The Most Improved Player on each team this season

The Most Improved Player on each team this season

Awards

The Most Improved Player on each team this season

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Outside of signing or trading for other team’s established stars, the best way NBA franchises improve from one year to the next is through internal development.

At times, it’s hard to predict which players will make that jump for each team – sometimes, they end up being guys you’d never expect it to be or players who aren’t even that young anymore – but more often than not, NBA teams get much-improved output from at least one player on an annual basis.

Below, we present every NBA team’s Most Improved Player thus far for the 2020-21 season.

Atlanta: De'Andre Hunter

Atlanta Hawks De’Andre Hunter was drafted fourth overall in 2019 thanks to his upside as a prototypical 3-and-D wing with off-the-dribble scoring capabilities, and though he didn’t totally live up to expectations as a rookie, this year has been a different story.

Playing similar minutes to last season, Hunter has upped his true shooting percentage from a mediocre 52.1 percent in his first campaign to 64.0 percent in 2020-21, which includes a respectable 36.6 percent clip from beyond the arc.

Hunter has also improved his nightly scoring (from 12.3 to 17.2 points), rebounding (4.5 to 5.4 rebounds) and assisting (1.8 to 2.2 assists) while lowering his turnover and foul rate.

What’s more, although a lot of the credit for Atlanta’s stingier defense this year rightfully goes to new addition Clint Capela (the Hawks are giving up 110.0 points per 100 possessions in 2020-21, the No. 12 mark league-wide after giving up 114.4 points per 100 possessions last year, the third-worst clip in the NBA), Hunter’s contributions on the wing in that area should not be overlooked, either.

In all, Atlanta looks to have a very promising wing on their hands in Hunter, one that can provide face-up scoring while also giving them multi-positional defense on the other end of the floor.

Boston: Jaylen Brown

When Jaylen Brown improved enough to become a 20-point-per-game scorer last season, there were some who thought he may have his hit peak.

Even the most optimistic prognosticators couldn’t have predicted Brown’s 2020-21 campaign, one that has seen the 24-year-old thus far average 26.7 points per game on very tidy 52.2/42.7/76.2 shooting splits while playing like a two-way force for the Boston Celtics.

Additionally, among the catch-all advanced metrics, Brown so far ranks 11th in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), 13th in Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and 12th in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), showing the type of leap the Cal product has made this year, transforming from not even being an All-Star into this year performing like a borderline MVP candidate.

Who knows what Brown will look like next season, but one thing is for sure: No one will doubt his ability to again hit yet another higher level as a player.

Brooklyn: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

The Brooklyn Nets didn’t leave us with many good choices for this project, making Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot the winner a bit by default, but the French wing does deserve credit for going from a player who looked overwhelmed and outmatched by NBA competition early on in his career to now being an every-night player on a team with title aspirations.

Luwawu-Cabarrot provides the Nets with solid toughness and quick feet on the defensive end, as well as the ability to defend a few different positions out of sheer tenacity, while also giving Brooklyn an adept spot-up shooter.

Luwawu-Cabarrot, averaging 7.4 points this season and shooting 36.5 percent from three in 2020-21, is producing 1.08 points per possession (PPP) on spot-up opportunities for the Nets this season, which places him in the ‘good’ range among all NBA players, per Synergy Sports.

Charlotte: Caleb Martin

Like the Nets, the Charlotte Hornets didn’t present us with many great options as far as Most Improved Players, so we went with second-year forward Caleb Martin.

After seeing action in just 18 games as a rookie last year, Martin has already participated in 22 outings this season for what’s a much-improved Hornets squad (Charlotte has a +0.4 net rating thus far this campaign after finishing last season at -7.0), averaging 5.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in just under 16 minutes of playing time nightly.

Martin’s energy, transition scoring and defense have made him a solid rotational piece for what’s proven to be a young, fun team in Charlotte.

Chicago: Zach LaVine

After being last season’s second-biggest All-Star snub behind just Bradley Beal, voters will have a much tougher time keeping Chicago Bulls 2-guard Zach LaVine out of the competition this year.

That’s because LaVine has found an even higher level in 2020-21, posting career-best marks across the board in scoring (27.4 points per game), rebounding (5.2 boards nightly) and playmaking (5.3 assists per contest) while shooting the ball better than ever before (64.0 true shooting percentage).

