NBA Most Improved Player Award Futures Odds Update: Morant Moves into the Favorite Role


January 12

If you’re looking for value in NBA futures, you might want to consider getting involved in the Most Improved Player (MIP) market. Many players can win the award, whereas others, such as Rookie of the Year (ROY) and Most Valuable Player (MVP), tend to have a more restricted list. For example, only league newbies can win the ROY, and perhaps there are roughly 15 to 20 elite NBA players with a legitimate chance to win MVP.

The MIP award describes a player who’s shown the most progress, year-over-year, during the regular season. According to Clint Alexander of Upside Hoops, since the 2010-’11 season, the MIP award winner has an average age of 23.6 years, NBA experience of 3.8 years, a scoring increase of 7.2 points, and an increase of playing time of 5.8 minutes per game. The difficulty in projecting which player will stand out of such a large group helps create both value and volatility in this market.

Each month, we’ll examine the top ten players in this betting market based on the principles of Alexander’s research. We’ll then compare the players’ opening odds to their current odds and assess whose stock is rising or falling.

FanDuel Sportsbook Top Ten Odds

  • Anthony Edwards +4000 to +5000
  • Tyler Herro +5000 to +5000
  • Jarrett Allen +6600 to +4200
  • Jordan Poole +5000 to +4000
  • Desmond Bane OTB to +3600
  • LaMelo Ball +4000 to +3600
  • Darius Garland +2000 to +1800
  • Dejounte Murray +5000 to +1200
  • Miles Bridges +15000 to +390
  • Ja Morant +3000 to -110

Anthony Edwards +5000

If we use the criteria put forth by Alexander, Edwards wouldn’t even qualify based on his age and NBA experience. The second-year player started 55 of 72 games during his rookie campaign, but he’s now started every game he appeared in for the Timberwolves this season. While he’s only increased his scoring average by about three points from 19.3 to 22.2, I’m surprised his odds are worsening considering Minnesota’s playing .500 basketball this season after finishing the previous campaign with a .319 winning percentage. The betting market can be irrational at times, and this is one line move that I tend to disagree with.

Tyler Herro +5000

Herro’s another player that’s a bit younger according to our criteria. However, he is in his third season, and his points production increased from 15.1 to 20.6 per game. It’s worth noting that the Kentucky product is averaging over 20 points despite only starting 10 of the 34 games. Frankly, I’m surprised that his odds have remained relatively flat from the start of the season. The Heat finished the past year with a .556 winning percentage. This season, that percentage is up to .625. While some might credit the addition of Kyle Lowry for that improvement, I don’t think you can underestimate what the third-year player brings to the table. Herro’s done much of his damage in the fourth quarter, where he has his highest shooting percentage (.470) from the floor and behind the three-point line (.456). Surprisingly, the market doesn’t seem too enamored with him, given his odds at +5000.

Jarrett Allen +4200

At 23, Allen’s right at the prime age when players win this award. However, he’s already in his sixth year in the league after entering the draft following his freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin. Allen’s scoring is up from 13.2 points to 16.9 points per game. His Player Efficiency Rating has also improved from 19.8 to 24.2 — the highest in his career. I can understand why Allen’s odds would shorten, but he still looks slightly off the pace compared to the other competitors in the field.

Jordan Poole +4000

The markets can undoubtedly be irrational, considering how they assess Poole’s performance. At 22 years of age, the third-year guard increased his scoring from 12.0 to 17.4. Poole ticks all the boxes regarding age, experience, scoring increase, and minutes increase. However, with Klay Thompson returning to the Warriors, he’ll likely see his minutes decline. It’ll be critical to revisit how Poole is being used in the offense after Thompson gets some games under his belt. At this stage, it’s too early to tell how Thompson’s return impacts Poole’s production. Nonetheless, Poole should be given more consideration, considering that he’s a player drafted late in the first round compared to other names on this list selected with a higher draft pick.

