Lauri Markkanen will believe in success
They exploded this year, they reached a new milestone, their names now remain among the elite of the League, they are the candidates for the title of Most Improved Player, or the player with the most development in great Frenchy. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has quietly dominated our rankings since the start of the season, but one Lauri Markkanen hasn’t had his last word.
(Statistics as of January 29)
#10 – Keldon Johnson (starter)
One Spurs left and another took over in this ranking. Devin Vassell was injured for a while, Keldon Johnson joined our MIP race. As expected, the winger led the way with the departure of Dejounte Murray, to the point where he became San Antonio’s first option. While waiting for a new crack to come through the Draft (Wemby?), the Spurs in any case know who’s boss at Fort Alamo. Not a candidate for the win here, but a development that deserves some light.
2021-22 stats: 17 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 47% shooting, 40% from distance
Stats in 2022-23: 21.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 43% shooting including 34% from long range
#9 – Kevin Huerter (+1)
Ah, the good story continues for Kevin Huerter and the Kings. At the end of the track in Atlanta, the back lives again in Sacramento and he fully participates in the revival of the Kings in the West. The official sniper of the group, the perfect complement to De’Aaron Fox in the backcourt, the redhead has found his place with the Violets. We doubt Monte McNair will regret his trade last summer for a minute. As a reminder, the Kings sent Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless and a first-round draft pick to get him. A great deal in hindsight.
Stats in 2021-22: 12.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 45% shooting including 39% from long range
Stats in 2022-23: 15.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.1 steals, 48% shooting including 42% from long range
#8 – Bowl Bowl (-3)
Small drop in standings for Bol Bol. While he could string together games and minutes in the first half of the season, the Magic giant hasn’t seen the field much since the start of 2023. The Banchero-Wagner-Carter Jr. trio is fully operational, Manute’s son has seen his play drop dramatically over time and that’s not even counting the gradual return of ghost Jonathan Isaac. The story is already impressive, the development is obvious, but it will be difficult to find more than a place of honor in this ranking because of the circumstances.
Stats in 2021-22: 2.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 56% shooting including 25% from long range.
2022-23 stats: 11.3 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 rebounds, 58% shooting including 35% from long range.
#7 – Nic Claxton (+2)
Oh the beauty of Nic Claxton’s rise! Since the start of the calendar year and specifically Kevin Durant’s injury, the Nets have been very heavy hearted. His stats in the last ten games? 18.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game! Not forgetting that he shot 77% over the same period, with consistently great defense as a bonus. So obviously we know his offensive arsenal is limited and there will always be a free throw problem that needs to be solved, but the young pivot has been a real nice surprise this season in Brooklyn.
2021-22 stats: 8.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 67% shooting.
Stats in 2022-23: 13.2 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 74% shooting.
#6 – Alperen Sengun (+1)
What if he’s the leader Houston should count on for years to come? We talk so much about Jalen Green or Jabari Smith that we almost forget about Alperen Sengun. The Turk is a real feast for the eyes and he shows week after week that he has an incredible talent, to the point of earning the compliments of the best players in the League. Nikola Jokic, Anthony Edwards and Kevin Durant recently praised his level of play and his importance to Houston’s game. The franchise player of the future for the Rockets?
Stats in 2021-22: 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1 block, 47% shooting
Stats in 2022-23: 15.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1 block, 58% shooting
#5 – Anfernee Simons (-1)
Complicated month of January for Anfernee Simons. The performances were irregular, defensively it still wasn’t (not for nothing that he beat CJ McCollum), the Blazers lost a bunch of games despite Damian Lillard’s hot shots. In other words, it is not enough to get points in the race for the best development. Alas, this season is off to a great start in Oregon.
Stats in 2021-22: 17.3 points, 3.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 44% shooting including 41% from long range.
Stats in 2022-23: 21.6 points, 4 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 45% shooting including 37% from long range.
#4 – Jalen Brunson (+3)
Another boy who took advantage of the beginning of 2023 to warm up. We left him with some injuries and not always brilliant performances, we saw him very close to the All-Star Game and playing the best basketball of his career. Since January 1? 28.1 points, 5.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds, almost 49% shooting and 46% from long range. It’s strong, it’s very strong and we wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his first star in Salt Lake City in two weeks.
Stats in 2021-22: 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 50% shooting including 37% from long range
Stats in 2022-23: 22.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 47% shooting including 40% from long range
#3 – Tyrese Haliburton (-1)
A true darling of Pacers fans, Tyrese Haliburton is currently having the season of his dreams. Big MIP candidate, possible All-Star (probably?), the kid proved he has the keys to the truck and even the city in Indianapolis. We’ve seen him become more valuable to the Pacers since his injury against the Knicks. For 10 games the leader was on the sidelines. Indiana’s record since then? Just one success… The wonder is quite worth it.
Stats in 2021-22: 15.3 points, 8.2 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 47% shooting including 41% from distance
Stats in 2022-23: 20.2 points, 10.2 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 48% shooting including 40% from long range
#2 – Lauri Markkanen (+1)
What if he is MIP 2023 after all? If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander keeps his throne for the moment, Lauri Markkanen is building a more serious file. In the past month, the Finn took a new step in Utah, until making himself almost unquestionable for the next All-Star Game that will take place, as a reminder, in Salt Lake City. From October to January, saying something other than SGA for MIP seems unthinkable, but we have to believe that this race will be played well in both and goldilocks has every chance.
2021-22 stats: 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 45% shooting including 36% from long range
2022-23 stats: 24.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 52% shooting and 43% from distance.
#1 – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (=)
Our leader therefore does not move, as since the first rank in fact. There is still no slowdown for the Thunder boss. Lots of crazy, clutch baskets on all sides and OKC is still in the race for a spot in the Playoffs (11th with 24 wins for 25 losses)! If the SGA sends the franchise thundering into the Top 8 this spring, the Canadian’s Most Improved Player record will only get thicker. Two months until the big finale.
Stats in 2021-22: 24.5 points, 5.9 assists, 5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 45% shooting including 30% from long range.
Stats in 2022-23: 30.9 points, 5.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.1 against, 51% shooting including 37% from long range