Rookie of the Year:
Donovan Mitchell is an impressive player having an impressive year in Utah. He’s averaging 19.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. The Jazz are riding an 11-game win streak heading into the All-Star break. Mitchell is averaging 21.3 points per game over that stretch, including a 40-point explosion against Phoenix. All of that being said, Ben Simmons is the rookie of the year and it’s not even close. Simmons is averaging 16.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists this year for Philadelphia and he can’t even shoot. His passing IQ and ability to get to the basket are impressive, but let’s not forget that he’s in the top 5 in defensive win shares, steals, and defensive plus/minus. He’s been a big part of this Sixers team exceeding expectations this year. ESPN projected that Philly would win 33 games this season. They have 30 wins at the All-Star break and are on pace to win 45 this year. Choosing anyone other than Simmons for this award is hot take-y madness.
Coach of the Year:
Despite Kawhi Leonard playing in just nine games this year, San Antonio has the third best record in the Western Conference. The Spurs have been successful for the past 20 years because of the system and style set by Greg Popovich. He deserves to win this award most years, but the voters aren’t keen on giving it to the same guy year after year.
Mike D’Antoni will likely get a number of votes this year that should be attributed to Daryl Morey. It doesn’t appear that D’Antoni has done anything different this year. Morey’s roster-building is to blame for the Rockets success.
Greg Popovich’s melding of a roster mixed with rookies and veterans shows the true value of his presence. He has coached this oddball team to another impressive season(half-season) and for this, he deserves to be named Coach of the Year.
Most Improved Player:
You might be inclined to say that any scorer under the thumb of Russell Westbrook is bound to have a better year without him, but Victor Oladipo averaged similar numbers in Orlando as in Oklahoma City. Oladipo is having a coming out party this season. He’s averaging eight more points a game than in the first four years of his career and just played in his first All-Star Game. This is what we expected from him when he was in Orlando, it just took a little more time for him to get comfortable on the pro level.
Sixth Man of the Year:
All of my heart wants to tell you that I believe TJ McConnell deserves to be the Sixth Man. The heart and intensity he brings to the 76ers, the fierceness on defense, and the growing confidence in his scoring ability makes me want to tell you that he is my pick for Sixth Man… but Lou Williams exists. He is the catalyst of the Clippers offense. His 23.2 points and 5.2 assists are pretty ridiculous but his 32.4 minutes per game are the fourth most on the team. He hasn’t started a single game for the Clippers this season though, so that makes him the runaway recipient of the Sixth Man Award at the midseason mark.
Defensive Player of the Year:
I can’t figure out what to do for this award. I’ve seen people say that it should go to Al Horford. He does anchor the team with the best defensive rating in the league but Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown all have a higher Defensive Win Share and higher Defensive Rating than Horford, so maybe they’re just a great team defense. Does that make him Defensive Player of the Year? I’m not sure. The same case can be made for Joel Embiid. Joel, Ben Simmons, and Robert Covington are all in the top ten in Defensive Win Shares. The three also anchor the third best defense in the league in terms of Defensive Rating.
There doesn’t seem to be a single stat that can truly tell us who is the best defensive individual. Kawhi is probably still the best defensive player in the league but he hasn’t played enough games. The same goes for Rudy Gobert. I don’t know what to do with this one.
Maybe the award should go to best defensive unit or maybe duo? Paul George and Andre Roberson (since injured) aren’t DPOY on their own but together they’re a scary duo. The same goes for Draymond and Kevin Durant. I’ll think on this one and get back to you.
Most Valuable Player:
At this point, this award pretty obviously goes to James Harden. He’s lead the Rockets to the best record in the league thus far. Sure, he doesn’t play any defense but he doesn’t have to. For some reason, the MVP voters don’t take that into account. Anyway, Harden’s 31.1 points per game leads the league and his 9.0 assists is third in the league. Harden should’ve won the award last year but the voters were so enthralled by Westbrook’s triple-double record and sixth place finish in the West. If the Rockets win the West, Harden should be a shoe-in to take home the hardware this year.