Desmond Bane +3600

I dug around for a preseason list for the MIP award and couldn’t find Bane listed anywhere. However, oddsmakers quickly had to make some adjustments, with the second-year player averaging 17.7 points — up from 9.2 points in his rookie year. Bane is another late first-round pick, and after opening in just 25% of the Grizzlies’ games his first year, he’s now started in all 41 he’s appeared in this season. At 23, he fits our criteria, and his scoring and minutes increase also meet the mark. I’ll admit that I’m partial to non-lottery picks winning this award, so Bane is a player I feel the market is undervaluing.

LaMelo Ball +3600

Fresh off a ROY award in 2021, Ball would not have been my choice to win a second major award in as many years. At just 20 years old, Ball falls short of our criteria in terms of age and experience. His points (15.7 to 19.4) and minutes (28.8 to 31.8) increase also fall short, so it’s more likely that his improvement is more of a  natural progression than anything else. Thus, I don’t think we’ll see much movement in his odds. And based on the reasons mentioned above, he’s not a player I’d consider targeting for this award.

Darius Garland +1800

It’ll be interesting to see where Garland finished in this competition last season. After all, it’s when the third-year player had his most significant increase in production as he averaged 17.4 points compared to 12.3 points in his rookie year. This season, Garland’s up to 19.4 points per game. Perhaps his progression is expected as a fifth overall pick out of Vanderbilt. However, since year-over-year improvement is less than the previous season, I think that could work against him in winning this award. As a result, I’m not surprised that we’ve seen minimal movement on his odds from the start of the season.

Dejounte Murray +1200

Murray’s in his fifth year, and in each of the past four seasons, he’s started at least half the games he appeared in. The Washington product’s averaging 18.4 points, which is a slight increase from the previous season’s mark of 15.7 points per game. Murray plays on a Spurs team that’s gotten worse over the past two seasons. They finished with a .458 winning percentage in 2021 to see that number drop to .375 this season. At some point, it’s still a team game, so I can’t entirely agree with his odds shortening, as I think there are more deserving players for this award than Murray.

Miles Bridges +390

Bridges is a player that meets all of our criteria for this award. At 23 years of age, he’s in his fourth season and increased his scoring from 12.7 to 19.5 points per game. His playing time has also jumped by more than six minutes per game. If you were going to build the perfect candidate to win this award, you might not have to look any further than Bridges. No players offered more value after opening with odds as long as +15000. The Hornets have benefited from his play, considering the improvement in their winning percentage from .458 to .537. I think winning should count for something in these honors, so Bridges is worthy of taking home the prize.

Ja Morant -110

Morant could be following in the path of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won the MIP before going on to win back-to-back MVP awards. The Murray State guard increased his scoring from 19.1 to 24.7 points per game. However, it’s his efficiency that’s eye-catching, considering he’s playing roughly the same minutes per game (32.6 vs. 32.2). Yet, his field goal percentage is up from 44.9% to 49%, with the most significant improvement coming from beyond the perimeter. Morant’s shooting 38.3% from deep compared to 30.3% in the previous season. He’s also doing this while attempting more shots (3.8 vs. 4.1).

After his first season, we all knew Morant would go on to be a superstar. But I don’t think many saw it happening this quickly. The Grizzlies have already increased their winning percentage from .528 to .667, and they’ve become somewhat of a giant killer in the West with wins over the Warriors, Jazz, Suns, Lakers, Nets, 76ers, and Heat.

There are no rules that say future superstars can’t win this award, so it’s hard to hold that against Morant. As good as he’s been, he’s still searching for his first All-Star invite. That’ll likely happen this year, and who knows what’s next for the former second overall pick. But judging by the profiles of the players on this list, you have to put Morant in a different category because of his star quality. I think he takes some votes away from his teammate Bane. If Morant wasn’t in the picture, I think Bridges and Bane would be the frontrunners for this award.

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All NBA predictions and picks are courtesy of SportsGrid.

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