Per Stathead, LaVine is one of just six players this season putting up a 27/5/5 stat line, putting him on an illustrious list that also includes Stephen CurryNikola JokicGiannis AntetokounmpoKevin Durant and Luka Doncic.

Needless to say, that’s quite the elite group LaVine’s numbers put him in, one that indicates the type of player he has blossomed into for Chicago.

Cleveland: Collin Sexton

Thus far in his three-year career, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton has managed to improve his efficiency as a scorer every season with 2020-21 being no exception.

After posting a 53.9 true shooting percentage, Sexton has upped that mark to 58.5 percent this year, which has helped him blossom into one of the tidiest high-level scorers in the league at just 22 years old. Synergy Sports ranks Sexton as a ‘very good’ scorer out of the pick-and-roll, in transition and in isolation while grading him as an ‘excellent’ point producer as a spot-up shooter.

Sexton is so far averaging 23.6 points nightly to go with 4.1 assists and 1.7 three-pointers while providing Cleveland with his usual high-effort defense, making him a legit Most Improved Player candidate league-wide, not just for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland also has Darius Garland as a strong contender for this distinction, but Sexton has been just a bit better than his backcourt partner, so we went with the Alabama product.

Dallas: Jalen Brunson

Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson has provided his team with a steady presence at point guard since joining the team three years ago, and there’s no doubt 2020-21 has been his most solid campaign thus far as a professional.

Brunson is averaging 11.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists on extremely efficient shooting splits of 51.5/40.0/89.6 shooting splits this season, helping to take some of the load off of Doncic on offense while also playing solid defense against opposing floor generals on the less glamorous end of the floor.

Brunson’s pull-up scoring, pick-and-roll playmaking and vision as a creator have helped him carve out a major role with the Mavericks from Day-1, but Year-3 to this point has been by far his best.

Denver: PJ Dozier

On his third team in four years and in his second season with the Denver Nuggets, swingman PJ Dozier has really hit his stride in 2020-21, averaging 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while knocking down 40.5 percent of his 2.2 nightly attempts from three.

Prior to this campaign, Dozier had only seen action in 37 total games over his first three seasons, a mark that he should clear with ease this year barring injury. In fact, if he hadn’t been forced to sit out the Nuggets’ last six games with a hamstring strain, Dozier would already be at 23 games played in 2020-21.

With him on the floor this season, Denver has been 3.3 points per 100 possessions better than when he sits, proving that his impact goes beyond his point-per-game marks, as his crafty scoring on the wing and versatility on both ends of the floor have helped him turn into a productive nightly contributor.

We should note that if not for the fact that Michael Porter Jr. had to miss nearly three weeks due to COVID-19, which has greatly hampered his campaign to this point (Porter is averaging just 12.4 points since returning), it’s almost certain he would have taken Dozier’s spot here.

Detroit: Jerami Grant

The odds-on favorite to win Most Improved Player for 2020-21, Jerami Grant has been a glowing bright spot for what’s been a rough season for the 6-18 Detroit Pistons.

Grant reportedly wanted to leave Denver in order to carve out a bigger role for himself on another team, and the Pistons’ gamble on him has paid off in spades, as the former Syracuse Orangeman has seen his numbers explode this campaign, putting up a career-high 24.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest behind a solid 59.0 true shooting percentage.

Grant’s incredible energy and athleticism, and much-improved outside shooting have made him a nightmare to defend for opposing wings and bigs, and few have had an answer for him on the year. The Pistons have been able to use Grant in a multitude of ways this season, coming off screens, setting them, running the pick-and-roll and finishing out of it as the roll man while also using his quickness to dominate slower players out of face-up opportunities.

And it’s that outrageous versatility and a more reliable jump shot that has helped Grant turn in such an impressive career campaign in Detroit.

Golden State: Juan Toscano-Anderson

When hometown hero Juan Toscano-Anderson got signed by the Golden State Warriors last year and received playing time late in the season, it was seen as a nice story but most likely one that would be left in 2019-20, since Golden State would be healthy again this season and no longer need his services.

However, Toscano-Anderson has proven that to be far from the case, as now, in his second campaign playing with the Warriors, the energetic wing has carved out a solid role with the club, seeing action in 12 games and playing over 21 minutes nightly.

