There were a few first-time all-stars this season, as well as some new 20 ppg scorers for the first time in their careers. Other players had their roles significantly increased, and they shined as a result like never before.
Here are the frontrunners for the NBA Most Improved Player award.
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
Herro has been a productive shot maker for Miami for a couple of years now, but his averages continue to increase. This year, he scores about 20 a game, all off the bench.
The obvious 6th Man of the Year award winner, the Heat’s second unit is one of the reasons they top the Eastern Conference. Without Herro, that second unit isn’t nearly as deadly.
Even as a more dependent scorer, Herro’s efficiency has actually improved from the field and from behind the arc.
Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
It’s just Maxey’s second year in the league out of Kentucky. After being used sparingly in garbage time for most of his rookie season, he was finally let go and given the freedom to soar towards the end of last season.
That only carried into this year. Maxey has found himself starting over 70 games. He’s shooting over 40% from three-point territory and he’s shooting almost 40% from the field, both numbers well improved on from his first year.
He plays 20 more minutes a game than his rookie season, and he puts up 17 points a game for a Sixers team needing points from other places on the floor. An All-Star selection very well might be in his future
Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors
He had shown some glimpses in his first two seasons of the shooter he could be, but Poole has really shined with injuries to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry providing him with some additional minutes.
Poole has started over half of the Warriors games this year and he’s impressed in virtually all of them. He’s shooting 45% from the field and he’s averaging his best numbers from behind the arc as well. Poole has taken after Curry as well from the free-throw line where he shoots it at over a 90% clip.
All of a sudden he’s become a reliable 18 ppg scorer for Dub-city, adding another weapon to this squad who’ll be competing for another title.
Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant may be the main reason for the Grizzlies’ success this year, but Bane has to be recognized for his significant improvement as well. He didn’t play much last year, and only really came on towards the end of the year when the front office noticed his ability.
Bane is consistently one of the best shooters on the floor and he’s been reliable, starting almost every game for Memphis. He scores 18 a game to support Ja and the rest of his teammates, and he’s one of the best defenders in the Western Conference.
He’s strong, quick, and can do it all on the offensive end. Bane will be a future star, now just in his sophomore year.
Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets
Perhaps the closest player on this list to making an All-Star team who did not, Bridges had made a significant leap with a healthy LaMelo Ball at the point position.
His second and third years made it seem like Bridges had kind of sputtered out and was going to be a low double-digit scorer type of player who would surprise you with rim-rocking plays every once in a while.
But this year, Bridges has shown that he’s capable of scoring from all around the court, not just at the rim. He’s the leading scorer for his Hornets squad and he’s found more of a game from inside the arc, leading to shooting around 50% from the field.
All of a sudden, Bridges can be a consistent 20 ppg reliable scorer.
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs
A first-time All-Star in his sixth season with San Antonio, the Spurs have found their future at the point guard position.
He’s lengthy and quick on his feet both vertically and laterally, making him one of the best defenders in the league. Though he’s become the primary score, over 20 ppg, his efficiency from the floor is the best of his career thus far.
He’s also improved his rebounding and passing, becoming a reliable triple-double-like player in the West.
He’s unique and he’s got what it takes to become a multi-time ALl-Star, no longer hiding behind the bigger names and faces in Texas.
Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
Most penned this Cavs season over when Collin Sexton went down with a season-ending injury, very early into the NBA season. But Garland has produced more than ever, and when they needed it the most.
He’s gone from a young star guard, scoring for a tanking team, to a reliable leader at the guard position and easy 20 ppg scorer.
He made his first All-Star appearance in his team’s city this past February, not because of his scoring, but because of his playmaking.
He racks up around eight assists a game, impacting the game and improving the players around him.
No matter how this season ends for the Cavaliers, they have something special they need to hold onto with Garland.
Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis was destined to have multiple players on this list as a result of their massive win-total improvement from last year to this. The former number two overall pick has shown that he has future MVP potential as he leads this Memphis squad to the second-best record in the NBA.
The 22-year old is averaging 27 a game, eight points higher than his sophomore year while grabbing an extra two boards a game as well.
His efficiency from the field from two-point and three-point territory is at an all-time high and his defensive work has become one of the staples of his game.
Morant was an All-Star starter, and he’s going to have many more years of All-NBA production ahead of him.