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We’re only 16 games through the regular season, but we’ve seen enough to see who’s game has elevated since the end of last season. Last year’s winner for MIP was Victoria Oladipo and all were amazed at how he went from borderline starting shooting guard to top 5 shooting guards in the league. There are quite a few players who have improved over the offseason, so here are my personal top 5 likely candidates to win MIP this season:
Zach Lavine has been nothing short of spectacular for the Bulls this season. He’s sitting at 8th in the league in PPG with a career-high 25.9, followed by career highs in rebounds 5.5 and assists 4.0. While we don’t expect Chicago to compete in the East this season, it looks like the Bulls are on the right path to being a dominant force in the East with Zach Lavine leading the charge.
Julius Randle signed a 2 year, $18 Million deal with the Pelicans this past offseason, and it appears he’s earning every bit of it. Randle is averaging a career-high 16.9 PPG to go along with 7.9 RPG and 2.3 AST. Given the fact that Randle plays with Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, and is still able to maintain a good scoring and rebounding average is incredible and shows there is plenty of scoring to go around in New Orleans. Randle will look to keep things rolling as the season goes on.
Ingram’s stats have declined slightly with the addition of Lebron James in LA this past offseason, but make no mistake that can change in an instance. Despite the Laker’s early season struggles Ingram is still averaging 15.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.0 AST. Should the Lakers abundance of young talent and crafty veterans start to gel like we expect them to, Ingram could be in for a career-high season? Keep a close eye on Ingram as the season goes on.
Hield is making his mark in Sacramento this season. Hield is averaging career highs across the board with 18.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.7 AST. Hield has gone from the sixth man to starter this season and is quietly helping the Kings to a playoff berth, currently sitting at 8th in the West. It will be interesting to see how Hield and Bogdanovic share playing time with Bogdanovic coming back from injuries.
When Dwayne Wade departed from Miami to Cleveland last year someone had to step up and fill that void that he left, and that man is Josh Richardson. No, I’m not comparing Richardson to Wade, but he’s been really solid for the Heat last year and continuing this year. Richardson is averaging career highs in PPG with 20.1, RPG 3.9, and AST 3.4. Richardson has improved in every category across the board since he arrived in Miami, and he’s taken an even bigger leap this season. Miami is on the outside looking in at 10th in the East, but if Richardson continues his tremendous season, the Heat could very well be a team that puts a higher seeded team on upset alert.