating player in the future if he continues to play at his current pace while developing his basketball IQ and leadership qualities. In one-on-one scenarios, Morant is unstoppable, and he’s becoming better at setting his teammates up for success. The 22-year-old star is well aware of the adulation, but is quick to point out that basketball is a team sport and that he wants to win in Memphis. Morant has the appropriate mentality and talents, and he is now the NBA’s most improved player.
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