Who is the NBA’s Most Improved Player? 

Is the NBA sixth man race closer than we realized?


Courtesy of All-Pro Reels

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a front runner for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award.

ERICK AGUILAR, Evergreen reporter

“Bench.” Why does that word make people sneer? It makes sense. The word brings connotations of being not good enough, inexperienced, a backup or second rate. 

In the NBA, this is not the case. The Sixth Man is a highly coveted award. When the starters are resting, who is the man you confidently sub in to hold down the floor?

The sixth man.

NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award

The NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award goes to the best non-starter in the league—essentially, the most valuable bench player. 

In many cases, this player is good enough to make a starting appearance on some other teams. 

Basketball is a team sport. Every man on the 15-man roster better have something to contribute. 

Winners of the Sixth Man Award are respectable players who are completely capable of taking over a game. Lamar Odom, Manu Ginóbili, Dell Curry and even the legendary Bill Walton are all recipients of this award and had extremely successful careers. 

The fact that they do not start on the floor does not make them any less capable.

This season, there is no clear favorite to win the award, but that is what makes things interesting. But for now, here are the top contenders to keep an eye on. 

Russell Westbrook – Lakers 

Jordan Poole – Warriors 

Malcolm Brogdon – Celtics 

Tyrese Maxey – 76ers 

Norman Powell – Clippers 

Most Improved Player 

The MIP award is a good sports story, there is no denying it. There is nothing better than seeing someone improve their craft and get more respect and recognition.

The fans absolutely love watching the career of this player with hopes of even further improvement. There are some big names you might remember receiving the award, including Ja Morant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, CJ McCollum and Tracy McGrady. 

It is easy to find this award more exciting than others because there always seem to be more names in contention for it. 

Besides the fact that these names are the future stars of the NBA as they tend to be younger players starting to grasp the change from collegiate to professional basketball. 

The athletes in contention for this award are the following.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Thunder 

Lauri Markkanen – Jazz

Jalen Brunson – Knicks 

Tyrese Haliburton – Pacers 

Desmond Bane – Grizzlies

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Thunder 

Before he was just the young man out of Kentucky with the cool name, now he is most likely the winner of the 2023 MIP award. 

Fans have been familiar with SGA for a few seasons now. This year, however, he EXPLODED! Not only is he the leading scorer for his team, but he is now respected as a legitimate offensive threat league-wide. 

Averaging 30 points five assists and five rebounds he does not get much help from his teammates as they are 23-24 and 11th in the west. Come to think of it, if they had a little bit more team success, SGA would most likely be in the conversation for the MVP award. 

Lauri Markkanen – Jazz

Markkanen has had a breakout season and it is thrilling to watch. The 6-foot-11 skyscraper from Finland has had a dynamic role on his new team raining down 3-point shots and SLAMMING down vicious dunks at the rim.

Andre Snellings put it best.

“Markkanen continues to keep the Jazz more relevant than anyone expected,” he said.

He averages 24 points, two assists and nine rebounds after only averaging 14, one assist and six rebounds with the Cavaliers last season. Consider Markkanen a strong cornerstone for the rebuilding Jazz team. 

Jalen Brunson – Knicks 

Coming off a 16-point average season as Luka Dončić’s right-hand man in Dallas, Brunson has had more of a role in this Knicks’ three-headed monster along the side of Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. 

He averages 23 points a game and has helped propel the Knicks to seventh in the east and perhaps even a playoff berth. 

Nonetheless, he has certainly shown that he can succeed regardless of the offensive scheme and even take more of a load on himself.  

Tyrese Haliburton – Pacers 

Haliburton is playing great ball as the Pacers’ starting point guard, leading Indiana to the most team success they have had in a while. 

Halliburton has the most minutes, points and assists for this team. But he needs some help in order for the Pacers to have any serious team success. Bennedict Mathurin, Myles Turner and Buddy Hield are some promising teammates but are in need of some more development. 

Desmond Bane – Grizzlies 

Desmond Bane has been a remarkable threat from deep this season, at times leading the league in 3-point percentage. 

The three-year man doubled his season-scoring numbers from his rookie year to his second year, and this year he has played even better. 

Sometimes a player’s worth is more than their own individual statistics. Bane has the second most minutes on the floor for his team, only two minutes behind Ja Morant. And the Grizzlies are second in the west. Defense, leadership, player spacing and ball distribution make Bane a more valuable asset than before. 

These are two of the annual NBA awards, obviously, the most regarded of which is the MVP trophy, which this year, must go to Luka. Consider this a platform for yet another petitioning for Luka to win the MVP trophy. But the best thing about these awards is that they contribute to a player’s legacy even long after they have hung up their sneakers.