Toscano-Anderson is making the most of his minutes, too, as the 27-year-old has hit 50.0 percent of his threes this season, ranking in the 99th percentile (!) as a spot-up shooter this year and in the 79th percentile as a cutter, per Synergy Sports.

An obvious case can be made that Toscano-Anderson has played his way into a full-time contract with the Warriors, and that will probably come at some point, but for now, the two-way player will attempt to maintain this solid level of form for a Golden State team with playoff aspirations this season.

Houston: Christian Wood

When the Pistons acquired Grant over the offseason, that made big man and free agent at the time Christian Wood the odd man out. The Houston Rockets were happy to swoop in at that point, signing the 25-year-old to a three-year, $41 million deal, one that has looked like a steal based on Wood’s play this season.

Wood, despite a couple of ugly ankle injuries, has been great when he’s seen the court in 2020-21, averaging 22.0 points per game (up from 13.1 last year) and 10.2 rebounds (up from 6.3) while shooting a pristine 55.8 percent from the floor and knocking down over 42 percent of his three-point attempts.

Wood’s versatile game makes him the prototypical modern big man, one capable of scoring on smaller defenders down low but also facing up, launching threes or using their ball-handle to get to the basket.

If Wood is able to get back to those numbers when he does return from his latest ankle issue, he’s a lock to be Most Improved Player finalist – his production has been that impressive for the Rockets.

Indiana: Malcolm Brogdon

Part of what made Malcolm Brogdon open to leaving the Milwaukee Bucks was the prospect of having a bigger role offensively elsewhere, something he has found with the Indiana Pacers.

And after a strong first season with the club, posting a 16.5/4.9/7.1 stat line with a 54.1 true shooting percentage, he has upped his scoring this year to 21.4 points per game this year with a still-tidy 54.8 true shooting percentage, looking like a potential first-time All-Star every night he’s hit the floor for Indiana.

The Pacers actually gave us one of our most difficult choices for this project, as Domantas Sabonis has made a similar jump to Brogdon this year, posting beastly marks of 20.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists in his own right, but because the big man was already an All-Star last season, we decided to go with Brogdon instead.

LA Clippers: Nicolas Batum

The case of Nicolas Batum is a unique one as far as this project goes, considering he had proven to be a productive, impactful player in the past, prior to seeing his play fall off hard before bouncing back this season, which not many names on this list can say.

But the fact that Batum performed so poorly last season with the Hornets, averaging a meager 3.6 points on 34.6 percent shooting while looking like the NBA game had passed him by, in comparison to what he looks like now for the Los Angeles Clippers made him the easy choice as L.A.’s Most Improved Player.

Batum is averaging 10.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals this season while shooting 46.2 percent from three, looking every bit like one of the best two-way role players in the league.

Whether it was a lack of motivation late in his Hornets career, feeling healthier now or being able to play off of superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the fact of the matter is Batum looks like a new guy this year.

LA Lakers: Talen Horton-Tucker

After seeing action in just six games as a rookie for the Los Angeles Lakers, Talen Horton-Tucker has been able to establish himself as a key piece of the reigning champions’ rotation, seeing over 17 minutes of nightly playing time in 22 outings.

Horton-Tucker is putting up 7.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per contest in 2020-21, using his two-way energy, pick-and-roll chops and driving ability to make an impact for one of the most loaded teams in the NBA.

And for Horton-Tucker to be doing that before even turning 21 years old is extremely noteworthy in its own right, indicating a big-time future for the Iowa State product.

Memphis: Kyle Anderson

It may have taken a year longer than expected and it could partially have to do with the Memphis Grizzlies having so many frontcourt injuries, but one way or another, Kyle Anderson is enjoying a breakout campaign in this, his age-27 season.

Anderson, a supersized, plodding do-everything wing who can score, rebound and create, is averaging a career-high 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest this year behind a 56.3 true shooting percentage while performing like one of Memphis’ best players in 2020-21.

According to VORP, Anderson has actually been the Grizzlies’ most impactful player on the campaign, and his play hasn’t been all that far off from that assessment.

Miami: Max Strus

DePaul product Max Strus, a two-way player for the Miami Heat, saw six total minutes of action last regular season as a member of the Bulls, scoring five total points in that span.

This year, Strus has played 14 games already for Miami and is coming off his best game as a professional, scoring 21 points against Houston on 6-of-9 shooting in a performance that should earn the sneakily athletic swingman more playing time with the Heat going forward.

