It’s a great time of year. The holidays are upon us and the jolly ole NBA has given us enough games to go ahead and dole out some awards.
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Previous: Giannis Antetokounmpo)
With the Bucks sitting comfortably as the #2 seed in the East while being a top 5 offense and defense, the credit will go to their main man. While his leap from last season to this one is not as large as many previous seasons, Giannis is putting up even more historic numbers, and is slowly but surely adding a jumper. Averaging 30/14/6/1.5/1.5 is grounds for MVP, but throw in his splits of 58/32/61(yuck), and he is really becoming a more well rounded star. Yes, 32% from deep and 61% from the line is suboptimal, but given he is taking over 4 threes and getting to the line over 11 attempts a night, Giannis is putting pressure on the defense that he could only wish for years prior.
Runner Up: LeBron James (Previous: Joel Embiid)
In a similar situation to Giannis, LeBron is sitting comfortably towards the top of his conference, and while the Lakers’ offense is not as good as the Bucks’, their defense is better. I won’t give LeBron too much credit for the defensive side of the ball, but what he is doing is insane considering it is his 17th season. 25/8/11 while leading the league in assists is a legendary season based on stats alone, but throw in how the Lakers look and I don’t see why LeBron cannot be in your top two.
DPOY: Anthony Davis (Previously: Joel Embiid)
While leading the league in blocks with over 3 a night, AD is helping the Lakers take the top spot on the defensive end this year. Frank Vogel unleashed the monster this year and it is truly paying off. His defensive rating floats around 95 while going up against some real competition. I think the race is close between him and Gobert for this award, and while Davis is not rebounding like he usually does, everything else related to the defensive end seems to be going quite well for both himself and his team.
Runner Up: Rudy Gobert (Previously: Rudy Gobert)
Gobert has not slown down on the
defensive end since winning his first DPOY award two seasons ago. This year, he
is leading the Jazz to the #2 defense and posting a defensive rating under 95,
which is 3rd best in the league. His elite rim protection and rebounding
ability makes him able to stop anything and anyone around the rim, and really
makes me think of the Jazz as an elite defense. However, he has faced a
slightly easier schedule compared to Anthony Davis (Jazz SRS – 9th, Lakers SRS
– 2nd), and some of his stats have trended in the wrong direction.
MIP: Devonte’ Graham (Previously: Zach Collins)
Yes, this is the typical move of saying a year two guy is the most improved, but really, Devonte Graham is a totally different and better player. Being the Hornets’ 6th man, Graham was tasked with making shots and keeping other pieces off the bench involved. Not only has he done this, he has exceeded all expectations. After spending 4 years at Kansas, I did not see him as much more than a bench piece to take care of the ball and play solid defense. And while players evolve from their college games, year 1 in the NBA seemed the same. He was still a good floor general, keeping the offense afloat without making mistakes, he did not seem like a scorer. This year, he kept the passing and play making while transforming into a dangerous scorer. Averaging 18/7 while shooting over 41% from deep is nothing to scoff at, and when considering what he came from, it is quite surprising how much better he is now.
Runner Up: Brandon Ingram (Previously: Jonathan Isaac)
There are plenty of guys who could have taken this spot, but my vote is for Ingram, mainly due to how much his game has adapted to his team’s needs. Ingram was always thought of as a scorer with a solid jumpshot, but he never seemed to take three pointers. While he hit less than a third while playing in Los Angeles, his biggest issue was his reluctance to take them, as he only shot two per game. This year, Ingram is taking nearly 5 and a half per game, hitting over 44% of them. A jump that high in percentages is usually good enough to warrant MIP votes, but nearly tripling the attempts is what I am most intrigued with. His floor spacing is much more evident now, and throw that in with his improving defense and rebounding, and Brandon really seems like a superstar in the making.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant (Previous: Zion Williamson)
Ja has been nothing less than phenomenal with his thrilling plays as well as his solid ability coming out of the gate. Putting up 18.5/6 on 46/41.5/74.5 splits with under 4 turnovers a game is surprising as many thought Ja would struggle against better competition, but Ja has looked more than comfortable. While not perfect, I think Ja is the best current rookie, with other injuries being considered, and the numbers he puts up are good enough to warrant the award, something that is usually heavily considered in voting.
Runner Up: RJ Barrett (Previous: Ja Morant)
In a similar manner to RJ, I believe he outperformed expectations and has put up fairly good numbers early on. 16/5.5/3.5 on 41/37/50.5(YUCK) while being a focal point of the Knicks’ offense is not blowing anyone away, but I think the competition has been suboptimal this year. Most other rookies have not performed well enough to warrant recognition, and I think Barrett has been the next best outside of the point guard in Memphis.
6MOTY: Lou Williams (Previous: Spencer Dinwiddie)
The NBA has to name this award after Lou Will as he should run away with his 4th win this season. I thought that he would slow down in his age 33 season, but no, he is putting up nearly career highs in points and assists, those being 22 and 6 respectively. Even with the additions of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, Lou Will has been able to cook whenever he hits the court.
Runner Up: Derrick Rose (Previous: Lou Williams)
Rose has completely remade himself and his game from his early days in Chicago. His jumper is much improved and plays smarter, not harder, relying less on athleticism and more on efficient plays. He also accepted to be the ultimate player off the bench who can feast on worse second units, averaging 18 points and 6 assists in just over 24 minutes a night. I do think if Rose misses more games due to injury, he will slip out of the conversation, but until then, I will give him the credit he is due.
COY: Monty Williams (Previous: Quin Snyder)
While they have not been as scorching hot as they were to start the season, I guarantee no one expected Phoenix to be a top 10 offense and top 12 defense. Throw in the fact that DeAndre Ayton has only played one game and this team was poised to fail. Monty Williams has done a phenomenal job, transitioning Booker to more of an off-ball role again, as well as balancing each unit with scorers and defenders. I was extremely skeptical on the Suns and their offseason due to their seemingly unusual signings, but Monty turned this confusion into success.
Runner Up: Erik Spoelstra (Previous: Doc Rivers)
While the Heat did come into the year with decent expectations, they had a great deal of change with the addition of Jimmy Butler. The Heat are doing well defensively, currently being the 3rd best team, and their offense is okay, being ranked 14th, but I am most impressed with him thinking outside of the box to maximize this team’s potential. How did he do so? By moving Goran Dragic, their only traditional point guard, to the bench, and splitting playmaking duties to many of their talented players. Bam, Jimmy, Justise and Goran are all averaging over 4.5 assists a night and this team thrives on defense and selflessness. Spoelstra might be able to win this award if the Heat continue to beat teams and be real competitors in the East, and it is something I am excited to see.
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