In this regular season the NBA is experiencing is unlike anything we’ve seen, the constant health protocols, no fans, playing the same teams back to back, we knew there was going to be some adjustments from everybody, perhaps some would thrive more, perhaps some would struggle because of all the change. Now that we are halfway done with the season, we have a strong idea of which players are truly in running for each particular award. Some races are closer than others, but no award is locked by any means, we still have a lot of basketball left. Here are the players that should win each award if the season ended today:
Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid
Runner up: Nikola Jokic
Joel Embiid has been nothing but fantastic so far this season. He is getting to the basket more often, his playmaking has gotten better, his defense is still elite, he is also shooting over 40% from downtown… while maintaining the top seed in the East for the entire season. Embiid is on track to be the only player in NBA history to average 30 points and 10 rebounds while shooting over 40% from downtown, that’s the nature of the modern game! This race is going to be incredibly close with other candidates having fantastic seasons such as LeBron James, James Harden, and Nikola Jokic, but if Embiid can maintain this level of production with his efficiency while maintaining the top seed in the East, it would be hard to make an argument for why he isn’t the MVP this year.
Rookie of the Year: Lamelo Ball
Runner up: Tyrese Haliburton
Remember that one time when people said there was no clear-cut top talent in the 2020 NBA draft? Considering Lamelo Ball is on track to be the first rookie in 60 years to lead all rookies in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, Lamelo Ball should have been as consensus of a number one pick as there is in any other year. As a starter, LaMelo ball is averaging 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game on over 44% from three. There were questions about LaMelo’s ability to shoot and defend at the next level, those concerns have been put the bed even quicker than maybe the biggest Lamelo optimists could’ve imagined (I was a massive Lamelo Bell believer, I thought his concerns are overblown but I didn’t expect him to fix them this quick). A lot due to LaMelo‘s scoring ability and game changing passing, the Charlotte Hornets have a new energy to them that their fans should be very encouraged by.
Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson
Runner up: Chris Boucher
Jordan Clarkson has had a career year on the elite Utah Jazz squad. He leads all bench players in scoring on a team that prides itself on depth, that’s what makes his play so impressive. Even with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley on the roster, Jordan Clarkson has been their most consistent offense of player, which really says a lot. As long as he keeps playing at this level on a team with the best record in a league, there’s really no catching up in this race, he should be very comfortable with his chances at this moment, unless he falls off in the second half.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
Runner up: Ben Simmons
Spoiler alert, you’re going to see a lot of Utah jazz content on this article. Rudy Gobert has the slightly over candidate such as Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo Because he has been the defensive anchor on a defense that’s top three in defense of efficiency, neither of the other guys are on top five defenses. Gobert is also second in the league in total blocks, his rim protecting is still premiere, and when Gobert is on the court, the Jazz’s defensive rating is better by 6.5 points relative to him off the court. Gobert is the boring pick, but perhaps the right one.
Most Improved Player: Julius Randle
Runner up: Jerami Grant
This might sound like a hot take, I hear most of the conversations revolve around a Jerami Grant, which I understand, but Randle has been amazing. Also worth considering Grant is putting these numbers on a Pistons team with no other option. People will look at the raw 19 PPG, 9 RPG, 3 APG that Randle averaged last year and assume that his game hasn’t massively elevated, but those numbers don’t represent how he really player, he did not make players around him better, he was inefficient, he generally a was a frustrating player to watch. He came into this season with a reinvented game, fully established as a point forward that can make players around him better as he’s averaging a career high 5.5 APG, he has emerged as a big time scorer that’s shooting a career high 41% from three, while averaging a career high 23 PPG. Not to mention, he’s doing this as an improved defender on a Knicks team that’s defying the odds…. as they are firmly in the playoff race. Randle went from being somewhat of an empty numbers kind of player into a big time star that’s influencing winning, that is a massive improvement, in my book.
Coach of the Year: Quin Snyder
Runner up: Tom Thibadeau
Sorry for having the Utah Jazz nearly monopolizing these awards, but they just happen to have so many candidates this year. Utah was not expected to be at the top of the West this year, we knew about Rudy Gobert defensively, we saw glimpses of a Jordan Clarkson was as a bench scorer, we also know Donovan Mitchell is a flat out star, but despite all of that, not many viewed them as real threats. When watching Utah, you can tell they are a super well oiled machine, there’s a fantastic culture, the fluidity of the systems they use are awesome, and it seems like everyone on that roster is being played in their ideal role, Snyder deserves a lot of credit for all of this. This Jazz roster is very solid, but they, in my eyes, aren’t a top four roster in the rest, the Jazz playing at this level while playing in such a beautiful fashion makes Snyder the deserving Coach of the Year, at this point in time.