Lauri Markkanen can believe in victory

This year they exploded, they reached a new stage, their names are now stuck among the League’s elite, candidates for the title of Most Improved Player or, in good French, the most improved players. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has quietly dominated our rankings since the start of the season, but a certain Lauri Markkanen hasn’t had the last word.

(Statistics as of January 29)

#10 – Keldon Johnson (starter)

In this rating, one “Spurs” leaves, and the other takes its place. Devin Vassell is injured for a moment, joining our race at MIP is Keldon Johnson. As expected, winger Dejounte stepped up with Murray’s departure and became the first choice for San Antonio. While they wait for a new crack to arrive via the draft (Wemby?), the Spurs know who’s boss at Fort Alamo anyway. Not a contender for the win here, but an improvement that deserves some light.

2021-22 stats: 17 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 47% shooting, 40% from distance

2022-23 stats: 21.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 43% shooting, including 34% from long range

#9 – Kevin Huerter (+1)

Ah, the great story continues for Kevin Huerter and the Kings. At the end of the track in Atlanta, the back lives in Sacramento again, and he is fully involved in the resurgence of the Kings in the West. The team’s official sniper has found his niche with the red-haired Violets, complementing De’Aaron Fox perfectly in the backcourt. We doubt Monte McNair will regret a minute of the trade he made last summer. Recall that the Kings sent Justin Holiday, Moe Harkless and a first-round pick to get him. A lot in retrospect.

2021-22 stats: 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 (-3)

Small drop in standings for Bol Bol. Although he was able to chain games and minutes in the first half of the season, the Magic giant has seen the court a little less since the beginning of 2023. Banchero-Wagner-Carter Jr. his trio is fully operational, Manut’s son saw his play. time is running short, and that’s not counting the gradual return of the ghostly Jonathan Isaac. The story is already great, the progression is obvious, but given the circumstances, it would be hard to look for more than a place of honor in this ranking.

Stats in 2021-22: 2.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 56% shooting, including 25% from long range.

Stats in 2022-23: 11.3 ppg, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 ppg, 58% shooting, including 35% from long range.

#7 – Nic Claxton (+2)

Ah, the wonderful rise of Nic Claxton! Since the beginning of the calendar year, and especially with the injury to Kevin Durant, the Nets have been very heavy inside. His stats over 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 a great defense as always. So obviously we know his offensive arsenal is limited and there’s always that free throw issue that needs to be addressed, but the young pivot has been a really nice surprise in Brooklyn this season.

Stats in 2021-22: 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 Houston had a leader to rely on for years to come? We talk so much about Jalen Green or Jabari Smith that we almost forget about Alperen Sengu. The Turk is a real treat for the eyes and shows week in and week out that he is incredibly talented enough to earn the praise of the best players in the league. Nikola Jokic, Anthony Edwards and Kevin Durant have all recently praised his level of play and his importance to Houston’s game. A franchise player of the future for the Rockets?

2021-22 stats: 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1 block, 47% shooting

2022-23 stats: 15.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1 block, 58% shooting

#5 – Anfernee Simons (-1)

Complicated January for Anfernee Simons. Performances are erratic, defensively still not so (it’s not for nothing that he succeeds CJ McCollum), the Blazers lose a lot of games despite Damian Lillard’s hot shots. In short, it is not enough to win points in the race for the best advancement. Too bad, this season started off really well 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 guy using the start of 2023 to warm up. We’ve had him with a few injuries and not always been great, we see him very close to the All-Star game and playing the best basketball of his career. From January 1? 28.1 points, 5.4 assists, 4.2 rebounds, almost 49% shooting and 46% from long range. He’s strong, very strong, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he wins his first star in Salt Lake City in two weeks.

2021-22 stats: 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 50% shooting, including 37% from long range

2022-23 stats: 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. A major MIP candidate, a possible All-Star (maybe even?), the youngster has proven that he has the keys to the truck and even the city of Indianapolis. We see him being more important to the Pacers after his injury against the Knicks. The leader has been away for 10 games. Indiana record since then? Just one win… It’s worth a little miracle.

2021-22 stats: 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)

After all, what if it was MIP 2023? If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander retains his throne for now, Lauri Markkanen is building an increasingly serious file. Over the past month, the Finn has hit a new stride in Utah, making himself almost indisputable for the next All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, as a reminder. From October to January, it seemed unthinkable for MIP to say anything other than SGA, but we have to believe that this race will be well played in two years, and goldilocks has every chance.

2021-22 stats: 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 45% shooting, including 36% from long range

Stats in 2022-23: 24.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 52% shooting and 43% from distance.

#1 – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (=)

Therefore, our leader has not moved since the first ranking. Still no slowdown for Thunder boss. Still, plenty of crazy, clutch baskets from all over and OKC is still in contention for a Playoff spot (11th with 24 wins to 25 losses)! If the SGA sends the franchise to the Top 8 this spring, Canada’s Most Improved Player record will only get thicker. Two more months until the big finish.

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

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