NBA regular season

New Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen wins NBA Most Improved Player


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New Utah Jazz star Lauri Markkanen wins NBA Most Improved Player

FINNISHER. Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) posts up against Phoenix Suns guard Landry Shamet (14) in the second half at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Lauri Markkanen, Finland's first-ever NBA All-Star, nabs the Most Improved Player award after increasing his season scoring average by nearly 11 points

Utah Jazz All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen, who has played for three teams in the past three seasons, was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Monday night (Tuesday, April 25, Manila time).

He averaged 25.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists and shot 49.9 percent from the floor.

Markkanen received 69 first-place votes and 430 total points to be awarded the George Mikan Trophy. He outdistanced the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24; 289) and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (four, 91), who finished second and third, respectively.

Markkanen raised his scoring average by 10.87 points from the 2021-22 season – the highest increase in the league. He set career highs in scoring average, assist average, field-goal percentage and 3-pointers made (200).

He posted 16 games with 30-plus points after recording 15 such games in his first five seasons combined.

Markkanen, 25, was drafted and traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Chicago Bulls on June 22, 2017. The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired the 7-foot forward from Chicago as part of a three-team trade on Aug. 28, 2021.

The Cavaliers dealt him to Utah on September 3, 2022 in the trade that sent Donovan Mitchell to Cleveland. He was an NBA All-Star this season, becoming the first player from Finland to play in the game.

The annual award, first presented in the 1985-1986 season, honors an up-and-coming player who has made a dramatic improvement from the previous season or seasons. Last season’s winner was guard Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies. –

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