NBA Quarter Season Awards
With the NBA season a bit over of a quarter of the way done, there are already a ton of surprises in the league. Who would think that the Clippers would be so good, and the Rockets would be so mediocre? Who thought that Toronto would be at the top of the East, especially by as comfortable of a margin as they are? What about the Grizzlies rise back to relevance, or perhaps most surprising, the Sacramento Kings being above .500?
LeBron is hitting step-back 3’s at a rate near Steph Curry. Golden State’s bickering makes the Western Conference as wide open as it’s ever been. Paul George has been unbelievable in the clutch. Anthony Davis is pretty okay, we guess.
With a wildly entertaining first quarter down, it seems there’s plenty more intrigue coming down the pipe this season. Reflection is always important though, so we at Win Column Sports choose to reflect on the first quarter and hand out some individual awards. Who’s disappointed us, who’s impressed us, and who’s done everything in-between?
Let’s find out! I’m Parker Love, here for my predictions for who will win the major NBA awards at the Quarter Season (ish) point!
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
This is the Greek Freaks to lose, period. Defensive improvement? Check – Giannis is a stud defensively. His length has always been there, but his instincts have improved tons this year. Team improvement? Well, the Bucks are 18-9, good enough for second in the East. Stats? Oh yeah. His 27.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, six assists per game stat-line has never been matched in NBA history. NBA teams are probably thanking God that he can’t shoot 3’s consistently. That disadvantage is negated pretty quickly though when the Greek Freak dunks on almost every play. A friendly reminder for the rest of the league – this guy is only 24 and is looking like he’ll be the league MVP at this point.
Runner-up: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
While Anthony Davis, KD, Kawhi, James Harden (ugh) and the usual suspects have gotten some consideration for runner-up, the King remains in second place and is gaining ground. Not only are his stats of 27.7, 7 & 6.7 in line with his career averages or better – in Year 16, no less – but look at both the Lakers and the Cavaliers. Cleveland is on pace to win 17-18 games this year after winning 50 last year. LA is on pace for a 50 win season after winning just 35. Basketball is back in Los Angeles, and LeBron has been the reason for the Lake Show. If they continue to win at the rate they do, I can see James taking home the MVP. Voter fatigue and all.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
This was probably the hardest choice to make between winner & runner-up. Doc has the slight edge, though, because nobody expected the Clippers to be this good. Not only are they shockingly in the playoffs, but they’d have home court if the playoffs started today. Obviously, nobody saw career years coming for most players in LA, but Doc needs some credit for putting the right players in the right position to succeed. While the runner-up could easily pass this by the end of the season, Doc Rivers has built a fun, energetic team that has zero egos. They’re deep and hungry and making people forget about the Lob City Era.
Runner-up: Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
Aside from Lebron or Kawhi, can anyone name a better offseason addition to a team this year? After the atrocity that was Jason Kidd as head coach, Budenholzer took the reigns on this team and the results have been great. They’re first in PPG and have a top 10 defence, showing how well the former coach of the Hawks has done with this long, quick team. The only knock on them so far is the recent stretch of average basketball lately (5-5 in their last 10). However, their swing from last year is enough to give some credit to Budenholzer. The Bucks will be a scary out for any team they face in the East.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
His spin move alone is enough to warrant discussion. This dude is balling. His 14.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG are way up for last year, and his effect on the court is more than noticeable while watching the Raptors play. He runs the court as almost no other big man does, he rotates correctly, plays solid defence, and his decision making is improving. He’s only continuing to improve as the season goes on. New head coach Nick Nurse has done a great job of having Siakam do what he does best – rebound, run and go to the basket.
Runner-up: JaVale McGee, Los Angeles Lakers
De’Arron Fox is nipping right on his heels, but JaVale McGee has gone from Shaqtin-a-Fool to one of the better centres in the league. There’s a bias for me as a Lakers fan, yes, but McGee has been way better than advertised for the Lake Show this year. Not only has his offence been solid (11.6 & 6), he’s having a great effect protecting the rim (2.5 Blocks per Game). His per-36 are way up from his career as well, as he’d average 16-10-3.5 BPG, which are down after the addition of Tyson Chandler. I do expect Fox to catch up and probably pass, but I gotta give credit to my man JaVale McGee!
Sixth Man of the Year
Winner: Domantis Sabonis, Indiana Pacers
OKC must be kicking themselves for letting this guy go. In hindsight, Indiana got a #1 option and a potential 6th man of the year for Paul George. Not a bad haul, all things considered. After starting the year with the starting five, Sabonis was sent to the 6th man role after Myles Turner returned. However, Domantis is balling. Currently, he’s averaging 15 ppg, 10.2 RPG, 3.2 APG on 65/83/76 shooting splits for the playoff-bound Pacers. While this race is the one is probably the one that’s up for the most debate, Sabonis has been fantastic for the Pacers. This is definitely a race to keep an eye on.
