With just over a quarter of the season now being completed, we decided to give our way-too-early picks for each of the NBA Awards that are given out at the end of the season.
Most Valuable Player
Slim: Lebron, on a per game basis, is averaging 28 points, 8.5 assists, and 9 rebounds, while shooting 43% from beyond the arc and 58% from the field overall, to go along with a block and a steal. The 58% FG percentage is first in the league, the 28 points per game and 8.5 assists per game are good for 3rd in the league, while the 43% from deep is good for 3rd in the league among players in the top 20 in scoring. The blocks, 3-point percentage, 3-pointers made per game (2), and FG percentages are all career highs, while the 28 ppg are his best since his final year in Cleveland (09-10), the first time, when he averaged 30. The Cavs have won 13 straight games, are still the team to beat in the East and King James appears to be on track for quite possibly his best season ever, in year 15 of his career.
Chief: Slim ain’t wrong. Issa King. An MVP candidate should be a player whose team wins but also is always personally evolving and getting better. Honestly, LBJ has always been this good, but this year, it’s so fun to watch him do his thing on a small market team without having to vie for the rock with Kyrie. LeBron is having an unbelievable statistical season, averaging 28-8-9 while shooting 58% from the field and 43% from three — and the Cavs are 18-7 on a 13 game winning streak. Last night, LBJ toasted the kings to the tune of 32 and 11, and he even managed to ring up a stat in every measurable category. I originally chose the Beard, but damn, it’s time to bring that trophy back to LeBron of House James.
Brofessor: Yes, he might not be the total package when it comes to basketball players because of his lackluster defense, but James Harden is a guy that everyone wishes that they had (and also somehow the guy that someone used to have but lost..ahemm OKC). He never rests, having played in 81 and 82 games the past two seasons. This season he is leading the league in points and assists per game with 31 and 9. He also leads the league in 3’s made and will be the first in the league to reach 100 on the season. The Rockets sit atop the Western Conference and have no signs of slowing down. He is one of the remaining top players in the league without an MVP award and this is the year he will get his.
6th Man of the Year
Brofessor: Am I overly hype on the Celtics this year? I might be. It’s too bad that Good Hair Gordon Hayward went down before the season got going because I think we are all curious how the chemistry of this team would play itself out. Nonetheless, here we are today. The Celtics are powering through the NBA on their way to another potential 1 seed in the East. Yeah of course Kyrie is amazing. They have a good rookie too. One guy who sometimes slips under the radar is Marcus Smart. He doesn’t have the sexiest of stats, averaging 11 pts, 6 asst, 1.4 steals per 36 minutes, but he is a guy who brings many intangibles to the team. Despite his absolutely terrible shooting (under 40% effective FG%), he is a guy who will get in the trenches and fight for his life when called upon. His dogged bench play has been a large factor in the Celtics’ success this year.
Chief: Tyreke Evans. Not a surprising pick, but a welcome one to be sure for my hometown Grizzlies. Posting stats in line with his career averages (17 – 5 – 4, 43% percent from 3 (!!!)), ‘Reke has been a revelation and one of the few players who can put the ball in the bucket for the Grizz. And he’s finally healthy *knocks on wood*. Never mind the advanced metrics that may/may not reveal that ‘Reke’s a ball hog cancer to half-court sets. While it may be true that he’s like the “hot” girl on Tinder that ultimately is revealed to wear a ton of makeup and hide her overweight body with cleavage shots and clever layering, it’s hard not to #BelieveReke at this juncture.
Slim: This award is difficult to disperse early on, because deserving guys are being thrust into the starting lineups of their teams, and may not return to their perceived 6th man roles, due to injuries, schematic fit, etc. However, Will Barton looks to be solid in his role for the Nuggets (of course, after writing this he is now starting), who currently hold the 5 spot in the Western Conference standings. Barton is leading the Nuggets, averaging 15.8 points per game, while shooting a career best 47% from the field. His improved shooting from outside, currently hitting 3-pointers at a rate of 42%, which is also a career-high, has been the major key for the Thrill’s hot start. The 6’6 swingman is pulling down 5 rebounds a game and dishing out 3 assists, to go along with his scoring. Denver will continue to rely on Barton’s scoring punch off the bench and in clutch situations, so I think it’s likely that Barton maintains this type of production and has a serious chance to bring home this award at season’s end.
Rookie of the Year
Chief: Ben Simmons. I don’t like giving ROY to players that sat out a year and are having their rookie year while riding the bench and perhaps being able to soak in more about the game, thus giving him an advantage. But ‘Fess and Slim are right, to pick anyone other than Ben Simmons would be absurd. The kid is living up to the hype and is a do-everything dude on the court. I do question his hunger, as he looked like he couldn’t give a shit less during his one year on LSU. I also note that team didn’t even make the tournament. But, he’s a force this season. If the Sixers don’t make the playoffs, however, I say we strip him of the trophy.
Brofessor: I know technically superstud Ben Simmons of the 76ers is a rookie this season after sitting out last year due to injury, but since it’s my award to give, I am going to give it to a guy freshly drafted. Jayson Tatum is that guy. He is 6th among rookies in PPG with nearly 14 and also sits at 6th in RPG. It is not only on offense that he has contributed, but also on the defensive end, where he also ranks top ten among rookies in steals and blocks. The reason I chose Tatum over fellow rookie Lauri Markkanen of the Bulls is because he has become an immediate contributor on a championship caliber team.
