Hello all. We’re pretty much a fourth of the way through the NBA season, isn’t that crazy? As per usual with these articles I’ll be forcing my opinions on you. This time, it is who the end of season awards would be going to if the season ended today. A quarter of a season is a pretty good sample size so all of these choices are contenders for the award and that really shouldn’t change barring any injury. We’ve seen quite a bit so far, with a quiet rookie class, players taking new leaps, and the Knicks still sucking. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant
This is a boring choice! Ja was the second overall pick, of course he would be a front-runner for this award. If this award were called ‘Funnest Rookie to Watch’ or ‘Most Unexpected Rookie’ we’d be talking about guys like Rui Hachimura and the Heat rookies. This isn’t to say that Ja hasn’t been good or fun to watch, it is quite the opposite. Among rookies he’s first in points per game, first in assists per game, tied for second in steals per game, and top 20 in rebounds and blocks per game. If the season ended today, Ja Morant would absolutely deserve to win (and would win) ROY. It just wouldn’t be as fun as a guy like PJ Washington or Eric Paschall coming out of nowhere to win it. Oh well.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Pascal Siakim
Let’s be clear, no one in NBA history has won MIP twice, let alone twice in a row. It wouldn’t change this year. Going by those rules, MIP would likely go to a guy like Bam Adebayo (my preseason pick for the award). But I’m saying screw tradition because Siakim deserves it again (and probably some dark horse MVP love to be honest). When he won the award last season, he added 9.6 points, 1.1 assists, and 2.4 rebounds to his per game statistics from a season ago. So far this season he has added another 8.2 points, .8 assists, and 1.7 rebounds to his per game statistics. It’s a nearly identical improvement from his MIP season! He’s also the best player on the Raptors now with Kawhi in LA and Toronto is tied for the third best record in the Eastern Conference. Shower this man with accolades please.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
Okay so this one is more who I think the award would go to than who I think deserves the award. DPOY is going to be a strange one this year. Doing my research, I had two contenders for the award in mind: Ben Simmons and Anthony Davis. To be honest that was mainly due to the media narrative I’ve been seeing on Twitter and in reading other articles. My initial research showed why: Simmons leads the league in steals per game and Davis leads in blocks per game. But when I moved to defensive rating, neither sniffed the top 20. I adjusted it to players who have played 15 or more games, still nowhere close. Finally, I adjusted it to players averaging 25 or more minutes a game, to get just starters. Still, neither cracked the top 20. Interestingly enough, Embiid (Simmons’ teammate and a superior player) was #1 after those adjustments. He was followed by two Nuggets (Paul Milsap and then Will Barton) which shows how the Nuggets are performing (wow). Giannis was fourth and he finished second in DPOY voting in the previous season, so that makes sense. So, I think the DPOY award is going to come down to who the media narrative chooses. They’ve been riding LA all season so I think if they finish with a top 2 seed in the West they’ll vote Davis.
Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse
The Raptors finished last season second in the Eastern Conference and won the NBA title last season. Then they lost their Finals MVP and consensus top five NBA player in Kawhi Leonard. This team was projected to be in the cellar and who could blame people? You can’t just recover from losing a player of that caliber. Well, they have. They’re tied for third in the Eastern Conference and their season thus far has been no fluke. Pascal is playing like a top 10 NBA player, Fred Vanvleet has maintained his hot streak started in the Finals of last season, and the team is run like a well oiled machine. They’ve even done all of this with Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka (two starters from last season) missing a combined 21 games. Nick Nurse deserves this award and it isn’t necessarily close.
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Call me a homer if you want. If you want to argue for Luka Doncic, I will hear that argument. I personally feel that voters will get cold feet on voting Luka for MVP in his second season just like they got cold feet in voting him as an All-Star in his rookie season (he deserved it too!). After that, I won’t hear arguments. Yes, Harden is putting up the historic scoring season he does every season and will get the consideration he deserves. However, just like with Westbrook, the media is going to get bored of that narrative. I wouldn’t be surprised if he falls out of the top three in MVP voting for the first time in three seasons. I know there’s beef between Giannis stans and Harden stans but I really have no disrespect for the player. He is an all time player and scorer and deserves to have his MVP award (and probably the one Westbrook stole from him) under his belt. With Giannis, however, it is simple. He’s second in points per game, fourth in rebounds per game, first in player impact estimate, first in Net Rating (among starters), and first in +/- among starters. On top of it all, his Bucks are tied for the best record in the league. If the season ended today, we’d see the Greek Freak Repeat (but I’m not a rapper).
These are my picks should the season have ended today. All of these players will remain in the conversation throughout the season barring any injury. With Ja, the biggest thing to look out for is Zion’s looming return. While the media might get cold feet considering the time Zion has missed (a la Embiid’s loss to Malcolm Brogdon) I think it has been a boring enough year for rookies that he could steal the award. With three quarters to go, it is bound to be interesting!