2022-23 NBA Awards

Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen named 2022-23 Kia NBA Most Improved Player

Markkanen's breakout season yields Kia Most Improved Player honors in addition to his first All-Star appearance.

Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz is the 2022-23 Kia NBA Most Improved Player.

Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen has been named 2022-23 Kia NBA Most Improved Player.

The news came just past 2 a.m. Tuesday in Helsinki, where Markkanen is currently fulfilling the military service that is mandated for all Finnish men before they turn 30.

“Didn’t wake up at 2 a.m. for nothing,” Markkanen said on the TNT broadcast of the announcement. “It feels great. Obviously, it’s a huge privilege to be in this position.”

Markkanen beat out fellow finalists Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Oklahoma City and Jalen Brunson of New York for the award. Markkanen got 69 of the 100 first-place votes and appeared on every ballot; Gilgeous-Alexander got 24 first-place votes and was second, Brunson got four first-place votes and was third.

The six-year veteran, who just completed his first season with the Jazz after being traded from Cleveland last offseason, increased his personal production and efficiency across the board in what became his first All-Star season.

Markkanen logged career highs in scoring (25.6), rebounding (8.6), assist (1.9) and free throw attempt (9.0) averages while shooting 49.9% overall, 39.1% from 3-point range and 87.5% from the free throw line. He led Utah in scoring, rebounding and free throw attempts en route to starting in the 2023 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City.

The 7-foot forward became the first player in league history to convert more than 200 3-pointers and 100 dunks in the same season. He is the seventh international player to win Most Improved Player, joining Pascal Siakam, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Goran Dragic, Boris Diaw, Hedo Turkoglu and Gheorghe Muresan.

Markkanen’s rise was as sudden as it was spectacular after serving as a solid starter for Chicago and Cleveland in his first five NBA seasons. Drafted No. 7 overall by Minnesota before being traded on Draft night in 2017, the Finland native led the Jazz to a 10-3 start and had them in the postseason mix until injuries saw them finish 12th in the Western Conference.

Still just 25 years old, Markkanen has given Utah an immediately bright future as the biggest piece in the return for multi-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell, whom Utah dealt to the Cavaliers. He is the first player in Jazz franchise history to earn Most Improved Player honors.

“The right place at the right time,” Markkanen said of turning his first Utah season into his best season so far.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



A layup and footwork exercise known as the “Mikan Drill” has been used for decades by players at all levels to improve their game. It is named for George Mikan, who mastered the fundamentals as the NBA’s first dominant big man. His Hall of Fame career included five NBA championships in seven seasons, four NBA All-Star selections, an NBA All-Star Game MVP, six selections to the All-NBA Team and inclusion on the NBA’s 25th, 35th, 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.