In total this season, Strus is averaging 7.0 points and shooting 42.6 percent from three on 54 total attempts. Meanwhile, his overall shot chart makes him resemble a player Daryl Morey would create in a lab:

That level of efficiency gives off the vibes of a player who could potentially be about to take off in a complemetary role.

Milwaukee: Bobby Portis

Milwaukee Bucks big man Bobby Portis isn’t posting career-highs across the board like many of the other players on this list, but just for the second time since he reached the NBA, he’s performing well on a playoff-level team, something he hasn’t had the chance to do since 2016-17 with the Bulls.

Milwaukee may just be 16-9 on the year, but their +9.6 net rating is the top mark in the league, and Portis’ productive contributions off the bench have been a huge help for the club.

Portis is averaging 11.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Bucks while shooting an outstanding 48.1 percent from beyond the arc and producing 1.1 PPP on pick-and-pop sets, per Synergy Sports, a healthy enough mark to put him in the ‘good’ range among all NBA players.

Portis’ scoring for a complementary big man has always been solid, but this year, he’s doing it more efficiently than ever, as he is setting career marks in BPM, PER and Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48), thanks to his shooting percentages being up and turnovers being down.

In all, the Bucks did well this offseason to pick up Portis at such a discount, as the floor-spacing frontcourt player has proven to be a great fit for what the team needed off the bench.

Minnesota: Malik Beasley

After a slow start to his career with the Nuggets, athletic 2-guard Malik Beasley has been a new player since joining the Minnesota Timberwolves.

At first, it wasn’t clear if Beasley’s scoring explosion when he joined the Wolves for the final 14 games of their 2019-20 season – when the former Florida State Seminole averaged 20.7 points nightly – was a sample-size-related fluke or if he could carry that form over into a full campaign.

However, Beasley’s play in 2020-21 has proven that that wasn’t just a blip on the radar, as the explosive Beasley is putting up 20.6 points thus far this league year while chipping in 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists on a solid 57.3 true shooting percentage and playing high-energy defense on the other end of the floor.

For a player to go from averaging 8.2 points over his first four seasons before becoming a 20-point-nightly guy is quite impressive, and made Beasley the easy choice as far as selecting Minnesota’s Most Improved Player, even if teammate Jarred Vanderbilt had a solid case in his own right.

Beasley should get some actual Most Improved Player votes by year’s end, even if he won’t be the favorite to win the award – his leap has been that eyebrow-raising.

New Orleans: Zion Williamson

It was a somewhat tough call here picking between Zion Williamson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker as the New Orleans Pelicans’ Most Improved Player.

On one hand, Williamson was already quite good as a rookie last year, averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 58.3 percent from the floor, albeit in just 24 games due to injury. Plus, on paper, Williamson’s raw numbers – 23.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists – don’t look that much better this campaign, bringing into question how much of an improvement we’ve really seen from the former No. 1 overall pick.

At best, one could probably say Williamson went from being good as a first-year player to very good this season.

But a closer look at the advanced stats indicates that former Blue Devil’s leap has been more noteworthy than his raw averages would suggest. Williamson’s BPM has blown up from 2.1 in 2019-20 to 3.4 this year, which is good for the 30th-best mark in the NBA, as has his WS/48, going from 0.141 to 0.195, the No. 21 mark league-wide this season.

That, plus the fact that Alexander-Walker hasn’t really impressed in his extended playing time this season (the Virginia Tech product is averaging 9.2 points but taking 8.8 shots nightly to get there), were big enough factors to make Williamson our choice here.

New York: Julius Randle

In this era of instant gratification, it’s easy to give up on players early on in their careers or just assume they’ll never reach the heights many thought they’d reach coming out of college. It’s especially difficult if you have to wait until a player’s seventh season to see them reach their immense ceiling.

But that’s exactly what we’ve seen from Julius Randle, the New York Knicks big man who’s making a strong case to be named a first-time All-Star in this, his seventh campaign in the NBA.

Randle has always had the tools to be a special player – a tight ball-handle for a big, good vision, face-up and shooting prowess and an iron shoulder that seems to send defenders flying out of the way – but it took until 2020-21 for us to see him put it all together in a game-changing way.

