NBA Most Improved Player Odds: It’s Not Too Late To Bet Tyrese Maxey

NBA Most Improved Player Odds: It’s Not Too Late To Bet Tyrese Maxey article feature image

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Pictured: Tyrese Maxey

The odds imply the Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year races are essentially over, but MVP, Sixth Man of the Year and Most Improved Player (MIP) races aren’t over yet — though there are some sizable favorites. However, I think the MIP race is essentially over and that there's some betting value to be had.

For MIP, we are looking for someone early in their career (25 or younger, but usually not in their second year), who increased their scoring average by at least 4.5 points per game and had never been an All-Star. Ideally, they are coming off their first All-Star appearance and are the best or second-best player on their team. Also, their team can't be terrible (34 wins is the floor). Over the past 10 seasons, the award shifted from a below-average starter becoming a good starter to a solid starter making the leap to a superstar.

Six of the past seven and eight of the past 11 winners were first time All-Stars in the season they won. When first-time All-Stars didn't win, it was because they didn't meet the other criteria. They either didn’t increase their scoring enough, missed too many games the prior season and/or averaged too many points the year before.

So, let's look ahead and dive into this year's NBA Most Improved Player odds.

Tyrese Maxey meets all the criteria. Since Joel Embiid went out with an injury, Maxey has maintained his same level of efficiency with about the same scoring load. While most winners have been the best player on their team, Maxey has essentially served as the 1B option for the 76ers all season. Last season, James Harden was the second option and averaged over 20 ppg. His departure cleared the way for Maxey to make a leap. Additionally, Maxey is the only first time All-Star this season who meets the criteria (not including injury replacements).

The other main candidates either don’t meet the criteria or simply have weaker cases.

Jalen Williams is a third option and is a second year player. Alperen Sengun and Scottie Barnes have similar scoring increases, but play for much worse teams and weren't All-Stars (though Barnes was an injury replacement). Coby White and Cam Thomas have increased their scoring average a ton, but are clear second options. Jonathan Kuminga has made a real push lately, but is still the third-best player on his team and is only averaging 15.5 ppg.

Voters are looking to reward players making the leap, and Maxey is the only such player who became a superstar this season.

My biggest concerns are injuries and games played. Maxey has played in 49 of 54 games this season and can only miss 12 more games to remain eligible. For some awards, the 65-game limit is a requirement, but voters have tended to reward players who played more (think MVP). For MIP, multiple players have won playing fewer than 70 games, including Lauri Markkanen (66) and Ja Morant (66) in recent seasons. Ultimately, injuries and games played are the only reasons that I could see keeping this award away from Maxey.

I think this All-Star break is the last time Maxey's odds will be only -140, and with Nick Nurse coaching, I think the 76ers will come out from the break stronger than ever. Now’s the last chance to get in on Maxey at such low odds. I think he is 80% likely to win at this point.

I’m betting two units on Maxey to win MIP at -140 on FanDuel and would bet it down to -200. I'm also betting a unit on a parlay with the three clear front runners on FanDuel — Maxey (MIP)/Rudy Gobert (DPOY)/Victor Wembanyama (ROY) — at +128.

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