NBA Awards Rankings: New No. 1 in Most Improved Player race

There's a new sheriff in town for the Most Improved Player race.

Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets
Alperen Sengun, Houston Rockets / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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It can be difficult to provide a precise definitiion for any NBA award, but Most Improved Player takes the cake for most difficult. There are unwritten rules baked into the fabric of the race. For example, second-year players are often excluded, as they don't fit the "spirit" of the award. Now, what exactly the "spirit" of the award is, I am ill-equipped to answer.

Here at FanSided, we are going to take the award at face value. The player who made either the biggest leap or the most important leap compared to last season. That alone is open to myriad interpretations, but that's why every voter casts a different ballot. That's part of the fun.

Here's how the MIP race looks in Week 5 of the NBA season.

NBA Most Improved Player power rankings: Week 5

Honorable mentions: Paolo Banchero, Jalen Johnson, Cam Thomas, Bam Adebayo, Anthony Edwards

5. . Jalen Suggs. player. 38. Magic . Jalen Suggs. 5. . Guard

The Orlando Magic are 13-5, one game behind the first-place Celtics in the Eastern Conference. It's fair to bit dubious about Orlando's ability to sustain its current pace, but the Magic have won eight straight with victories over Boston, Denver, and Indiana. There's credit to go around.

Paolo Banchero — probably the hardest omission here — has made a serious shooting leap, which opens up the floor and empowers him more as a driver and facilitating hub. Franz Wagner is the league's most under-appreciated two-way wing. Cole Anthony might deserve Sixth Man of the Year, if we were to cast votes right now.

But, as far as Most Improved Player goes, Jalen Suggs cracks the list. Last season was a brutal, injury-plagued sophomore campaign for the Gonzaga product. There have always been flashes with Suggs, but on top of health concerns, an unreliable 3-point shot and decision-making lapses kept him from consistently impacting winning.

Now, he's on the All-Defense shortlist while averaging 13.0 points and 2.7 assists on .450/.373/.837 splits in 27.2 minutes. Suggs has emerged as one of the league's top complementary guards, leading the charge with spirited defense, hitting spot-up 3s, kickstarting transition offense with his speed, and passing teammates open. This is, more or less, the guard Orlando meant to select with the No. 5 pick a couple of years ago. Suggs may never elevate to the level of offensive star, but he's a locker-room leader who makes a pronounced winning impact in a supportive role.