NBA Power Ranking Week 20: Every Team’s Most Improved Player

Mar 4, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (77) shoots past New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) during the third quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 20th edition of power rankings has arrived. Which player on each team has improved the most this season? 

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
    Record: 53-12
    Previous: 1 

After an up-and-down rookie campaign, Donte DiVincenzo has really become a valuable player for this Bucks team. With his 1.4 SPG and a 2.7 DBPM, DiVincenzo has played at an elite level this season on the defensive end.  

Most Improved: Donte DiVincenzo

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
    Record: 49-13
    Previous: 2

Finally a full-time rotation player for the Lakers, Alex Caruso is more than just a fan favorite. With his 2.4 DBPM, Caruso’s defense has been a massive help for the Lakers this season while Rajon Rondo has struggled at times.   

Most Improved: Alex Caruso

  1. Toronto Raptors
    Record: 46-18
    Previous: 5

Practically every key player on this team is a candidate besides Kyle Lowry. The honors go to Fred VanVleet, who is putting up a career-best 17.6 PPG and 6.6 APG in his fourth season.   

Most Improved: Fred VanVleet

  1. Los Angeles Clippers
    Record: 43-20
    Previous: 3

After a breakout 2018-19 season, Montrezl Harrell has taken yet another step forward in his game, putting up 18.7 PPG this season. Coming off the bench, Harrell will be an enormous piece to the Clippers’ playoff run. 

Most Improved: Montrezl Harrell

  1. Denver Nuggets
    Record: 43-21
    Previous: 6

Truly no one has made a significant stride for the Nuggets this season. Rookie Michael Porter, Jr., however, has made a considerable leap within his rookie season. After looking stagnant through December, Porter has finally shown strides of improvements as the Nuggets’ sixth man.   

Most Improved: Michael Porter, Jr.

  1. Utah Jazz
    Record: 41-23
    Previous: 9

In his third NBA season, Donovan Mitchell has taken yet another step forward in his development. He’s improved his efficiency greatly, putting up 24.4 PPG on 45.6 percent from the field with a 2.5 OBPM. 

Most Improved: Donovan Mitchell

  1. Boston Celtics
    Record: 42-21
    Previous: 4

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Daniel Theis are all good candidates for this spot. However, Tatum has played out of his mind recently, putting up 29.1 PPG since the start of February. 

Most Improved: Jayson Tatum

  1. Miami Heat
    Record: 41-23
    Previous: 7

Bam Adebayo should win Most Improved Player this season, and frankly, it’s not even close (sorry, Brandon Ingram). Adebayo is the heart and soul of the Heat defense … and he doesn’t chase blocks, unlike Hassan Whiteside.   

Most Improved: Bam Adebayo

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
    Record: 40-24
    Previous: 10

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is another player who may be in the top three for MIP. In his second season, he has helped the Thunder possess the fifth seed in the West as he is putting up 19.3 PPG and 6.1 RPG next to Chris Paul. 

Most Improved: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

  1. Indiana Pacers
    Record: 39-25
    Previous: 11

In his fourth NBA season, Domantas Sabonis has taken yet another step forward in his game, earning his first All-Star appearance. Sabonis is a force on the boards and a much-improved scorer, as well, helping to make up for Myles Turner, who has struggled at times this season.  

Most Improved: Domantas Sabonis

  1. Houston Rockets
    Record: 39-24
    Previous: 8

Ben McLemore was once compared to Kevin Durant and Ray Allen before going to the Kings at No. 7 in the 2013 draft. After looking like he may be out of the league, McLemore got the opportunity to play this season and he has taken advantage, putting up career-high three-point numbers.  

Most Improved: Ben McLemore

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
    Record: 38-26
    Previous: 11

Shake Milton came out of nowhere and has been one of Philly’s best players the last month with Ben Simmons hurt. After several G-League demotions and healthy scratches early in the season, the 54th pick in the 2018 draft has earned a spot in the rotation as a valuable scorer for the 76ers. 

Most Improved: Shake Milton

  1. Dallas Mavericks
    Record: 39-26
    Previous: 13

While he’s calmed down a bit from his MVP pace at the start of the season, Luka Doncic has still been one of the best players in the NBA this season. At age 20, Doncic is averaging 28.5 PPG, 9.4 RPG, and 8.7 APG for a much-improved Mavericks team. 

Most Improved: Luka Doncic

  1. Memphis Grizzlies
    Record: 32-32
    Previous: 14

After an injury-plagued 2018-19 campaign, Dillon Brooks has taken a big step forward in his third NBA season for the Grizzlies. Putting up 15.6 PPG, Brooks was rewarded with a three-year, $35 million contract extension. 

