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

Houston Rockets v Philadelphia 76ers
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2. Alperen Sengun

Sengun's case for Most Improved Player:

2023-24: 20.2 pts, 9.1 reb, 5.6 ast
2022-23: 14.8 pts, 9.0 reb, 3.9 ast

Not only is Sengun scoring a lot more this year, but his playmaking has improved as well. He whizzes no-look passes past defenders ala Nikola Jokic, and his 5.6 assists per game ranked fourth in the NBA among all players 6’10” or taller. 

His assist percentage has increased from 19.9 percent to 27.7 percent. According to Cleaning the Glass, he ranks in the 95th percentile in assist percentage. He also boasts the fourth-highest Offensive Rating among centers that have played in at least 14 games and average at least 30 minutes per game.

Although he averages less than one block per game, he’s made significant strides on the defensive end, even though it may not always show up in the box score. He’s holding opponents to under 45 percent shooting from the field and under 33 percent from 3-point range on the season.

According to NBA stats, Sengun leads all NBA centers that have played in at least 14 games and average at least 30 minutes per game with a 105.4 defensive rating. For context, that’s much better than perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates and premier shot blockers Anthony Davis (110.5), Joel Embiid (112.1), and Rudy Gobert (107.4).

While the Houston Rockets made a flurry of changes in the offseason, Sengun’s improved play has definitely been a significant factor in Houston’s early season success.