When the Knicks went out and signed Jalen Brunson to a four-year $104 million deal this season, the guard was expected to have some success in the Big Apple. So far, he has delivered. Brunson has played in 56 games this year and has averaged nearly 24 points a game, a sizable uptick from the 16.3 he averaged last season in Dallas. Brunson’s season hasn’t gone unnoticed and he’s now one of the top candidates for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award (MIP).
We’ll break down who’s in contention and give an odds comparison from the top NY sportsbooks.
Brunson Is Helping the Knicks In the Win Column As Well
The Knicks knew they had to make a move after finishing last year with a disappointing 37-45 record. The team underperformed and they needed an answer. It appears Jalen Brunson has been just that for the Knicks this year. When he is scoring the Knicks are often winning. Brunson has been the team’s leading scorer in the last five ball games. The Knicks went 4-1 over that span to improve their record to 33-27 for the season.
Brunson got over a rough month of December with a solid January and an even better February to this point. His effort was not good enough to earn his first career all-star spot but some in the sports media landscape saw his All-Star Game absence as a snub.
The Knicks have many of the same pieces from last season. The team is a little more experienced now but the addition of Brunson seems to be the main reason they’ve been able to break through.
Lauri Markkannen and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Are Co-Favorites
At the moment Jalen Brunson is a distant third to the likes of Lauri Markkannen and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Markkannen has been the centerpiece of a Jazz team with lottery expectations coming into the year. They have done far better than expected and so has Markkannen. Markkannen came to the Jazz this off-season as part of the Donovan Mitchell trade. He’s currently averaging 10.1 more points a game this year than he was with the Cavaliers.
Gilgeous Alexander is another name that has developed himself into a star. After Chet Holmgren suffered a season-ending injury over the off-season, the expectation for the Thunder was for them to tank again. That has not been the case, as the team now stands as the 10th seed in the west and just one game under .500.
Gilgeous-Alexander is one of seven players in the NBA averaging over 30 points a game. He’s also doing it on over 50 percent shooting. Gilgeous-Alexander has shown that he could be a volume scorer in the past but what he’s doing now is remarkable.
There Are Only 3 Candidates for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award
After the top three candidates, the odds drop off considerably for the MIP award. Mikal Bridges and Tyrese Haliburton are the next two but their resumes don’t stack up against the top three. Bridges was just traded to the Nets and has had a solid season. Halliburton is in his first full season with Indiana and is averaging nearly 20 points a game.
If this weren’t such a stacked MIP year, Bridges and Haliburton would have a shot but their resumes just don’t stack up.
NBA Most Improved Player Award Best Betting Odds
The MIP award is going to come down to the second half of the season. Each of the guys in contention have the numbers and winning contribution going for them.
Knicks fans should be happy with the guy they acquired this off-season. They’ve needed someone that could run the point position with the kind of command that Brunson delivers. He’s capable of being the first option or finding someone with more space. His leadership has been paramount to the team’s success.
If Brunson’s going to gain ground in the race, he’ll have to play the way he’s been playing in January and February. It will be critical that neither the Jazz nor Oklahoma City makes the playoffs as well. If the Knicks can climb up the standings, Brunson’s odds should shrink.
Playing in the New York market shouldn’t hurt his chances either.