‘4-Year Pop Theory’: Knicks RJ Barrett Will Win Most Improved Player

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If the New York Knicks make the playoffs this season then Knicks wing RJ Barrett winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player (MIP) of the Year is a lock. Even if N.Y. falls short of the postseason, Barrett could still win this award.

Previous MIP winners from non-playoff teams include New Orleans’ Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram (2019-20), then-Phoenix Suns G Goran Dragic (2014-15) and then-Minnesota Timberwolves PF Kevin Love (2011-12).

But, for the Knicks to make the playoffs, Barrett needs to take a step forward. Also, Barrett could be the benefactor of an east coast bias from the N.Y. media should the Knicks make the postseason.

What is the ‘4-Year Pop Theory’?

This puppy is a Geoff Clark exclusive. The 4-Year Pop Theory is essentially me buying the stock of talented NBA players that the media and fans have sold.

NBA superstars needing additional time to develop is more common than you think. The last 5 NBA MVPs — Nikola Jokic (twice), Giannis Antetokounmpo (twice) and James Harden — all appeared in their 1st All-Star games in their 4th season.

Other NBA stars that broke out in their 4th season include Ingram, 2014-15 NBA MIP Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam. I profited with this theory by betting Ingram to win MIP at +4000 and Ingram to go Over his regular-season PPG prop.

Barrett is the most likely candidate for my 4-Year Pop Theory. He’s the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft behind Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, both of whom already broke out. Between Barrett’s upside and all NBA awards having a narrative slant, he has the best value to win the award.

Go to DraftKings Sportbook and SPRINKLE on New York Knicks SF RJ BARRETT TO WIN NBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (+2000).

RJ Barrett’s Path to NBA’s Most Improved Player

(Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

For Barrett to win NBA MIP, he’ll have to average an efficient 23-25.0 PPG en route to a Knicks playoff berth or his 1st-ever All-Star game selection.

Barrett can focus more on himself this season rather than getting others involved. The Knicks finally acquired a legitimate starting point guard in Jalen Brunson to orchestrate the offense.

Most of Barrett’s early-season issues last year stemmed from N.Y. having the worst backcourt in the NBA. Once Knicks PG Derrick Rose was sidelined for the season, N.Y. didn’t have anyone to create looks for teammates.

With Brunson in the fold, the Knicks can let Barrett cook. More importantly, Barrett started to flash his potential in the 2nd-half of last season. Barrett’s points per game (PPG) jumped from 18.0 to 24.5 PPG post-All-Star break.

Finally, I could easily make a case Barrett is undervalued to win MIP. I agree with Timberwolves wing Anthony Edwards (+1000) being the favorite. But, the other 3 names in front of Barrett shouldn’t be.

Indiana Pacers G Tyrese Haliburton (+1200) is on a dog-shit team that’ll likely end up tanking. Hell, I’m okay losing if Haliburton can retain his efficiency while guiding Indiana to the playoffs.

Pelicans’ All-Star Zion Williamson (+1600) averaged 27.0 PPG on 61.6% effective field goal shooting in 2020-21. If he improves upon that, Zion is much more likely to win the NBA MVP, not MIP.

The only other name ahead of Barrett is Brunson (+1600) whose role will be more of a facilitator and floor-general than a ball-dominant, do-it-all guard.

Of all the regular-season awards, I’m most confident in Knicks SF RJ BARRETT WINNING THE NBA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER (+2000).

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET


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Written by Geoff Clark

Geoff Clark serves as OutKick’s sports betting guru. As a writer and host of OutKick Bets with Geoff Clark, he dives deep into the sports betting landscape and welcomes an array of sports betting personalities on his show to handicap America’s biggest sporting events.

Previously, Clark was a writer/podcaster for USA TODAY's Sportsbook Wire website, handicapping all the major sports tentpoles with a major focus on the NFL, NBA and MLB.

Clark graduated from St. John University.

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