Tyrese Maxey wins NBA Most Improved Player award in close race with Coby White

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks - Game Two
Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks - Game Two

In the minds of many awards voters, the hardest leap to make in the NBA is the one from good to great. That's what won Ja Morant the Most Improved Player award in 2022.

It's what won Tyrese Maxey the Most Improved Player award this year. The Philadelphia 76ers guard won a close vote over Chicago's Kobe White for the award this year — Maxey had 319 points to White's 305. What separated Maxey was the 51 first-place votes from the 100-person media panel of voters (each voter had to select a top three for the award). The Rockets' Alperen Sengun finished third.

With James Harden's exit just before the season, Maxey was thrust into a larger offensive role, and he thrived in it. Maxey averaged 25.9 points per game (up +5.6 PPG from last season) and 6.2 assists per game (up +2.7 per game from last season).

"The Most Improved Player award is a testament to your incredible work ethic including countless early mornings in the gym perfecting your craft," Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey said in a statement. "Your journey to All-Star in just your fourth season is inspirational to everyone who watches you play."

The Thunder's Jalen Williams finished fourth in the voting. What held some voters back from picking him (or placing him higher) was that Williams was a second-year player. A leap is expected between players in their first and second years, but Williams' leap was above and beyond. The Knicks' Jalen Brunson — who is facing off against Maxey in the first round of the playoffs — came in fifth in voting.

Maxey is the second 76ers player to win the MIP award; the other was Dana Barros in the 1994-95 season.