The NBA Most Improved Player is a prestigious honor that recognizes the player who had a remarkable season compared to their previous season. With 20 games or so remaining on the schedule, Julius Randle of the New York Knicks has the inside track to win the 2021 NBA MIP at -155 odds, with Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant a close second at +140 odds.

Julius Randle New York Knicks MIP Jerami Grant Detroit Pistons
Julius Randle of the New York Knicks, seen here defended by Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons, is currently the consensus favorite to win the 2021 NBA MIP. (Image: Chris Schwegle/Getty)

It’s a coin flip to determine the MIP, but oddsmakers are giving Randle the edge because he’s one of the primary reasons the Knicks went from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to a playoff squad.

The knock against Grant is that he plays for the last-place Detroit Pistons, who hold the worst record in the Eastern Conference with just 15 wins.

2021 NBA MIP Odds
  • Julius Randle (NY Knicks) -155
  • Jerami Grant (Detroit Pistons) +140
  • Christian Wood (Houston Rockets) +1400
  • Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) +3000
  • Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) +3000
  • Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls) +3500
  • Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) +5000
  • De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings) +5000
  • Chris Boucher (Toronto Raptors) +8000
  • Luguentz Dort (OKC Thunder) +10000

If Christian Wood didn’t suffer a severe ankle sprain at the start of the season, he probably would have had an uncontested race to win the 2021 MIP. Once Wood went down, the Rockets imploded and unleashed one of the worst losing streaks in NBA history.

Wood is a long shot now at +1400 odds to win the MIP.

Randle Leads the Knicks Turnaround

Randle posted career numbers across the board with the Knicks this season with 22.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists.

Most recently, Randle had a rough shooting performance in a loss against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets lost James Harden to a hamstring injury, but Kyrie Irving exploded for 40 points in the comeback win.

Randle only scored 19 points and he missed 12 shots, including all four of his 3-point attempts. He also missed the last shot of the game.

“Got a great look,” said Randle. “Felt good coming off my hand, just didn’t go in, so, it’s fine.”

Randle still posted a triple-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 12 assists.

The Knicks signed Randle last season, but the atrocious Knicks had a severe identity crisis and were in the middle of a coaching change. Despite the tumultuous season, he still averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds.

After adding Tom Thibodeau as the head coach, the Knicks have an identity again, especially on defense, where they’re one of the best teams in the league, allowing 104.1 ppg. Randle is a key part of the defense and thrives on both ends of the court, which is why he’s the favorite to win the MIP.

In February, Randle got hot, averaging nearly 25 ppg per game while shooting a blistering 46.3% from 3-point range. He scored fewer than 21 points only once that month, and even dropped a season-high 44 points in a big win against the Atlanta Hawks.

Grant Good, Detroit Bad

Jerami Grant averages 22.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.9 assists for the lowly Detroit Pistons. Grant is clearly the best player on one of the worst teams in the NBA.

Grant is the only positive story out of the Big D, especially after the Pistons gutted their roster, including trading away two former All-Stars. The Pistons traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks midseason. They also agreed to a contract buyout with Blake Griffin. With two key vets gone, Grant has become the stabilizing force for a rudderless team.

Last season with the Denver Nuggets, Grant did a bang-up job, averaging 12 ppg and 3.5 rebounds off the bench. In 2018-19 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Grant finally had the opportunity to start every game. As a result, his numbers spiked and he flourished, averaging 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.

Although Grant is only +140 odds to win the NBA MIP, it’s hard for voters to ignore the Pistons’ anemic record.

Rockets Missed Wood

The Pistons brought in Grant to replace Christian Wood, who signed a free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets in the offseason. Wood spent time with six different teams in six seasons before he finally found his groove last year with the Pistons. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game off the bench with Detroit. The Rockets liked what they saw and offered him a lucrative contract and a chance to become an everyday starter.

In 27 games with Houston this season, Wood averages 20.9 points and 9.6 rebounds. He injured his ankle 17 games into the season. The Rockets were 11-10 at that point, but holding their own in the wake of the Harden trade. Without Wood, the Rockets lost 20 games in a row. Since his return, the Rockets are 2-9, but finally got off the schneid and ended their hellacious skid.

Coming into this season, both Wood and Grant were among the favorites to win the NBA MIP. But because both players play in the NBA’s cellar, it’s hard to overlook the simple fact that Wood and Grant are the best players out of a sorry bunch of misfits in Detroit and Houston.