Hawks' Jalen Johnson in Most Improved Player betting dilemma

New York Post
Hawks' Jalen Johnson in Most Improved Player betting dilemma

If Johnson plays in Atlanta’s remaining 14 games, he would fall 12 minutes short of being eligible to win the NBA Most Improved Player Award.

An award that many believe that Johnson can win.

“Jalen Johnson should be the favorite for Most Improved Player,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast.

Lowe has historically voted on awards, but it is unclear if he will do so this year.

Stat Muse also put out this viral tweet on X, showing the incredible improvement of the Hawks forward.

— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 18, 2024

But given the uncertainty surrounding his eligibility, sportsbooks have no idea what to do with it.

We don’t even know if Johnson will be on the ballot.

BetMGM’s senior trade, Halvor Egeland, is all but omitting Johnson from the award race regardless of eligibility.

“A majority of the year, the odds are based on a player’s performance on the court, but later in the season it’s more important to pay attention to what the voters are saying. ‘Most Improved’ usually ends up being awarded to the player who made the biggest jump to an All-Star level, take Ja Morant winning it in 2021-22 for example. Tyrese Maxey fits that mold, but the 76ers struggling in the standings is hurting his case,” Egeland said. “Some players like Jalen Johnson have improved tremendously, but they haven’t made the jump to the same level as past winners – such as Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Morant.”

The same goes for DraftKings, which also omitted Johnson from betting and does not offer odds on the Hawks forward at all.

“Jalen Johnson is having a great year and has certainly improved since last season, but is not currently in the picture because Tyrese Maxey and Coby White are dominating that race,” DraftKings’ Director of Race and Sports Operations Johnny Avello tells The Post.

“Maxey has taken a leap in every major statistical category (points, assists, rebounds) and has been carrying the Sixers without Embiid, while White has also shown significant improvement despite some recent injuries.”

There is no telling whether Johnson will actually file a grievance with the league to get an exemption and win the award; this would likely have to happen soon.

The CBA states that Johnson’s window begins at 12 p.m. ET, on the last day of the season (April 14) and sets a deadline of 11:59 p.m. ET, the day after the regular season ends.

Johnson’s agent could not be reached for comment.

But it would certainly be interesting to see how sportsbooks react to a scenario like this for betting purposes.

If a player – in this case say Johnson – wins his grievance and wins the award despite no odds being listed for him for most of the second half of the season, can betting action really count on the award?

Johnson was last seen at 100/1 on BetRivers Sportsbook as late as Sunday before being pulled and not offered again.

On BetMGM, Johnson has received nearly no wagers on the award, garnering just 0.8 percent of the money bet and being off the board most of the season aside from a few weeks beginning in January.