The Toronto Raptors have been lucky to see Scottie Barnes take the requisite steps forward everyone was hoping to see in his second season. While he might not win Most Improved Player, he is certainly going to end the season in the top three if he keeps playing like this.
Barnes is averaging 20.1 points per game on 46/34/76 shooting splits while averaging 9.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per contest. On the defensive side, his improvement as both an on-ball defender and turnover generator can be attested to by his 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
Barnes will need to sustain this level of play while hoping that some of his main competition for the award starts to fade away, including one likely favorite who is blowing past him at the top.
NBA Most Improved Player Rankings: Where is Scottie Barnes?
5. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons may not be doing a ton of winning this season, and his efficiency might not be what Detroit wanted, but Cunningham has looked like the star this team has wanted. This team is going nowhere fast, but they will give Cade every opportunity to thrive.
4. Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets
Thomas might not win this award due to his recent injury, but his unreal scoring ability has kept the Nets firmly alive despite a slower start from Mikal Bridges and some comical injury luck. When he’s back in the swing of things, Thomas could jump further up these rankings,
3. Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets
While Fred VanVleet has played a big part in making the Rockets a viable playoff team, Sengun is having the best season of his young career, With tremendous interior finishing and passing skills rivaled by just a few big men in the league (non-Jokic division), Sengun’s ascension is for real.
2. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
The Raptors will need a lot of luck to get Barnes to a point where he wins the award, but it’s hard to argue against him being firmly in second place right now. Barnes has been the main reason Toronto has been as effective as they have been, and the idea of what he can be at his peak is only going to keep getting better.
1. Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers
Maxey is running away with this award at blinding speed, as Nick Nurse’s latest pet project seems to be shaping up to pick up some silverware. Not only has Maxey helped Philly thrive without James Harden, but he’s exceeded what Harden was doing last year. Barnes has quite a hill to climb to beat him.