Randle is averaging career-highs in just about every major stat this year, including points (22.3), rebounds (10.9), assists (5.8) and three-point percentage (38.2) while helping lead the feisty, young Knicks into playoff contention.

The former Kentucky Wildcat has been so good, in fact, that per Stathead, he’s one of just two players putting up a 22.2/10.8/5.7 stat line this season.

The other? That would be Top-3 MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.

Randle may still have some relative flaws, but under Tom Thibodeau, his game has been ironed out to the point New York appears to have a multi-year All-Star on their hands.

Oklahoma City: Hamidou Diallo

Porous shooting numbers aside, third-year guard Hamidou Diallo has seen great improvements this year for the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaging 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 51.6 percent from the floor.

Diallo, in particular, thrives on the defensive end, where he uses his length and elite athleticism to lock up foes on the perimeter. He must also be credited for taking much better shots this season and getting better at finding open teammates.

His shooting does remain a big hindrance for his game, though, as Diallo’s betterment is being seriously held back by his 27.3 percent three-point shooting mark and arguably even uglier 66.3 free-throw shooting percentage.

Nevertheless, the hyper-athletic Diallo has improved to the point the advanced stats now consider him an average to a slightly above-average player – as per his 0.0 BPM and 0.3 VORP marks – something that was not the case prior to this year.

Orlando: Dwayne Bacon

If not for the devastating injury he suffered, the Orlando Magic’s Most Improved Player would have easily been Markelle Fultz, who was playing the best basketball of his career prior to going down.

Instead, though, we have to go with fourth-year guard Dwayne Bacon, who, in fairness, has done a good job of stepping up in an extended role in his first year with Orlando after spending his first three seasons with the Hornets.

Bacon is averaging a career-high 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds this season and is knocking down a solid 37.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Bacon’s three-point shooting will be vital as far as continued improvement goes because, without it, he doesn’t provide much else to be a rotational NBA player. His midrange and inside scoring is just too inconsistent while his defense leaves something to be desired.

Philadelphia: Shake Milton

We saw glimpses of Shake Milton’s potential last season, but this year, the SMU product has taken his output to another level, putting up 14.0 points and 3.0 assists per game as a key reserve for what has been one of the best teams in the league this season in the Philadelphia 76ers.

Milton specializes in scoring out of the pick-and-roll, where he’s producing 0.991 PPP, the 15th-best mark in the league, per Synergy Sports, among players with at least 100 such opportunities. For reference, that’s a higher clip than All-Stars such as Paul George (0.965 PPP), DeMar DeRozan (0.986 PPP) and Trae Young (0.984 PPP), proving how effective Milton is out of those sets.

The fact that Milton has been that productive while shooting just 30.6 percent from three this season goes to show he still has an even higher level he can eventually reach if he can work on his accuracy from the outside.

Phoenix: Mikal Bridges

Third-year forward Mikal Bridges has gone from being a solid role player last season to become one of the best 3-and-D swingmen in the Association this season as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

Bridges’ raw averages – 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 blocks on 50.6/39.7/81.7 shooting splits – are impressive enough, but the advanced stats paint an even rosier picture of the Villanova product.

According to Synergy Sports, Bridges grades out as an ‘excellent’ scorer in transition, on cuts and as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, while ranking as a ‘very good’ point-producer as a spot-up shooter. In addition to that, three of the main catch-all advanced metrics – VORP, BPM and WS/48 – all place Bridges among the Top 40 most impactful players in the NBA this year.

The Suns appear to have a modern-day version of Shane Battier on their hands in Bridges, a high-IQ player who can defend multiple positions, make the right reads with the ball and knock down threes from the outside, though Bridges projects to be a better scorer off the dribble than Battier ever was.

Think the Sixers are regretting trading the Philadelphia native on draft night back in 2018?

The sharpshooting Cameron Johnson was another strong option here for Suns’ Most Improved Player, but Bridges has simply been too good this year to not go with him.

Portland: Gary Trent Jr.

In reality, Gary Trent Jr.’s breakout came late last season, when he averaged 13.5 points while shooting 44.0 percent from three over the final 23 games of the regular season, but the fact that he’s been able to carry that over into a full campaign without the element of surprise on his side made him our choice for the Portland Trail Blazers’ Most Improved Player.

