Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen is the 2022-23 NBA Most Improved Player, the league announced on Monday.

After joining the Jazz last offseason as a part of the trade that sent Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Markkanen made drastic leaps and bounds in his on-court production. He went from being the third or fourth option in a starting lineup to being a top-15 player and the Jazz’s No. 1 option.

“It’s a good recognition of the work you put in, but it’s just the beginning,” Markkanen said via Zoom. “I want to make the next jump and be able to lead this team to the playoffs and do something big with this group. So, it feels good to get this award, but I’m even more excited going into the future and to just keep working harder.”

Markkanen, 25, is currently serving in the Finish military, which is a mandatory service for male citizens of Finland and must be completed by age 30.

Granted evening leave from the base for the occasion of the MIP award, Markkanen was able to spend the night at home in Helsinki and wake up for the 2 a.m. announcement. But any celebrating will have to come later.

“I haven’t had time to celebrate and I’m gonna go back to to the base this morning,” Markkanen said. “Going to be a little bit tired, but I think it’s worth it. You don’t win this award too many times.”

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Markkanen, in his sixth year in the NBA, finished the season averaging a career-high 25.6 points per game to go with 8.6 rebounds, while shooting a career-best 49.9% overall and 87.5% from the free-throw line, while hitting 3-pointers at a 39.1% clip.

“I don’t know what the ceiling is on Lauri,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “I don’t think any of us do, but I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen it yet.”

The Finnish native became the first player in NBA history to have 200 3-pointers and 100 dunks in a single season. He was a first-time All-Star in 2023, eventually being named a starter, and is an All-NBA candidate.

His performance with the Finnish national team last summer served as a blueprint for how Hardy wanted Markkanen to approach his season with the Jazz. He was given the freedom to attack and operate from anywhere on the court and was challenged to step up as the leader of the team.

Shortly after the 2022-23 season began, during one of the Jazz’s film sessions, Hardy said the quiet part out loud to the rest of his team, calling Markkanen the “best player on the team.”

Though Markkanen was a little shy in the moment, the confidence he’d already been given by Hardy was boosted when there was consensus recognition throughout the room by his teammates.

But, even with the internal recognition and now the league-wide recognition in the form of the Most Improved Player award, Markkanen said that he is committed to continuing to push himself.

“It’s not going to make me stop working or anything like that,” he said.

Markkanen’s six-month military commitment will likely be fulfilled over the course of a couple of offseasons. In addition to needing to be back Utah in September for NBA training camp, he is also planning on playing with the Finnish National team once again this summer.