New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram capped off a breakthrough season by winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award Monday night.
Ingram, who turns 23 on Wednesday, set career highs in points (23.8), rebounds (6.1), assists (4.2) and steals per game (1.0), along with 3-point percentage (39.1) and free throw percentage (85.1) in his first season in New Orleans after being part of a package of young players and draft picks the Los Angeles Lakers sent to the Big Easy in exchange for Anthony Davis last summer.
“But I think this year was just the year I had the most fun, the most fun playing basketball that way that I wanted to play basketball,” Ingram said during a conference call after winning the award.
Ingram earned a narrow victory over Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, collecting 326 points (and 42 of 100 first-place votes) to edge out Adebayo’s 295 points (including 38 first-place votes) in voting done by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters.
They were followed by Dallas Mavericks standout Luka Doncic, who had 101 points (and 12 first-place votes), Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum (57 points, three first-place votes) and Charlotte Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham (50 points, two first-place votes).
So far, the NBA has named Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse its coach of the year and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo its defensive player of the year. Three awards remain: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year.
Because of the changes to the NBA schedule, the awards are not being handed out at a season-ending awards show, as they have been in recent years, but instead throughout the playoffs as they previously were.