A recent thread on r/nba suggested that JaVale McGee could be a sleeper for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, quipping that the Golden State Warriors’ newest big man can come off the bench and average 12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Rubbish. McGee played spot minutes with the Mavericks for a reason last year, even losing out on playing time to rookie Salah Mejri. If basketball’s favorite space cadet does indeed make the final roster with Golden State, he’ll likely serve as a situational big man and an insurance policy should the Warriors suffer any injuries up front. Considering the juggernaut general manager Bob Myers put together this summer, it’s incredibly unlikely that McGee will have the opportunity to contribute in ways that show clear improvement.
There are a few guys, however, who have a real shot at the award. Below are three young players who are coming off generally good seasons, but are primed to follow them up with huge improvements because of increased roles, changes in team culture, better injury luck, or an increased reliance on their skill set to contribute to wins. C.J. McCollum won the award in 2015-16 after being inserted into Portland’s starting lineup and exploding box scores all season long. If we had to guess, one of these three players will follow McCollum’s footsteps and become a star for his respective team — and earn some much-deserved hardware in the process.