The All-Star game is just a couple of weeks away, and we're already ready to hand out a few awards.
Most teams have played about 50 games. So unless some dramatic things happen, we know for the most part who is going to be in the running for these awards.
Sixth Man of the Year
In the Hunt: Montrezl Harrel
The Los Angeles Clippers have been as intriguing as we thought they would be, but for all the wrong reasons. There's been rumors that there is some turmoil in the locker room. And it seemingly began when Harrel challenged his team to be better.
This guy has been a leader off of the bench both vocally, and in the scoring department. He is second amongst players who qualify for this award in points per game off of the bench with 19. And he is fourth in rebounds per game with 7.
Runner-up: Dennis Schroeder
The Oklahoma City Thunder have exceeded all expectations this season. And Schroeder has done nothing but get buckets all season.
He hasn't missed a single game all season, and is averaging 19.1 points per game which is best amongst bench players. He has been a much better fit alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander than he was with Russell Westbrook. He could still make a run at this award depending on how our winner finishes the season.
Winner: Derrick Rose
How can you not be a fan of Rose this season? The guy has found a way to reinvent who he is and has been healthy all season. The Detroit Pistons would be impossible to watch without him.
He is averaging 6 assists per game which is first amongst players off of the bench. But it has been his efficiency that has elevated his play. Rose is shooting nearly 50% from the field, and has picked his spots near the basket that has helped his team win games in the clutch.
He has a couple game winners already this season, which will give him the narrative vote as well.
Rookie of the Year
In the Hunt: Eric Paschall
The Golden State Warriors have been absolutely terrible. But they have had one bright spot with Paschall. He has been fun to watch, and a very pleasant surprise for this organization.
He is averaging 13.5 points per game in just under 27 minutes. His ability to stretch the floor as a big will give the Warriors a reliable bench player once they get healthy again.
Runner-Up: Kendrick Nunn
This guy was on nobody's radar before the season for the Rookie of the Year race. But the Miami Heat and Erik Spoelstra have developed Nunn into one of the most consistent scorers amongst rookies.
While only shooting about one free throw per game, he is still second amongst rookies with 16 points per game. If he can find a way to get to the basket and draw contact, he could develop into one of the best young scorers in the league.
Winner: Ja Morant
This guy has been everything as advertised, plus more. He has not only filled the stat sheet, but he has been electrifying when it comes to his highlight ability.
He can create a play out of just about nothing. You'll think he's got nowhere to go with the ball, and he'll find a way to zip it to an unsuspecting teammate. He is averaging 19 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game. Unless he gets injured, this guy has this one in the bag.
Most Improved Player
In the Hunt: Devonte' Graham
This award is definitely in reach for all three guys on this list. Graham has made a leap in his sophomore season that has given the Hornets hope for the future.
He is fourth in the NBA in three pointers made with 173. He went from averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 assists in 14.7 minutes last season to averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 assists in 35.2 minutes. Quite a jump for a guy on a rookie contract.
Runner-Up: Domantas Sabonis
The Indiana Pacers have an All-Star this season, and it's not Malcolm Brogdon or Victor Oladipo. Sabonis has continued to improve every year he has been in the league. Which is probably the only reason I am not ready to give him the award.
If you view the award as someone who has gradually improved into a star, then he would be your guy this season. But in our case, we look at it purely from one season to the next. And this next guy has had the biggest jump between these three.
Winner: Bam Adebayo
This is one of the few things we have admittedly got right this season. Bam Adebayo has been one of the best surprises of the season, and much of it is thanks to the Heat for giving him Jimmy Butler. You don't see very many 6'9" guys playing as big as he does.
It's a wonder as to why this guy didn't make the USA team last summer. He didn't miss a single game last season, and this year hasn't been any different. He is the most dependable player every night for the Heat on both ends of the floor. Thank goodness they were able to dump Hassan Whiteside.
Defensive Player of the Year
In the Hunt: Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons challenged himself in the offseason to become one of the best defensive guards in the NBA. He has been successful as he is on his way to his first All-Defensive First Team selection.
He leads the NBA in Steals per game, Deflections, and Loose Balls Recovered. His dedication to being as long as possible on the defensive end has given the 76ers the intensity they need to continue their run towards the playoffs.
Runner-Up: Rudy Gobert
There is nothing new to see here with Gobert. He is consistently one of the two or three best defenders in the NBA every season.
His dedication to denying anything in the paint finally awarded him his first All-Star appearance. Reminding us that the you can still make a living as a Defensive guy.
Winner: Anthony Davis
Before the season, Davis said he wanted to be the Defensive Player of the Year. And up until this far into the season, he has rose to the occasion. His Lakers are first in the Western Conference, and have held opponents to under 100 points 14 times.
He is third in the NBA in Blocks per game with 2.6 and is also averaging 1.5 steals per game. Games missed due to injuries may hinder his chances of winning this award, but when he's been healthy he has been the best defensive player in the league.
Most Valuable Player
In the Hunt: Lebron James
I can't remember the last time Lebron didn't get an MVP vote. He even got one last year when he was injured for most of the season.
In his 17th season, he has still continued to find a way to be one of the most dominant forces in the NBA. His first ever full offseason has served him well as he is leading the Lakers to a potential one seed in the Western Conference. He has become an even better passer as he leads the NBA in assists per game with 11.
Runner-up: James Harden
In 20 years, we're going to look back at Harden's per game stats for this five year stretch and wonder how it is that he only won one MVP.
The guy is having one of the greatest scoring seasons in NBA history as he is averaging 35.7 points per game. He's made more free throws than anyone else in the league with 481 compared to Damian Lillard who is second with 340. This guy can kill you in a number of ways offensively, and most nights he's pretty much impossible to slow down.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
This award has been essentially a two-man race for these last two seasons, and it looks like Giannis will be defending his title.
The Bucks are on pace to win 70 games this season, and it's all because of him. They were without Khris Middleton for a while, and that still didn't matter. He is first in the NBA in Defensive Rating, Defensive Win Shares, Usage, Player Efficiency Rating, and is second in scoring with 30 points per game.
It seems like this guy is never going to slow down. He plays hard on every single play on both ends of the floor. He is not only the Most Valuable Player for his team, but he is also the Most Valuable Player for the entire NBA.
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