5 breakout candidates for the 2023–24 NBA Most Improved Player Award

Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers
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3. Scottie Barnes

Barnes' case for Most Improved Player:

2023-24: 19.3 pts, 9.1 reb, 5.8 ast
2022-23: 15.3 pts, 6.6 reb, 4.8 ast

This is where it gets a little tough for me. The final three candidates can be ranked in any order, given your preference. Because the final three candidates are so close, this is where I emphasized each candidate's impact on team success, which is why I went with Scottie Barnes as the second runner-up. 

He’s enjoyed a nice bump in the scoring and rebounding departments and has looked superb early in the season, but the Raptors have hovered around .500 all season, failing to win more than two games in a row thus far. 

Nonetheless, Barnes has embraced his role as a point forward on the new-look Toronto Raptors. He ranks second on the team in assists per game and rates in the 97th percentile in assist percentage and the 90th percentile in assists-to-usage ratio, according to Cleaning the Glass.

Even more impressive is how he's scoring the ball. He’s shooting nearly 70% inside the restricted area, but more importantly, he's stretching the floor. A revamped shooting form has led to a new confidence in his jump shot. Nearly a third of his shots are coming from behind the arc, averaging just over five 3-point attempts per game. 

Not only is Barnes letting it fly from downtown more often, but he’s converting them at a career-best 38.3% clip. He’s shooting over 40% on catch-and-shoot threes as well as a career-high 41.7% on corner threes, according to Basketball Reference.

If Barnes continues to perform at this level and the Raptors start racking up wins, he has a chance to move up the rankings.