4 underrated candidates for the 2023 NBA Most Improved Player Award

Evan Mobley, an NBA Most Improved Player candidate, with Darius Garland(Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)
Evan Mobley, an NBA Most Improved Player candidate, with Darius Garland(Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images) /
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Most Improved Player
San Antonio Spurs F Keldon Johnson and Cleveland Cavaliers C Evan Mobley (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Most Improved Player candidate: Keldon Johnson

One of the biggest stories of the 2022 off-season has been the Hawk’s acquiring Dejounte Murray from the Spurs. The departure of the All-Star guard leaves a massive void in the Spurs’ roster, one that should be filled by Keldon Johnson. Murray’s ascension to stardom last season perhaps overshadowed Keldon Johnson’s rise of his own.

Johnson averaged 17 points per game in 2021-22– an uptick of 4.2 points. Johnson could be in for another 5-point per-game increase in the upcoming season. The Spurs are rebuilding and with so many young players around him, Johnson will be “The Guy” in San Antonio.

Credit Johnson’s impressive season from behind the arc for his increased scoring production. He made 2.1 threes per game at a clip of 39.8%. The question for Johnson will be if he can create those looks for himself now that Murray is in Atlanta.

Most Improved Player candidate: Evan Mobley

Evan Mobley narrowly lost to Scottie Barnes in last year’s rookie of the year voting and has already established himself as an elite defender in this league. Mobley has also displayed a rare soft touch for a big man his age. In his first season, Mobley put together per game averages of 15 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.7 blocks. Don’t be surprised if Mobley can improve mightily upon those already impressive numbers.

It is possible Collin Sexton’s tenure as a Cavalier is over. If that is the case, then Cleveland would be building around the duo of Mobley and Darius Garland. Letting go of Sexton would be a vote of confidence in Garland and Mobley’s ability to run the offense. That should lead to Mobley being responsible for more offensive production.

If Mobley can fill out his frame and improve his low post scoring he will compete for an All-Star spot.  A 20 and 10 season with an all-defensive team selection would not be surprising for the young star.