Lauri Markkanen Named NBA’s Most Improved Player

Apr 24, 2023, 5:04 PM | Updated: May 3, 2023, 2:22 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Lauri Markkanen has won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, becoming the first member of the Utah Jazz to take home the honor.

Markkanen was announced as the winner on TNT Monday Night during the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

The Finnish forward beat out New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for the award.

Markkanen Deserving Of Most Improved Honor

Markkanen saw a dramatic increase in production this season after being acquired by the Jazz in the Donovan Mitchell blockbuster trade last September.

The seven-footer averaged a career-high 25.6 points, to go with 8.6 rebounds, and 1.9 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 39 percent from the three-point line.

Last season in Cleveland Markkanen averaged just 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists, but flourished after taking a leading role for the Jazz.

Markkanen was elected as a reserve to his first All-Star team in February and wound up starting in front of the Utah crowd due to injuries.

The Most Improved Player Award was first handed out in 1986 though no Jazz player had taken home the honors.

After Jordan Clarkson was named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2021, the Most Improved Player award was the last major end-of-season honor that had eluded the Jazz.

The NBA introduced the Clutch Player of the Year Award in 2023.

Markkanen Celebrating Award In Finland

Markkanen learned he’d won the award while he was serving mandatory military service for his native Finland.

The forward discussed the honor while on temporary leave from duty.

“I haven’t had time to celebrate yet and I’m gonna go back to to the base this morning,” Markkanen said. I’m going to be a little bit tired but I think it’s worth it, you don’t win this award too many times.”

Markkanen earned 69 of the 100 first-place votes for the award to edge Gilgeous-Alexander who received 24 votes, and Brunson who earned four votes.

Mikal Bridges of the Brooklyn Nets, Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers, and Trey Murphy III of the New Orleans Pelicans each received one first-place vote.

Gilgeous-Alexander, Brunson Were Worthy Foes

Though Markkanen took home the award, the 2023 Most Improved Player race featured three worthy candidates.

Gilgeous-Alexander helped the Thunder advance to the second round of the Western Conference play-in tournament, averaging 31.4 points, 5.5 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while being named a first-time All-Star.

Brunson took a starring role with the Knicks after leaving the Dallas Mavericks last summer.

The guard helped lead New York to the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs while averaging 24.0 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 68 appearances.

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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.

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Lauri Markkanen Named NBA’s Most Improved Player