Grayson Allen has a unique case to win the Most Improved Player award

Grayson Allen has been one of the few constants for the Phoenix Suns this season, and he's positioned himself to have a fascinating Most Improved Player award case.

Mar 7, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Grayson Allen (8) reacts against the Toronto
Mar 7, 2024; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Grayson Allen (8) reacts against the Toronto / Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

When the Phoenix Suns acquired Grayson Allen last offseason, few could have expected how integral of a role he would play for the team. He wasn’t the headliner in the trade that also landed the organization Jusuf Nurkić, but Allen has started every game he's been available for and has been one of the team's most consistent players.

Allen's value has come mostly from a huge leap in his three-point efficiency, making him an indispensable part of a team that doesn’t take many threes. He’s also setting career highs in just about every other stat, including his points, rebounds, assists, and overall efficiency. 

It’s been such a stark improvement across the board for him that he’s put together a solid case to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, albeit a unique one. 

While there’s no explicit criteria to determine the award winner, it’s almost always based on offensive improvement and more specifically, a large increase in points per game. 

The last five winners have seen their ppg increase by an average of 7.7, while their rpg and apg increased by 1.7 and 1, respectively. Allen’s modest increases of 3 ppg and .5 rpg lag behind the rest, while his .8 apg increase is more in line with past winners.

Looking solely at the box score stats is a slightly unfair and flawed measuring stick though, since most of the winners are seeing an uptick in their stats due to increased opportunity, rather than legitimate self-improvement. Allen too has benefitted from that with the Suns, but his increased efficiency sets him apart from the rest

While the the last five MIPs raised their true shooting percentage by .049 on average, Allen has raised his by .081 this season. In fact, Allen’s TS of 69% is currently second in the entire league, trailing only Daniel Gafford, a center that just made 33 straight field goals, most of which were dunks and layups. You would have to go all the way down to the 13th spot on the leaderboard to find the next wing. 

Some may say that Allen's increased efficiency comes from playing next to a star-studded Suns team, but it’s not like this is the first talented team he's ever been on. Allen spent the last couple of seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that consistently finished near the top of the standings.

Led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and flanked by Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, the Bucks had plenty of star power to draw attention away from Allen, and yet he wasn't producing like he is now. That points to genuine improvement on his part, yet he's getting zero love for the award.

Right now Allen is completely missing from the MIP odds leaders. Tyrese Maxey currently sits at the top with a typically large ppg increase of 5.8, along with an All-Star nod this season. But neither Maxey, nor any of the other betting favorites have seen the efficiency leap Allen has. In fact, Maxey’s has dipped tremendously, evidence that his scoring jump is just as much due to opportunity as anything else.

Sill, asking voters to buck a trend just because of a huge efficiency leap might be asking a lot, but Allen does have some other factors in his favor, mostly centered around his three-point production.

He’s currently on pace to make 210 threes which, while not what it used to be, is still an incredible mark. He’s already broken his previous career high in threes made at 159, so he could feasibly break his former high by more than 50 threes.

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Most impressively, Allen is leading the entire NBA in three-point percentage. In a league that has become ruled by the three-pointer, honing your craft to become one of the best marksmen is notable.

And there still remains the possibility that Allen can raise his ppg. as he's averaging a robust 18.1 ppg in March. He’s playing some of his best ball of the season, and if he can get his season ppg to 14.3 for a round 4 ppg increase, it would make him that much more appealing to voters. 

He'd still be facing an uphill battle since most awards are based on season-long narratives and Maxey and others have been looked at the favorites for quite some time now. But Allen at least deserves to be in the conversation. His improvement this year has been much more in line with the spirit of the award.