James Harden (G, Houston Rockets)
This was kind of an obvious choice. Why not give the MVP to the best player on the team with the best record? There were many concerns early in the year of whether James Harden could live up to his play last season. Harden has not only met these expectations; he has exceeded them. With the arrival of point guard Chris Paul, Harden has excelled in playing off the ball more than usual. Some analysts did not think Harden would be as effective when not bringing up the ball and facilitating the play, but Harden is having the best offensive year of his career. Arguably the best offensive player in the league, he is leading the league in scoring (31.3 points per game) and is second in assists (9 assists per game). Harden’s much improved defensive game has helped him lead the Rockets to the best record in the NBA. In my opinion, no player deserves this award more.
Runner-Up: LeBron James (F, Cleveland Cavaliers)
Rookie of the Year
Donovan Mitchell (G, Utah Jazz)
This was a tough decision. It could’ve either went to Mitchell or Ben Simmons. I ultimately went with Mitchell because the Jazz have less talent for him to work with. The explosive guard is keeping the Jazz in the playoff race. With little offensive talent on the Jazz, Mitchell is being relied on to be their top scoring option. So far, he has not failed, leading his team to an 11 game winning streak going into the all-star break. Mitchell has won the Rookie of the Month Award for December and January and is averaging close to 20 points per game this season. I have a strong feeling that the best of Donovan Mitchell has yet to come this year. Even though the award could very well end up going to Simmons, I think that Mitchell has had to play a greater role in his team’s success this season, and therefore, deserves the Rookie of the Year.
Runner-Up: Ben Simmons (G/F, Philadelphia 76ers)
Defensive Player of the Year
Al Horford (F/C, Boston Celtics)
Despite some recent struggles, the Celtics are still first in the league in defensive efficiency. Much of this credit goes to Al Horford, the team’s veteran leader. He has been tasked with leading the Celtics defense after a slew of injuries and has performed incredibly. Just look at his defensive rating. The numbers don’t lie. The big man uses his defensive versatility to defend both guards and big men. He is strong enough to match up with stronger players down low and fast enough to take care of guards after a switch. Horford has also shown solid defensive fundamentals from communications, rotations, and boxing out, three things which are often overlooked. Although his blocks, steals, and defensive rebounds stats are not particularly eye-popping, Horford deserves credit in anchoring the league’s best defense.
Runner-Up: Paul George (Oklahoma City Thunder)
6th Man of the Year
Lou Williams (G, Los Angeles Clippers)
The fact that Lou Williams, a sixth-man, was in all-star contention this season should already solidify his place as Sixth Man of the Year. As of now, he is on pace to become the highest scoring player to win this award with 23.2 points per game. Normally a pure scorer, Williams has adapted to more of a point guard role this season. His improved passing and game facilitation skills show as he is averaging over 5 assists per game this year, the highest of his career. Williams has stepped up following the injuries to teammates Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari, and Austin Rivers, and his exceptional play is keeping the Clippers in the playoff race. As long as he comes off the bench for more games then he starts, (which is highly probable) he will run away with this award.
Runner-Up: Eric Gordon (G, Houston Rockets)
Victor Oladipo (G, Indiana Pacers)
When Paul George was traded to the Thunder for Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, people wondered how George was traded for so cheap. Oladipo’s performances so far this year have proved these people wrong. It seems to me that the athletic guard just needed his own team, where he could succeed and not be overshadowed by other stars. Oladipo has improved greatly in every stat category, including three point percentage, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, steals, blocks, assists, and rebounds. The much developed shooter increased his points per game from 15.9 last year to 24.4. Just from watching him play, you can see how his game has matured. Oladipo is now capable of leading his own team to the playoffs instead of hiding in Westbrook’s shadow.
Runner-Up: Aaron Gordon (F, Orlando Magic)
Coach of the Year
Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)
Now that the champion Heat teams of 2012 and 2013 are gone, people are forced to see Spoelstra as an outstanding couch and not just a robot who does whatever LeBron says. The Miami Heat seem to over perform every season. The Heat currently sit only 3.5 games back from fourth place in the East with a record of 30-28. A team with no real stars, youth and inexperience, terrible injury problems, and a bench that could pass as a G-League team should not be in playoff contention. Any team with Jordan Mickey playing more than 3 minutes per game should not be decent. Spoelstra always seems to get the best out of his players. You have people like James Johnson and Wayne Ellington whose stats have improved immensely under Spoelstra. Then, you have people like Tyler Johnson and Rodney McGruder who were undrafted out of college but have found important roles on the Heat. The team seems to respect him greatly, and it shows.
Runner-Up: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)
Executive of the Year
Daryl Morey (Houston Rockets)
Morey pulled the string on a huge trade this offseason sending Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, a 2018 first rounder, and three other scrubs to the Clippers for all-star point guard Chris Paul. After assembling arguably the best backcourt in the NBA, Morey then signed PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, two solid veteran defenders. During the season, Morey continued to strengthen the Rockets with the additions of Gerald Green, Joe Johnson, and Brandan Wright. Not only do these players provide decent scoring off the bench, they provide the experience that Houston normally lacks during the playoffs. The Rockets currently have the best record in the NBA, and it’s easy to see why.
Runner-Up: Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics)