We’re about halfway through the NBA season and things are starting to become clear. We’re beginning to see the teams likely fighting for playoffs, players finding their groove, and even who’s the favorites to win each award. The major performance awards given to the players are always tough to choose one but it’s not always tough to narrow down. This is how I think it shakes down.
The MVP award usually goes to the player that makes the biggest difference for their team and also has the best stats. It focuses on points, assists, rebounds, efficiency, and estimated wins added by that player. Right off the bat James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant seem to be at the forefront. Harden is the leading scorer and is second in assists. Giannis is second in scoring and ninth in rebounds. Lebron is third in scoring is isn’t far off from averaging a triple double. Durant is scoring 25 a game and helps with assists and rebounds. I think Westbrook and Demarcus Cousins just slip in too. Westbrook hasn’t scored as much as last year with the addition of George and Melo. Cousins gets overshadowed by Anthony Davis’ numbers also. I think if you go by overall play the King has the nod here almost averaging a triple double and still standing out on a team of studs. He makes the team who they are and they just wouldn’t be the same without his numbers.
PREDICTION: Lebron James
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
This award is always tough! They don’t just focus on players they’re fresh out of college. They focus on all players who are playing their first seasons in the league, sometimes not always their first season out of college. The main front runners of the award appear to be Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, and Jayson Tatum. Then Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma are flying under the radar. Mitchell, Kuzma, and Tatum are all neck and neck but they’re not leading the pack, they are all working to catch up to Ben Simmons. Simmons is putting up solid scoring numbers, but on top of that he’s passing very well, rebounding well, and is playing efficiently. Simmons is the front runner for this award with Mitchell and Kuzma closest on his heels.
PREDICTION: Ben Simmons
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
This award is very clearly given to the best defensive player all around. Right now the front runners are Jimmy Butler, Rudy Gobert, Draymomd Green, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis. These players stand out because they not only stop their assignments consistently but they help anchor the whole defense when they’re on the floor. They just play great defense and motivate and help others play good defense. Green and Leonard are previous winners and look like solid candidates but I believe they’re both being led by Rudy Gobert. Gobert holds Utah’s defense together and he just completely shuts down anyone that enters the paint. Anybody who comes inside the paint immediately regrets that decision against Gobert. It really speaks volumes when teams specifically have to change their game plans based on your defensive presence.
PREDICTION: Rudy Gobert
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Generally with the coach of the year award, it’s given to the East team that surpasses the teams preseason expectations. That could mean Brad Stevens, Brett Brown, Stan Van Gundy, or Jason Kidd, or it could be surprises in the West like Alvin Gentry, Tom Thibodeau, or Micheal Malone. I think we’ll see Brad Stevens, Brett Brown, Jason Kidd, and Tom Thibodeau as the front runners having turned their teams around the most. I’m going to give the nod to Thibodeau. He has helped bring Butler to Minnesota and brought the best out of this team. They’ve made their way out of the West basement and a lot of that is because of Thibodeau.
PREDICTION: Tom Thibodeau
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:
This award is tough because it’s not just a measure of statistics but also the overall play whether it’s with or without the ball. It’s guys that not only put up stats but also provide a mental spark for the team. You’ve gotta think the guys up for this are Kelly Oubre, Tristan Thompson, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Eric Gordon, and Andre Iguodala. Oubre helps provide a spark off the bench and scores. Teodosic scores some and provides masterful passing. Iggy is the best example of a spark off the bench. I think the two front runners are Williams, Thompson, and Gordon. Thompson provides rebounds, defense, offensive flow, and spark. Williams and Gordon provide chemistry, spark, and a ton of scoring. I give the nod here to the big scorer off the bench that has made the biggest impact in times of injury and plays for the team that needs him most as a bench leader.
PREDICTION: Eric Gordon
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
Obviously this award goes to the player that improves the most between last year and this one. Clint Capela has improved in every aspect of his game and he has completely changed the defense of this Rockets team. Giannis Antetokounmpo has improved all around but he’s a significantly better scorer and leader this year than ever before. Victor Oladipo has become a better scorer, leader, shooter, and defender. Oladipo was always good but now he’s just becoming a big time threat like we haven’t yet seen from him. Kristaps Porzingis has become a reliable scorer, leader, passer, rebounder and spark. He just looks much better this season. Joel Embiid also looks better, plays smarter, and has been leading this team out of the basement of the East. I’ve gotta pick one of these guys and it’s gotta be the one who was the least expected to make the leap he has so far.
PREDICTION: Clint Capela
If the rest of the season shakes out the way it has so far, I think these are the award winners we’ll see. They’re difference makers, and the best the league has to offer. I’ll be back later in the NBA season, hopefully with more of an “I told you so” type vibe as opposed to “well I was wrong” type vibe. That’s the beauty of the NBA, you never know what heroes will spring forward after the all-star break.