Basketball, Columnists, Sports

The Fast Break: Mid-season NBA awards

We are halfway through the NBA season, and with that comes mid-season award picks. Most of these awards host extremely tight races, and, in turn, are a joy to talk about. Plus, I get to talk about the incredible season some players are having in 2022. Without further ado, let’s hop in. 

Rookie of the Year:

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We’re starting off with a tough one already as the 2021 draft class has been one of the best and most deep classes in recent memory. However, there is one player who has started to become the runaway favorite for this award. Evan Mobley, who was taken third overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, has been very impressive on both sides of the court, averaging 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. While I would love to give this award to my guy Scottie Barnes in Toronto, it’s hard to not give the nod to Mobley at this point in the season.

Pick: Evan Mobley

Coach of the Year:

Another award, another tough pick. Right now the betting favorite is Monty Williams, who has led the Phoenix Suns to a 48-10 record and the number one seed out West. But the truth is, the Suns are a really good team and have a really good roster, so seeing them atop the standings in the West isn’t really a shocker. Instead, I like J.B. Bickerstaff and what he’s been doing in Cleveland. No one predicted this roster to do well this season, and the Cavs shocked the basketball world with a blazing start to the campaign. Even after injuries to two of their key guards, Ricky Rubio and Collin Sexton, the Cavs have maintained their place near the top of the Eastern Conference, and it’s in large part because of Bickerstaff’s work with their young players and their development.

Pick: J.B. Bickerstaff

Most Improved Player:

As much as I’d like to entertain the idea of this being a close race, it really isn’t. Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies has been on an absolute tear this season en route to averages of 26.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game while shooting a career-best 49.5% from the field. After getting lots of backlash for winning Rookie of the Year over Zion Williamson two years ago, Morant has cemented himself as one of the best players in the league — he was even nominated as an All-Star for the first time this season. Morant, if not already, is a superstar in the making and certainly is the runaway favorite for this award.

Pick: Ja Morant

Sixth Man of the Year:

After an easy pick for most improved, we’re back to a pretty tough decision for Sixth Man of the Year. While Tyler Herro of the Miami Heat is certainly the leading candidate for the award, what Kelly Oubre Jr. is doing in Charlotte cannot go unnoticed. I mean, just last season he was being placed in every possible trade rumor due to his inconsistent play and lackluster shooting with the Golden State Warriors. While Oubre has since shut those talks up, he is still behind Herro for me. After the Heat brought in a star point guard in Kyle Lowry this past offseason, Herro was sent to the bench and is averaging 20 points per game while shooting 37.4% from three-point range. Herro, who plays 32 minutes per game, sees way more minutes than a traditional bench player, but he’s still the clear choice for the award.

Pick: Tyler Herro

Defensive Player of the Year:

As is the case most years, picking the winner for this award is extremely difficult. Draymond Green looked to be the leading candidate for a while, but he has unfortunately been out with injury since mid-January and has since fallen back behind Rudy Gobert, the winner of the award in three of the last four seasons. If Green can come back within the next week or so and continue his play from early in the season, he’s definitely the pick. But at this point, it’s incredibly hard to see if that timeline is reasonable for the Michigan State product. I’ll take Gobert and his impressive 14.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game to be safe. 

Pick: Rudy Gobert

Most Valuable Player:

As always, we saved the best award for last. The MVP award has seen some new faces in the last couple of years with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokić taking home the hardware, and while both of those guys are having tremendous seasons once again, I have to go with Joel Embiid out of Philadelphia. Embiid is averaging an insane 29.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, and has led the 76ers to a 35-23 record despite missing fellow star player Ben Simmons all season. Embiid has always had these stretches in past seasons, but has finally been able to stay on the court and, in turn, has put together a career season. He is the clear choice for MVP this season, no doubt about it. 

Pick: Joel Embiid

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