In 2020-21, Trent is averaging 14.0 points nightly, shooting 43.0 percent from beyond the arc and helping keep the injury-riddled Blazers afloat in the brutal Western Conference. What’s more, since CJ McCollum left the lineup due to a foot fracture and Trent became the team’s starter at shooting guard, the Duke product has stepped up in a major way, averaging 19.4 points and 1.3 steals while hitting 43.6 of his nearly 10 nightly three-point attempts.

Speaking of McCollum, he likely would have been our pick here had he not gone down with injury, but even then, he was an elite 2-guard prior to this season, so his case wasn’t totally open and shut, either. Trent made a strong case in his own right, too.

Sacramento: De'Aaron Fox

Fourth-year guard De’Aaron Fox has yet to make an All-Star roster in his young career, but that could very well change this campaign on his play.

The lightning-quick floor general is putting up 23.4 points, 6.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 35.7 percent from three. Fox is one of just seven players, per Stathead, averaging 23.0 points and 6.5 assists in 2020-21, along with more established stars like Jokic, Doncic, James Harden and LeBron James, among others.

Even more impressively, Fox has led a young Sacramento Kings to a 12-12 start over 24 games, good enough to have them in the thick of the playoff race in the super-competitive Western Conference.

That three-point shooting will be key for Fox going forward, as him hitting outside shots off the dribble will open up the floor a ton for his off-the-dribble expertise, and with his freakish athleticism, that’s a scary proposition for opponents.

San Antonio: Keldon Johnson

San Antonio Spurs fans caught glimpses of Keldon Johnson’s potential in his rookie campaign last year, but this year, the rebounding machine on the wing has really continued to put it all together, averaging 14.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per contest.

His shooting will need to improve, as Johnson is hitting just 31.1 percent of his threes this season, but the 21-year-old has already shown an ability to play within himself at a level rare for a player of his age and excels in his role, that of a dirty-work swingman with high-end defensive potential.

The level of energy Johnson plays with borders on infectious, and even his veteran teammates have taken notice of it already:

As long as he continues to develop at this rate, the Spurs will have a player who makes winning plays on both ends on their hands, in the mold of a Marcus Smart or Patrick Beverley – Johnson has that type of two-way potential.

 

Toronto: Chris Boucher

Chris Boucher is almost a statistical anomaly at this point, as the 28-year-old big man hasn’t started a single game for the Toronto Raptors, plays just over 23 minutes nightly and yet ranks among the NBA’s elite in various catch-all advanced metrics – his stints of game action are that impactful.

Boucher currently sits fourth (!) overall in WS/48, 17th in PER and 25th in BPM, marks that put him at the level of various All-Stars and All-NBA players, usually not reserved for backups seeing such little playing time.

Overall on the season, Boucher is averaging 13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.6 three-pointers, hitting nearly 44 percent of his looks from the outside.

In all, Boucher is an outrageously efficient player, and Toronto did a great job bringing him along slowly, as the shot-swatting big averaged 5.5 points in 10.8 minutes per game over his first three seasons, laughable numbers in comparison to what he’s doing this season.

His playing time will limit his ability to actually win the award, but there’s no doubt Boucher has been one of the league’s Most Improved Players this season, not just among Raptors players.

Utah: Jordan Clarkson

Undoubtedly the early frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year this season, Jordan Clarkson hasn’t made quite the leap that many of his counterparts on this list have made, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a better player this year than last.

Clarkson is averaging a career-high 17.4 points this season while having started zero games, primarily thanks to the fact that his three-point shooting – he’s at 37.8 percent from the outside so far this year – has never been better.

That, plus the fact that Clarkson hardly turns the ball over, is helping the Mizzou product shatter previous career marks in the advanced metrics BPM (2.4) and WS/48 (0.139).

With that level of high-level efficient scoring coming off the bench, it should come as no surprise that the Utah Jazz are running through teams this season on their way to the best record in the league at 20-5.

Washington: Garrison Mathews

He hasn’t made a huge leap, but outside shooting specialist Garrison Mathews has enjoyed a solid second season with the Washington Wizards, averaging 7.2 points and hitting 39.3 percent of his three-point looks.

Besides the shooting, Mathews has also provided Washington with solid energy on defense, and his ability to pick pockets and jump passing lanes is underrated. Mathews is averaging 2.2 steals per 36 minutes on the season.

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