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With only eight games left in the NBA's regular season - which come after a four-month layoff, no less - the season's awards races are mostly locked up. But there's still value in predicting who might seal the deal or steal an award in the final few games in Orlando.
No awards race has more intrigue down the stretch than the one for Most Improved Player, which is full of deserving candidates and always hard to predict because of its ambiguous nature. Here are the full odds and our best bets for the award (vote on your pick in our poll below):
Bam Adebayo (-140)
He may not be an overwhelming favorite, but there's a reason Adebayo is the front-runner for this award. The third-year big man started all 65 games for the Heat this season, leading the team in rebounds per game (10.5) while finishing second in points (16.2) and assists (5.1). He's one of just two players this season to average at least 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists - the other being Giannis Antetokounmpo - and one of 18 players to do that in NBA history.
Is it enough to run away with the award? Not exactly. The leap from solid rotation player to All-Star reserve is impressive, and his versatility should be lauded. But without reaching star status on his own team, it's not a slam dunk. If he doesn't win, it'll be because of another contender with an even greater profile.
Luka Doncic (+550)
This is the sort of jump that voters love. Last season, Siakam went from secondary scorer to fringe All-NBA player and ran away with the MIP award. Compare that to Doncic, who went from dynamite rookie in 2019 to a legitimate MVP candidate in 2020. If he reminds voters of his triple-double abilities over the final eight games, this is his award to lose.
Jayson Tatum (+1000)
Tatum has a chance to shake up this race in the final eight games. The Celtics' third-year wing transitioned seamlessly into the team's premier scoring role this season, bumping his scoring from 15.7 points per game to 23.6. He especially caught fire before the shutdown, averaging nearly 35 points in a six-game stretch in late February. If he can reignite that fire and lead the C's to the East's No. 2 seed, there's real value here.
Devonte' Graham (+1100)
Graham probably doesn't have a shot at this, especially with the Hornets watching the rest of the season from home. But there's precedent for a winner like Graham. After playing fewer than 15 minutes per game as a rookie, the sophomore scorer started 53 contests and saw dramatic improvements in his points (4.7 to 18.2), assists (2.6 to 7.5), and 3-pointers per game (0.7 to 3.5), ranking fifth in the NBA in that final category. He's an unlikely yet intriguing long shot.
Luka Doncic (+550)
Through the first 54 games of the campaign, Doncic averaged 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists for the upstart Mavericks. Only Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook have ever matched those totals. Doncic also joins Westbrook as the only players this season to rank in the top 20 in points (sixth), rebounds (18th), and assists (fourth).
It's easy to forget that Doncic was a rookie who averaged just over 21 points per game for a non-playoff team last season. Now, with virtually the same playing time, he'll get MVP votes as the catalyst for the NBA's best offense. That's an improvement worth betting on.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.