NBA Most Improved Player Power Rankings: Is Scottie Barnes rising?

DALLAS, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 08: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 08: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /
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In a year where the Toronto Raptors were not expected to compete for silverware on a team or individual level, the tremendous performance of Scottie Barnes in the opening eight games Toronto has been through this season has ignited debate over his worthiness to win Most Improved Player.

While his numbers from last year weren’t unwatchable dreck, the fact he flatlined in a year many expected him to make a considerable leap had some questioning just how high his ceiling can be. So far, Darko Rajakovic has done a tremendous job of getting the most out of him.

Most Improved is always one of the more competitive awards in the NBA, as there are dozens of players who either take giant developmental steps forward or bounce back from rough campaigns the prior year. Barnes needs to sustain his hot start even to stand a remote chance.

If the season ended today, Most Improved would be as up in the air as any award the NBA has to offer. Will the new, refined Barnes find himself at the top of these power rankings, or will he have to climb up the rankings to beat out some of his fellow young players?

NBA Most Improved Player Power Rankings Week 2 2023-24

6. Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets

The Rockets are a fascinating team to watch, as they need to make sure former Raptors star Fred VanVleet justifies his contract while trying to get three top-five picks in Jabari Smith, Jalen Green, and Amen Thompson the shots they need. Amid all of that chaos, Sengun has been thriving.

Averaging 18.8 points and 8.3 rebounds per game amid all these moving pieces is impressive enough, but his 6.6 assists per game have cemented him as one of the best passing big men in the game. If he improves his defense, it will be hard to see Sengun not making an All-Star team in the future.

NBA Most Improved Player Power Rankings: Scottie Barnes is above Cade Cunningham.

5. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Cunningham barely got on the floor in his second season due to injuries, but Monty Williams has big plans for him in his third season. The same coach who helped Chris Paul and Devin Booker evolve into stars has big plans for the former No. 1 overall pick in Detroit.

Cunningham is averaging 24.0 points and 7.1 assists per game, topping off his solid start to the season with a 33-point outing against the Bucks. Detroit may not do a ton of winning, but Cunningham could take a LaMelo Ball-esque leap to All-Star status amid all this chaos.