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NBA All-Star Makes Case For Jalen Johnson As the NBA's Most Improved Player: "I did not really know his game"

Johnson has taken a huge leap forward in his third season in the NBA and players around the league are taking notice

The Atlanta Hawks have been one of the NBA's most disappointing teams this season. They came into the year hoping to earn a top-six spot in the Eastern Conference, but they currently sit in 10th place, just a few games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets. Atlanta is also currently one of the most injured teams in the NBA as well, with a number of key players out. 

One of the few bright spots for the team this year has been the emergence of third-year forward Jalen Johnson. Johnson was one of the most talented players in the 2021 NBA Draft but fell to the Hawks. He looks to have a big future ahead of them and you can argue he has been the Hawks second best player this season. 

While Johnson is out right now with a right ankle sprain, he is in contention for this year's Most Improved Player Award and stars around the league are starting to take notice. On the latest episode of Podcast P (a production of Wave Sports + Entertainment), Clippers superstar Paul George responded to a question about who he thinks should win the Most Improved Player Award and talked about how much Johnson has improved this year and why he should be in firm contention for the award:

"This is a tough one. I think all three (Coby White, Tyrese Maxey, and Johnson) are deserving and I think all three have their own case. Maxey has an extremely good case with being an All-Star and a starter and he has been playing well, especially with Joel (Embiid) being out, he has been carrying Philly. 

Jalen Johnson has been a surprise. I did not quite know his game. But I think he has evolved and when you lose John Collins and then Jalen Johnson comes right in and right away replaces him."

George went on to say he thought he Most Improved Player race was between Johnson and White:

"I would say it's between Coby and Jalen. Tyrese... you can see Tyrese... you can see this coming, you can see Tyrese, you can see that... especially playing with James and Joel and he was still producing at a high rate, still putting up like 18, 20 points per game, still being an efficient scorer and playing with those two guys, you saw he becomes the guy, he is going to be able to fit right in and produce at a high level. He improved a lot, but I did not think it was like eye-opening like he got better, he's always been nice. Coby White had high promise I think coming out of North Carolina but I think he has put it all together, which usually happens when the game slows down and you find your game and find your pace and find your tempo and you figure out how to play in the NBA and I think that is the case for Coby White. Jalen Johnson is just... I did not know his game and I honestly did not think he would be what he is and what he has shown now, he is actually a player that you can get a ball to and ask for production."

Johnson has seen a massive leap in production this season. He is currently averaging 15.7 PPG and 8.6 RPG, as well as 3.4 APG. He is great in transition and has made huge strides as a passer. He is arguably the Hawks's best defender as well and is usually given the toughest defensive assignments. 

Currently, at Caesars Sportsbook, Maxey is the odds-on favorite to win Most Improved Player at -225 with White (+150), Jalen Williams (+1200), Jonathan Kuminga (+3300), and Johnson (+8000) following him. I think that is low for Johnson and if he can come back from injury and have a strong finish to the season, he could win the award.