Continuing “Bet Week” on BasketballNews.com, our next
projections land upon what should be a very intriguing race for the
NBA's Most Improved Player award.
As we witnessed last season with Ja Morant, it’s usually a young
star who emerges and ascends to a new tier. So, who makes the cut
as the best bet for MIP alongside a fun dark-horse flier?
Let’s dive into it, with odds provided by DraftKings.
Minnesota Timberwolves (+1000)
As I’ve written and said on
multiple Basketball News platforms recently, I’m buying all the
stock in Minnesota. Many have said the Rudy Gobert deal wasn’t
great from the Timberwolves’ point of view for the amount of draft
capital given up — and yes, it’s an extreme price for a division
rival to pay to the Utah Jazz — but, in the short-term, this move
feels like a huge victory for the Timberwolves.
Intrigued enough already by the frontcourt pairing alongside
Karl-Anthony Towns, Gobert will make everyone else around him
better. More specifically, it should allow Anthony Edwards to soar
higher to superstardom. The flashes Edwards displayed in the
postseason were incredible, and there’s no denying that a No. 1
option upside is there for him.
Edwards could have a very similar trajectory to winning the
award as Morant. Not only did the Grizzlies’ star burst onto the
scene, but Memphis was winning a lot of games finishing as the No.
2 seed in the Western Conference. If Minnesota racks up 50-plus
wins, they are in an advantageous spot to secure homecourt
advantage for postseason play. Edwards has the makings of a
25-point per game scorer while the Timberwolves take a serious jump
as contenders in the West. As the betting favorite, it’s hard to
deny Edwards as a worthy selection at +1000 odds.
Indiana Pacers (+1200)
Unlike Edwards’ situation in Minnesota, Tyrese Haliburton won’t
be winning a lot of games for the Pacers next season. With their
over/under win total checking in at 24.5 on DraftKings, Indiana
should be in a prime position to be picking near the top of the
2023 NBA Draft. However, even if it doesn’t translate immediately
into the win column, Haliburton’s statistics should be
Following the blockbuster trade that sent Haliburton from
Sacramento to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis, the 2020 lottery pick
saw a noticeable spike in production, averaging 17.5 points, 9.6
assists and 1.8 steals on an efficient 62.9% True Shooting
percentage. Haliburton showcased that he can handle the additional
workload, so the sky is the limit for what’s next. With the system
flowing through him, Haliburton provides immediate 20-and-10
potential in Indiana. Also, bringing aboard Bennedict Mathurin at
No. 6 overall provides a worthy running mate to take pressure off
of him in the long run.
Haliburton checks in right behind Edwards for the second spot on
DraftKings’ MIP rankings at +1200. His case is strong when you
consider only Chris Paul, James Harden and Trae Young were the only
other guards to average at least 9.5 assists per game last season.
Keep an eye on Haliburton blossoming into the true face of the
franchise in Indianapolis.
Evan Mobley, Cleveland
When scrolling through the MIP odds, I was blown away by this
ranking. Sure, Evan Mobley won’t be the primary option in
Cleveland, but he was so impressive throughout his rookie campaign.
If anything, we should all be expecting a noticeable jump from
Mobley entering 2022-23.
The former No. 3 overall pick averaged 15.0 points, 8.3
rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game last season. Only two
players joined Mobley in putting up these numbers: Joel Embiid and
Anthony Davis. Those are arguably two of the freakiest big men in
modern NBA history, so that’s certainly a perfect path for Mobley
to be on.
Expectations are high for the
Cavaliers next season, and there’s no denying all the talent
that is present within their rotation. Darius Garland, Jarrett
Allen and Mobley are their own big three, but don’t forget about
Caris LeVert (and potentially Collin Sexton) headlining as an
impressive depth piece for Cleveland.
Don’t be stunned if the Cavaliers are flirting with a top-five
seed in the Eastern Conference. If so, that means Mobley will have
become the two-way monster everyone predicted. At +4500, these odds
are too good to pass up on for one of the NBA’s most promising