Runner-up: Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves
I’ve got a soft spot, sue me. Not only has Derrick Rose been fantastic off the bench for the T-Wolves, but his comeback story has been absolutely incredible. Go back and watch him put up 50 points off the bench and tell me you don’t feel anything watching his interview. Not only that, Rose is playing his best basketball since leaving Chicago, averaging 18.5 & 4.6 assists per game while keeping his minutes under wrap. Since Butler left, too, Rose has become the leader of a Timberwolves team that’s made a huge improvement since the Jimmy Butler saga.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Robert Covington, Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota was 28th in defensive efficiency before the Jimmy Butler trade. Afterwards? They’re 2nd, and Covington is a huge reason for that. Not only are his 2.5 steals per game among the league leaders, but you see the effect he has on a game. He’s tough, smart, long and quick – everything Tom Thibadeau wants in a wing defender. Covington is literally the perfect 3&D wing, and likely the prototype for what a Defensive Player of the Year will look like in today’s NBA.
Runner-up: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder / Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies.
Both Paul George & Marc Gasol have had solid years, along with many other people who could step up and win DPOY like Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, or Anthony Davis. George has helped OKC to the top Defensive Rating in the league at 102.1, leading the way with 2.1 steals per game while often guarding the opponents top player. Marc Gasol is leading the way in Memphis with a team revitalization, with the sixth-rated defence in the league per defensive rating while acting as the captain. While no doubt he’s assisted by Jaren Jackson (see below), Gasol has always been the heart of the Grizzlies defence. Both have stellar cases for DPOY.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
This kid is 19. His averages of 19-6-4 as a rookie have only been matched by Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor, Grant Hill, and Sidney Wicks. I may not be an expert, but I think that’s some okay company to be in. With that stat line, plus the improved record of the Dallas Mavericks, PLUS being their go-to scorer in the clutch? All that in addition to taking the role as the leading playmaker? I STILL can’t believe that he didn’t go first overall. Doncic has star written all over him and has the “it” factor that could potentially make him a franchise player. I’m all aboard the Doncic hype train, and you should be too.
Runner-up: Jaren Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies
While DeAndre Ayton has been fantastic offensively, he has been just atrocious defensively. That’s why I have Jaren Jackson as my runner-up. Defensively, he’s proven to be a key part of the best defensive unit in basketball, leading all rookies in blocks and ranking third in steals. That alone is extremely impressive, but also hitting nearly 35% of his threes? Jackson is a perfect fit beside Marc Gasol in Memphis and is a huge reason for the improvement of the Grizzlies. He deserves a ton of respect and is comfortably in second for Rookie of the Year voting in my books.
Team of the Quarter
*Disclaimer: this is reeeeeallly close.
Winner: Denver Nuggets
Currently holding down the #1 seed in the tougher-than-ever Western Conference is the Denver Nuggets. Who thought that would be a sentence typed in December? The Nuggets are legit. Not only is their offence incredible, but their defence has also finally caught up with them – both are top 10 in the league. Nikola Jokic has been a fringe MVP candidate, Jamal Murray has been on fire for the first 29 games of this season, and their supreme depth has helped them overcome the losses of 3 of their 5 starters in the last 6 games – where, by the way, they’re six-and-0. The scary part is that they still have Isiah Thomas, Michael Porter & Will Barton on the IR. They’ve beaten almost every contender in the year so far, both at full strength and not. Denver could come out of the West this year. Will they? Probably not. They have a ton of room for improvement, especially in rebounding & turnovers, but Coach Malone has this young Nuggets team ahead of schedule.
Runner-up: Toronto Raptors
If you think that Toronto made a mistake trading for Kawhi, you’re wrong. No ifs, and’s or but’s. While it stung watching Demar DeRozan leaving for the Spurs, the Klaw has made Toronto a contender. Even if he leaves for sunnier climates, it leaves them with a completely clean slate to rebuild. While Kawhi has been a major piece, he’s not the only reason for the success of Toronto. Coach Nurse has made their doubters eat their words about the firing of Dwayne Casey, allowing a free-flowing offence to unlock the potential of Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka (who’s playing like OKC Ibaka lately), Fred Van Vleet and many more to flourish. Almost any of their bench players can step up and start for Toronto, and that’s had scary results so far. Not only do they have the best record in the NBA, but they’ve beaten Golden State twice, both LA teams, Boston and Philly. I have them and Denver neck in neck for the team of the quarter. Denver gets the slight nod due to their head-to-head, and Toronto was still expected to be near the top of the conference. However, I doubt Toronto will be too upset if they make the NBA Finals this year which in this writer’s opinion is very, very likely.
That concludes my list! What are your thoughts? Any disagreements? Feel free to comment below, or let me know by tweeting me @Parkman15Love! Thanks for reading!
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