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The Fast Break: Revisiting my NBA award picks

As the NBA season draws to a close, the debates on who should win what award heat up. And while I gave my picks for these awards during the All-Star break, much has changed since then and the topic certainly deserves another visit. 

Rookie of the Year: 

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All-Star break pick: Evan Mobley

This looked like a two-man race between Mobley and Scottie Barnes for much of the season, but first overall pick Cade Cunningham has churned out impressive numbers since the All-Star break, averaging 22.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game in that span. Still, Cunningham putting up numbers on a losing team certainly has to be taken into account when comparing him to his competitors. 

Mobley and the Cavaliers were among the East’s best for much of the season, but have since slipped in the standings, recently getting passed by Barnes’ Raptors. The Florida State product has much to do with Toronto’s recent success as well, averaging 15.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while guarding the opposing team’s best player on any given night. It’s become clear that Barnes does much more for his team than the other two options. 

New pick: Scottie Barnes

Coach of the Year 

All-Star break pick: J.B. Bickerstaff

I picked another Cavalier for this award, and while Bickerstaff deserves a ton of credit for the season Cleveland is having, I can’t give this award to a team sitting at seventh in the Eastern Conference. Instead, I’m going to make the easy pick and give it to Monty Williams in Phoenix. 

Sitting at 61-14, the Suns are not only head and shoulders above the rest of the league, but they are also slated to be one of the better teams we’ve seen in the past decade. Their winning percentage of .813 rivals the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors with Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and company. And while the Suns certainly have loads of talent, their ability to continue winning games amid injuries to Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton has been very impressive.

New pick: Monty Williams

Most Improved Player

All-Star break pick: Ja Morant

I’m not gonna waste your time with this one. It’s still Morant. The Murray State product has put up absurd numbers this season, averaging 27.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game while leading Memphis to a 53-23 record, good for second-best in the league. His recent injury hurts his momentum a bit, but Morant is so far ahead of anybody else competing for the award that it doesn’t really matter. Darius Garland deserves some recognition for a great season as well, but much like the rest of the aforementioned Cavaliers, the drop in standings doesn’t help his case. 

Sixth Man of the Year

All-Star break pick: Tyler Herro

At the break I spoke about this award being a close call between Herro and Kelly Oubre Jr., but with Oubre and the Hornets falling off over the past month, Herro becomes the clear-cut choice. Herro is averaging 20.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game on impressive efficiency all while helping the Miami Heat to a top seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s a tight finish near the top of the conference, but another few good games from Herro down the stretch would solidify an impressive start-to-finish season for the third-year pro.

Defensive Player of the Year

All-Star break pick: Rudy Gobert

Gobert is certainly the safe pick here having continuously led the Jazz to a top defense in the league from the start to the end of the season. And while I would have loved to give Draymond Green some love here, he simply has missed too much time this season to deserve serious consideration. Instead, I’m going to go with Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat. 

Adebayo has spearheaded the Heat to a top-five defense in the NBA even with injuries to fellow co-stars Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, both renowned defensive players in their own right. Plus, Adebayo’s ability to guard any player one through five resembles the aforementioned Green, and only adds to his versatility on the defensive end.

New pick: Bam Adebayo 

Most Valuable Player:

All-Star break pick: Joel Embiid

Man, this award is always so tough to give out. Between Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokic, there really is no wrong answer. All three are putting up otherworldly numbers while leading their teams to formidable winning records, but at the end of the day I have to go with Antetokounmpo out of Milwaukee. 

Not only has he put up 29.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game, but he has also been among the league’s best on the defensive end. The Bucks have also maintained their spot near the top of the conference all year long despite a revolving door of injuries to several key players. All props to both Jokic and Embiid, who have had tremendous seasons, but Antetokounmpo has simply been too valuable to Milwaukee’s success.

New pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo

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