Last season, New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram won the 2019-2020 Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Ingram beat out some strong competition, which included All-Stars Bam Adebayo and Luka Doncic. In 2018-2019, Toronto’s Pascal Siakam ran away with the award. Every season, there is a player that enhanced his game from the previous year. For the 2020-2021 season, these three players are hopeful to improve their game enough to reel in the distinguished award.
Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are among the top NBA picks to contend with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference. A lot of that has to do with the play of Jamal Murray. When the NBA moved to the bubble, something clicked for Murray. In the first round of the playoffs, Murray scored 50 points twice against and scored 42 points once against the Utah Jazz. In the Western Conference Finals, Murray scored over 20 points in four of the five games. These were large strides from the regular season, where Murray averaged 18.5 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. Murray has never made an All-Star game but played like one in the playoffs. If he can do that consistently over a 72-game regular season, Murray will be the unanimous choice for NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Derrick White, San Antonio Spurs
After being drafted No. 29 overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, White has taken strides of being a more productive player for the Spurs over the last two seasons. For now, White is slated to be the team’s starting shooting guard. His minutes are going to increase this season, which means he will have more opportunities. He has played in 67 and 68 games the last two seasons. Last year was the best season of his career. White averaged 11.2 points last season and shot 36.6% from the three-point range in 24.7 minutes per contest. The Spurs are going to need White to help lessen the load for DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. If he cashes in on the opportunities thrown his way, we will see a large statistical increase.
Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
Hayward was paid to play like a superstar. After two seasons of struggling to find his footing in Boston, this could be the season that Hayward plays like his days with the Utah Jazz. In seven seasons with the Jazz, Hayward averaged 15.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Before signing his max contract with the Celtics, he averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists that season. It was his lone appearance in the All-Star game. Heading into this season, we know that Hayward is fully healthy. Many believe that the $100 million contracts Hayward received were overpaying. If Hayward can help the Hornets make the postseason for the first time since 2016, he will not only live up to his contract but also run away with the Most Improved Player Award.