It may not be the most prestigious award in the NBA, but the Most Improved Player award generally signifies the ascension of players to star status. The recent winners include the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Pascal Siakam, Brandon Ingram, and Ja Morant. It has been a rite of passage for a lot of young NBA players to prove that they have become perennial All-Stars in the league. The newly minted member of the Washington Wizards, Jordan Poole is one of the leading candidates to win the award in the 2023-24 season. Can he actually do it and become the first Wizard since Gheorghe Muresan in 1996 to win the award?
At first glance, Poole fits the mold of the type of player who usually wins the award. He is going from being a third or fourth option on a team to a primary option. He is going to play a lot more minutes. He is going to score a lot of points. The opportunity is there for him to be a prime candidate to win the award.
However, the statistical case for him could be harder to make. He already averaged 20.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists last season. How much he will be able to increase his box score stats without sacrificing his efficiency, despite the increase in minutes, will be the deciding factor for winning the award.
Looking at the last three winners; Morant increased his scoring average from 19.1 to 27.4, Lauri Markkanen from 14.8 to 25.6, and Julius Randle went from averaging 19.5 points and 3.1 assists to 24.1 points and 6 assists.
This suggests that Poole will likely have to average over 25 points and 5 assists to be a frontrunner for the award. It’s certainly possible, but may not be probable.
Some of the early frontrunners mentioned regularly for the award are Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Maxey, Cade Cunningham, Austin Reaves, Scottie Barnes, and Josh Giddey. There will certainly be other players who emerge once the season starts, but none of these names should be unbeatable for Poole for the award.
Of course players like Bridges, Maxey, Reaves, and Cunningham could make their first All-Star teams next season. That would not be too surprising. Yet, they were already at a pretty high level as players. So, if Poole can play at a near All-Star level this year, he could have a better case than the players mentioned above.
At the end of the day, Poole was a sixth-man on a team that decided to trade him by giving up additional assets. If he even sniffs All-Star consideration next season, that would be a massive improvement.
Should Poole be considered the favorite to win the award? Probably not. It’s unclear whether anyone can be a favorite to win because of the nature of the award. Yet, he may have as good of a chance as any to take the trophy home next year.