Slim: I tried to give this award to someone other than Ben Simmons, I really did, and I was close to giving it to the streaking Donovan Mitchell, but I just couldn’t consider myself true to the game and give it to anyone other than Simmons. The 21 year old, 6’10 point guard, is averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists per game, and surprisingly got Brofessor General’s vote for DPOY, due in large part to his 2 steals per game. The last rookies to average 18 points and 9 rebounds for their rookie campaigns were Karl-Anthony Towns (‘16) and Blake Griffin (‘11), while the last rookie to average at least 18 points and 7 assists was Allen Iverson (‘97). The last rookie to average at least 18-9-7? Oscar Robertson who averaged an absurd 30-10-9 in the 60-61 season. Not saying Simmons is the next Big O, but the kid is the clear frontrunner for ROY, and is setting the tone for what could be a very good career.
Defensive Player of the Year
Slim: In his first season with Oklahoma City, Paul George has led the Thunder’s defense, which is 3rd in Defensive Rating, 3rd in opponent points in the paint allowed, and 1st in the league in steals. George has played a large part in that, leading the NBA with 2.5 steals per game and 4.6 deflections per game (1.1 more than 2nd place!), and barely trailing his teammate, Russell Westbrook, in loose balls recovered per game. George has always been a really good defender, and he seems to really be engaged this year. Talk about the Thunder’s defense will probably start to pick up, if they ever start winning games.
Chief: Hear that? That’s the sound of LeBron’s footsteps approaching as what you thought was going to be a simple fastbreak layup is turned into a bloodthirsty jousting match 10 feet in the air with a dude basically as athletic as a super saiyan from DragonBall Z. Shouts to my dude, Giannis, but my DPOY goes to LBJ. Two awards to the King you say? Consider this: players guarded by LeBron are shooting a dismal 33% in the 4th quarter. Couple that with the fact that he almost always guards the best player on the other team during crunch time, and that is truly an asinine stat. It’s high time to acknowledge LeBron has always been one of the best defenders in the game. Let him ride into the sunset with his MVP and DPOY and let’s fuckin’ crank up those “MJ v. LBJ” bar debates, baby.
Brofessor: Now this award I can give to Simmons. He is second in the league in steals right now and almost averaging a block per game. Not too shabby for a first year player. You don’t have to believe me though. If you need more evidence of how he has earned this title, look no further than the totally biased Sixer’s media.
Most Improved Player
Brofesssor: Exhibit A in the case of Russell Westbrook is a life suck can be found in Victor Oladipo. After being traded to the Pacers from OKC for Paul George, he has absolutely taken off. He is averaging 23 points a game in the Hoosier state, 5 more than his previous best in Orlando. He is shooting 3’s at a 44% clip right now, averaging two and a half makes per game. In addition, he is getting to the line over twice as much as last year. Oladipo is playing a huge part in the success that the Pacers have had this year. Who know, they might even make the…Playoffs?
Slim: Jaylen Brown was expected to improve and have an increased role this year, but I didn’t quite expect Brown to be the 2nd leading scorer and rebounder on the NBA’s best team. Jaylen is currently averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds per game, which are increased from his averages of 6 points and 3 boards as a rookie last season. Brown has seen his minutes increase from 17 to 31 per game, and his 3-point shooting has improved from last season’s 34% to the 40% he is currently shooting. Brown is also a willing and capable defender, that can guard just about anyone on the court, other than a true big man. Second year guys with increased roles are expected to up their contributions to their teams, but Brown has exceeded all of my expectations so far this year.
Chief: Devin Booker. Book has always been a burning hot fucking shooting star supernova of pure scoring. But this year, he’s like Neo once he realized he was the One and started bitch slapping Agent Smith’s punches away:
Buckets he getteth, in creative ways as well. Of course he’s lights out from distance, but he also has sneaky good handles and can use both hands for off the dribble floaters/dazzling finishes. For 21 years old, Book maintains a high basketball IQ as well, always moving off the ball and cutting sharply past screens to shake his defender — he honestly reminds me a lot of Steph, plus he’s got the fun cocky asshole personality that our bro-y modern NBA is missing. If he poo poos his career by sticking with the Suns, who have done nothing to surround him with decent players, I will be sad. He continues to impress me by being better every year.
Coach of the Year
Chief: Brad Stevens. Another non-surprise. But I didn’t want to be cute, I just wanted to be right. I had to double check, but BRAD STEVENS HAS NEVER WON COY (!!!). Easy pick with the C’s atop the Eastern Conference despite losing Hayward to the horrific injury first game of the season. Stevens is like Rain Man on the sidelines, and I envision him seeing the game played out with a series of x’s, o’s, and lineup change combos swirling in his brain during the game a la Allen at the blackjack table in the Hangover. He even sells his playbook from the previous season every year, which is preposterous because that means he draws up entirely new plays and teaches them to his team annually. So, despite the fact that he looks like the cool math teacher from your high school that all the girls crushed on, Brad Stevens cannot be denied.
Brofessor: I have come to the conclusion, that yes. I am overly hype on the Celtics. Might as well throw the coach in there as well. Brad Stevens has done a very impressive job in the NBA. He has taken the Celtics franchise from the pit of the NBA to perennial powerhouse in just a few short years. I think that this year is proof he is a good manager of egos with the edition of Kyrie and he has what it takes to be in the league a long time. If only Billy Donovan had the same gravitas, we might be seeing different results in OKC.
Slim: Again, I tried to give this award to someone else (Stan Van Gundy), but I just couldn’t do it. Brad Stevens’ Celtics lost their big free agent signing in the first game of the season, have a new point guard leading the team, have several young players adjusting to increased roles, and still hold the NBA’s best record at 22-4. His team has the best defensive rating in the league and is near the top in almost every defensive statistical category, to go along with an offense that should continue to get better with more playing time for the young guys and as Kyrie figures the rest of his teammates out. Easy choice.