NBA Most Improved Player odds: Can anyone catch Miles Bridges?
Chris Sheridan picks out 10 potential players who could pip the Charlotte Hornets forward to the award.
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Miles Bridges of the Charlotte Hornets has improved his scoring average by 7 ½ points, his rebounds per game by 7.2 and his assists by 3.3. He is the +175 favorite for Most Improved Player, and he is every bit as worthy a favorite as Ja Morant of Memphis was before he injured his knee and then went into COVID protocols.
And if we assume that Bridges is going to go on and win this award, there is no point in debating it.
But as we learn every night in the NBA and in our day-to-day battles with institutionalized insanity since the coronavirus pandemic hit, things change on a daily basis. Just ask anyone who went to the Clippers game in Los Angeles last night expecting to see Paul George play. Instead, he was out with a right elbow injury, and those folks got to see the Night of Brandon Boston instead.
Like many of the NBA futures markets, bookmakers tend to anoint a favorite and leave him there for a majority of the season. But circumstances always bring changes. Last spring, Michael Porter Jr. of the Denver Nuggets dropped from +12000 to +2000 over the course of three days after Jamal Murray went down. Julius Randle won the award, but Porter had a chance to upend him.
So take Bridges’ position with a grain of salt. An injury of a slump or a positive COVID test like so many of his Hornets teammates have had could take him out of the mix, so today we are going to look at other options on the futures market and assess their chances.
Let’s have at it:
MORANT, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: He is now the +350 second choice but has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He now must quarantine for at least 10 days unless he can return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. His scoring average is up 5 points to 24.1, and his rebounds are up by 1.6 per game, and his shooting percentages are all higher – something that Bridges cannot say, as his field goal, 3-point and free throw numbers have all declined discernably.
DEJOUNTE MURRAY, SAN ANTONIO SPURS: He is the +900 third choice and has become one of the players most likely to put up a triple-double on any given night. He has three, trailing only Russell Westbrook (5), James Harden and Nikola Jokic (4 apiece). Murray’s scoring average is up 3.1 points per game to 18.8, his assists are up by 3 to 8.4 on a horrid San Antonio team, and his rebounds are also 8.4 after he averaged 7.1 a year ago. He bears watching.
TYLER HERRO, MIAMI HEAT: He is currently the fourth choice on the board at +1800, but he also is the favorite to win the Sixth Man award, something we touted back on the eve of the season. He is not going to win both awards, and we could counsel against playing him in this category unless be becomes a full-time starter, which does not appear as though it will happen. His average is up 5.7 points per game and he is shooting a career-best 39.2 ppg on 3s. But again, he will not win two awards, so steer clear.
KELLY OUBRE Jr., CHARLOTTE HORNETS: Now in his eighth season and the +2000 fourth choice, he is having a terrific year and is averaging 16.7 points. But two seasons ago he was scoring at a 18.7 clip for Phoenix. He is on this list because he has been prolific from 3-point range, making 79 after having 90 all of last season. But this award is not called Most Improved 3-Point Shooter, so keep your money on your wallet on this possibility.
JORDAN POOLE, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: An interesting candidate at +2200, it will bear watching whether he can keep up his current productivity after Klay Thompson returns to the lineup. For now, he is starting alongside Steph Curry and his scoring average is up 6 points to 18.0 per game as a high-volume nearly 45 percent shooter in his 25 starts. With Golden State atop the West as the NBA’s “it” team, he could ride Curry’s MVP coattails to this award. Again, see how he does coming off the bench.
COLE ANTHONY, ORLANDO MAGIC: Nobody pays much attention to this team, the second-worst in the entire NBA, and that will not help this second-generation NBA point guard (his dad, Greg, played for UNLV and the Knicks) whose odds are +2500. He was not ready to be a starter last season when Markelle Fultz’ injury forced him into that role, and on-the-job training has paid off. His scoring average is up 7.4 points to 20.3, and all of his shooting percentages are up. The big question mark is what role he will have when Fultz returns, perhaps late this month.
ANTHONY EDWARDS, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: The ‘Wolves are in the mix for a play-in spot, and that is going to help Edwards in this category because the Wolves pretty much never make the playoffs. From an improvement standpoint, his scoring is up 2.5 points and he also is up in shooting percentages, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. If Minnesota gets above .500, you will not continue to see him at +2600.
DARIUS GARLAND, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: At +3000, now we’re talking … and we will talk a little more about the Cavs a couple paragraphs from now. His scoring average is up 2.1 points and his work in the backcourt has carried the team since Collin Sexton went down for the season with a torn meniscus. Voters like to reward players (and Coach of the Year candidates) whose teams outperformed expectations, and nobody expected much from the Cavs, who are 14-12 and a half-game out of sixth place, which would keep them out of the play-in tournament.
TYRESE MAXEY, PHILADELPHIA 76ers: At +3500, this may be the most enticing price for a candidate out there. Maxey has more than doubled his scoring average from 8.0 to 16.8 while taking the minutes that used to go to Ben Simmons, his minutes have risen from 15.3 to 35.0, and Sixers fans are ecstatic about him. Keep an eye on what he does against Golden State on Saturday in a nationally televised game. He is definitely worth a flyer wager, as is …
JARRETT ALLEN, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: He is shooting 70.4 percent, which is Wilt territory, and his scoring average is up 3.9 to 17.1 and his rebounds are up 1.4 to 11.3. A five-game losing streak took some of the bloom off of the Cavs, but they have recovered with five wins in their last seven games and their schedule is not all that tough over the remainder of December. Folks, do not sleep on the Cavs, or Allen at +4500. They remind me of the Hawks a year ago. They may be one player away (via trade) from getting out of the first round.