With the NBA season working its way through December, enough time has passed for us to take a peek at who’s leading the way for the NBA awards.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
If the season ended right now, Giannis Antetokounmpo is your NBA MVP. As of right now, it is his award to lose. Giannis is averaging 26.5 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.2 STL, and 1.3 BLK. He is leading the 18-win Milwaukee Bucks, who are currently the two seed in the Eastern Conference. He has taken another step forward with his game, and a big help is due to new head coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense. He has brought in a spacing and shooting scheme that has made the Bucks one of the more efficient teams in the NBA.
As of right now, the second-closest player is Anthony Davis. His team would have to finish in the top 4 in the Western Conference and he would have to have a 25, 10, and 5 level finish.
6th Man of the Year (6MOY)
My pick so far through this point in the season is Julius Randle. He has been a huge help off the bench for the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans have been starting Nikola Mirotic to offer some spacing for Anthony Davis. This has created a perfect role for Julius Randle to lead the second unit. He is currently averaging 19.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 55% from the field and 32% from 3-point range. He has added the ability to shoot from deep this year which has made him even better on the second unit. Randle has only started 9 out of the 30 games this year, so he is most certainly the frontrunner for the award.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)
Right now, it may be too early to name one stand out candidate, but my pick would be Joel Embiid who is averaging 10 RPG, 2 BLKs, and has a 101.3 defensive rating. He is leading the Philadelphia 76ers to being a top 10 defense and being the anchor in the middle to compliment the newly acquired Jimmy Butler on the wing. He is, right now, the person I would vote for. Until we have played more games, it will be hard to determine a standout defensive player. That time will come by the All-Star Break, however.
Rookie of the Year (ROTY)
Could it be anyone else other than Luka Doncic? I don’t believe so. He is currently leading the Dallas Mavericks to the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a record of 15-11. Mavericks fans have been loving Luka at home—he has helped them win 13 games there so far this year out of the 15 they have played at American Airlines Center. Luka has proven early on that you do not have to be super athletic to be a successful NBA player. That was one of Luka’s biggest negative takeaways from scouts coming into this past year’s draft. He has probably made the GMs of the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, and especially the Atlanta Hawks—who traded picks with the Mavericks to get PG Trae Young instead of Luka Doncic—look pretty silly. Doncic is putting up a stat line of 18 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 4.4 AST, and 1.1 STL. All of this while shooting 42.5% from the field and 36.9% from three-point range. All this being, can we hand him the award today?
Most Improved Player (MIP)
A big part of the Toronto Raptors’ success this year has been from a guy not named Kawhi Leonard or Kyle Lowry. This contribution has come from none other than Pascal Siakam. The third-year player out of New Mexico State University has taken a huge leap this year, moving from a bench role player to a starter and a key part of the first place Raptors. In 20 more minutes per game this year, Siakam is averaging 14.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 61.1% from the field, and 35.7% from three. Comparing that to last year, he has improved across the board with 7 more PPG, 2 more RPG, 10% percent better from the field and a crazy 13% better rate from three. He is also helping the Toronto Raptors to a top 10 defensive rating, which has lead to the best record in the NBA at 23-7. All in all, with new head coach Nick Nurse at the helm, Pascal Siakam is thriving and isn’t showing signs of stopping.
Coach of the Year (COY)
My pick is a guy that has won it before. Right now, the Milwaukee Bucks are 18-9, which is second place in the Eastern Conference behind the Toronto Raptors. I have already showed the Bucks some love earlier in this piece by picking Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP. All of this is because of one man. His name is Mike Budenholzer. He won the award previously, in 2014-15, leading the Atlanta Hawks to a 60-22 record and first place in the Eastern Conference. He has brought in a system to the Bucks that former Hawks PG Jeff Teague called “unpredictable.” It is a read-and-react offense that involves a lot of screens and ball movement. This has elevated the entire roster for the Bucks. Although at the pace the Raptors are playing the Bucks won’y finish with the number one seed. Typically the award goes to the coach with the best record but the improvement of the Bucks from last year being a seventh seed is worth the award going to Mike Budenholzer.
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