Lauri Markkanen Wins Most Improved Player Award

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, the league’s communications department tweets.

In his sixth season, Markkanen thrived in an expanded role after being included in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster deal between Utah and Cleveland. Markkanen averaged 25.8 points on 49.9% shooting and 1.9 assists, all career highs. He also shot 87.5% from the free throw line and snared 8.8 rebounds per game in 66 starts and received a start in the All-Star Game.

Last season, Markkanen averaged 14.8 points on 44.5% shooting, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 61 starts with the Cavaliers. Prior to this season, Markkanen’s career high in scoring average was 18.7 during his second of four seasons with Chicago.

Markkanen topped the other finalists, the Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, for the award. Gilgeous-Alexander finished fourth in the league in scoring (31.7) as the Thunder made the play-in tournament.

During his All-Star season, Gilgeous-Alexander shot 51% from the field and 90.5% from the foul line. He also averaged 4.8 rebounds and 5.5 assists in his fifth NBA season. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 24.5 points last season.

Brunson lifted the Knicks into the playoffs with a stellar season after leaving the Mavericks as a free agent. In his fifth season, he averaged 24 points and 6.2 assists while making 41.6% of his 3-point attempts, posting career bests in each category. Last season, he averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists.

Markkanen received 69 of the 100 first-place votes and 430 points. Gilgeous-Alexander wound up second with 24 first-place votes and 289 points. Brunson was a distant third with four first-place votes and 91 points. Mikal Bridges, Tyrese Haliburton and Trey Murphy III each picked up one first-place vote.