Most Improved: Dillon Brooks

  1. New Orleans Pelicans
    Record: 28-36
    Previous: 15

Brandon Ingram has been great; if it weren’t for Bam Adebayo, he would likely be the front-runner to win MIP. Finally in a new situation, Ingram is putting up 24.3 PPG on 46.6 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from deep this season.  

Most Improved: Brandon Ingram

  1. Brooklyn Nets
    Record: 29-34
    Previous: 19

Caris LeVert has been on the rise recently, but Dinwiddie still deserves this pick. At age 26, Dinwiddie is putting up 20.6 PPG, making up for the loss of Kyrie Irving. 

Most Improved: Spencer Dinwiddie 

  1. Orlando Magic
    Record: 29-35
    Previous: 18

Jonathan Isaac would have earned this spot, but he suffered a season-ending injury 32 games in, so he doesn’t get the pick. Markelle Fultz, in his third season, has finally taken a step forward, putting up career-highs across the board.  

Most Improved: Markelle Fultz

  1. Sacramento Kings
    Record: 28-36
    Previous: 16

In his fifth season, Richaun Holmes has taken a big step forward for Sacramento, putting up a career-best 12.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG on 65.4 percent from the field. 

Most Improved: Richaun Holmes

  1. Portland Trail Blazers
    Record: 28-37
    Previous: 17

After a falling out with Miami, Hassan Whiteside has improved a lot after a change of scenery. Whiteside leads the NBA with 3.1 BPG and is only behind Andre Drummond in rebounds, averaging 14.3 per game.

Most Improved: Hassan Whiteside

  1. Phoenix Suns
    Record: 26-38
    Previous: 23

At age 33, Aron Baynes has improved significantly as a shooter and defender, helping the Suns avoid being one of the worst teams in the NBA. 

Most Improved: Aron Baynes

  1. San Antonio Spurs
    Record: 26-36
    Previous: 20

While Jakob Poeltl doesn’t bring much to the table as a scorer, he has taken a significant stride forward this season defensively. A paint-protecting force, Poeltl possesses a 2.3 DBPM this season.   

Most Improved: Jakob Poeltl

  1. Charlotte Hornets
    Record: 22-42
    Previous: 24

While he’s slowed down a bit, Devonte’ Graham has still been incredible in his second NBA season. A bench-warmer last year, Graham’s scoring has shot up to 17.8 PPG this season. The only knock on his game is that with a 37.9 field goal percentage, his efficiency needs to improve. 

Most Improved: Devonte’ Graham

  1. Washington Wizards
    Record: 23-40
    Previous: 21

After the Spurs traded him in a cap-cutting move, Bertans has turned into an elite shooter for the Wizards. At age 27, Bertans is posting career-highs with 15.5 PPG and 3.7 made three-pointers per game.  

Most Improved: Davis Bertans

  1. Chicago Bulls
    Record: 21-43
    Previous: 22

Zach Lavine was already great, but he’s taken even more of a step forward this season. Lavine has both improved on the defensive end and is putting up a career-high of 25.5 PPG this year. 

Most Improved: Zach Lavine

  1. New York Knicks
    Record: 20-44
    Previous: 25

Leon Rose’s new team definitely has at least one keeper in Mitchell Robinson. In his second 21 season, Robinson leads the NBA with a 73.6 field goal percentage and is seventh in blocks, swatting away 2.0 per game this season. 

Most Improved: Mitchell Robinson

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
    Record: 19-45
    Previous: 29

Someone whom I’ve criticized heavily in the past, Collin Sexton has proven doubters wrong the last month. Despite the discontent within the organization, the Cavaliers have had some impressive wins and Sexton has led the way, averaging 25.4 PPG since the All-Star break.  

Most Improved: Collin Sexton

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves
    Record: 19-44
    Previous: 27

A change of scenery has been precisely what Malik Beasley needed. After backing up Gary Harris in Denver for the past season and a half, Beasley was dealt to Minnesota as part of the four-team Robert Covington trade. With the Timberwolves, Beasley is averaging 21.9 PPG.   

Most Improved: Malik Beasley

  1. Atlanta Hawks
    Record: 20-46
    Previous: 26

Earning his first all-star appearance at age 21, Trae Young has looked great this season, averaging 29.4 PPG. Atlanta is still years away from contention, but they have a solid young core in Young, John Collins, and Kevin Huerter. 

Most Improved: Trae Young

  1. Detroit Pistons
    Record: 20-45
    Previous: 28

Luke Kennard would have gotten the pick, but he has been out since December with a knee injury. Christian Wood has taken full advantage of the opportunity to play following the Andre Drummond trade, putting up 23.0 PPG since then. 

Most Improved: Christian Wood

  1. Golden State Warriors
    Record: 15-49
    Previous: 30

Marquese Chriss will likely still get labeled as a bust, but he’s shown he can have some value this season with Golden State. At age 22, Chriss is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and blocks.  

Most Improved: Marquese Chriss 

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