Sixers' Tyrese Maxey wins NBA's Most Improved Player award

CLEVELAND, OHIO - FEBRUARY 12: Tyrese Maxey #0 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on February 12, 2024 in Cleveland, Ohio. The 76ers defeated the Cavaliers 123-121.

Tyrese Maxey was sixth in the Most Improved Player voting two years ago, a tribute to the jump he made between his first and second seasons in the NBA.

Voters thought the jump he made from his third year to his fourth was even more impressive.

Philadelphia's All-Star guard on Tuesday night was named the league’s most improved this season. Maxey’s scoring rose for the third consecutive year, and he finished the regular season averaging 25.9 points, 6.2 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game — all career bests.

It’s not uncommon for players to see their numbers soar when given a new role, but that wasn’t the case with Maxey. Consider: two years ago, he averaged 17.5 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 steals in 35.3 minutes per game. This year, he topped all those numbers and averaged only 2.2 more minutes per contest.

"It feels great," Maxey said on the TNT broadcast where the award was announced. "Somebody like myself, who prides myself on putting in a lot of work and outworking people and finding ways to get 1% better every single time I step in the gym, it feels good for that to come to light, honestly."

Maxey edged Chicago's Coby White in the voting. Houston's Alperen Sengun was third. White averaged 19.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game — all career highs. Sengun averaged 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.2 steals in 32.5 minutes per game — also all career highs.

Maxey got just over half of the first-place votes and that pushed him just past White. Players got five points for a first-place vote, three for second and one for third. Maxey finished with 319 points to White’s 305, but White appeared on 91 ballots compared with 79 ballot appearances for Maxey.

Sengun finished with 92 points for third.

The awards were selected by a panel of 99 reporters and broadcasters who cover the league. Their ballots were due last week before the start of the play-in tournament. NBA awards take only the regular season into consideration.

Utah’s Lauri Markkanen won the MIP award last season. The other finalists from a year ago — Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and New York’s Jalen Brunson — were MVP candidates this season, and both got MIP votes this year as well.

The rest of the voting: Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams was fourth, Brunson was fifth, Washington’s Deni Avdija sixth, Brooklyn’s Cam Thomas seventh, Orlando’s Jalen Suggs eighth, Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton ninth, Phoenix’s Grayson Allen and Miami’s Duncan Robinson tied for 10th, San Antonio’s Devin Vassell and Gilgeous-Alexander tied for 12th, and Indiana’s Aaron Nesmith was 14th.

The MIP award was the first of seven individual trophies that will be handed out in the coming weeks, along with All-NBA, All-Rookie and All-Defensive teams.

The Sixth Man gets announced Wednesday (Sacramento’s Malik Monk, Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis or Minnesota’s Naz Reid); Clutch Player on Thursday (Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan or Gilgeous-Alexander); and Coach of the Year on Sunday (Oklahoma City’s Mark Daigneault, Minnesota’s Chris Finch or Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley).

All those announcements will be made on TNT’s pregame shows that night.

The schedule for the other awards has yet to be released by the league. There’s Rookie of the Year (San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama, Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren or Charlotte’s Brandon Miller); Defensive Player of the Year (Wembanyama, Minnesota’s Rudy Gobert or Miami’s Bam Adebayo); and Most Valuable Player (Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Dallas’ Luka Doncic or Gilgeous-Alexander).