We are now halfway through the season and everyone still has no idea as to who the real leaders in the award races are. There are so many candidates for every single award, and you are able to make a pretty good case for every single one of them. At the moment, it could genuinely be the flip of a coin that decide the winners.
However, there must be winners, and we are going to split those hairs for you.
*All stats correct as of 12am, 2 January 2020 ADST
Most Value Player – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis is still quietly leading the MVP race, but in recent weeks has managed to pull out ahead of the pack thanks to a horrendous few weeks from Harden, and subdued play from Doncic. It’s also due in part to a very healthy Bucks record of 41-7. However, it boils down to the fact that Giannis has managed to improve on his MVP season, and that is just mind-boggling. 30/13/5.5 are insane numbers, and he really is such an important part of Milwaukee and has legitimately carried them to this point. It still amazes me that there isn’t more media buzz around what Giannis is doing. Giannis is currently leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Defensive Rating, Win Shares per 48 minutes, Box +/- AND Value Over Replacement Player.
In the hunt: James Harden, Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis, LeBron James
Rookie of the Year – Ja Morant
Recently, Ja Morant has cemented himself as the most exciting player in the league. AND HE’S ONLY 20! Right now, he will be the unanimous Rookie of the Year, I have no doubts at all. Flashy passing, twisting ridiculous layups through 3 or 4 defenders, springing over defenders for tomahawk dunks, the kid already has a bigger highlight package than most players in the league! AND he’s the best player on a Memphis team that has exceed all expectations and are sitting 2 games clear in the 8th seed. Mental.
The only way this race gets interesting if Zion plays to an All-NBA standard for every single game he’s got left.
In the hunt: Kendrick Nunn, Zion Williamson, Michael Porter Jr.
Defensive Player of the Year – Anthony Davis
I honestly think that this race is very, very close. This year could well see one of the closest DPOY races the league has ever seen. AD only wins for now because he has been one of the standouts for most of the year. However, I definitely think that either one of Rudy Gobert or Giannis will beat him out by the end of the year. If you look at steals and blocks alone, AD clearly beats out the other two, but it’s the intangibles and advanced statistics that make me lean toward Gobert and Giannis. Giannis leads the league in Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares (also Defensive Box +/- if you remove Isaac from the conversation). And Gobert is increasingly becoming famous for his incredible off-ball defence and pressure which aren’t shown in stats. Honestly, this award could be a three-way tie come the end of the season.
In the hunt: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond
Most Improved Player – Luka Doncic
Hear me out. With only 0.6 extra minutes per game, Luka has increased his PER from 19.6 to 29.1, and his Win Shares per 48 minutes from 0.101 to 0.238, whilst also going from 21.2/7.8/6 to 28.8/9.5/8.7. He’s single-handedly got Dallas into the 6th seed. The same cannot be said for MIP favourites like Ingram and Adebayo.
Hell, I’ll say it, I think Trae Young also deserves it over those two. Luka and Trae have gone from star-rookies to All-Star starters. Sure, Ingram and Bam get their first All-Star nods too, but I genuinely don’t think they’ve improved as much, or had more impact than Luka and Trae. It’s time the MIP trophy goes to a 2nd year player. All shit-stirring aside, this one’s going to be incredibly close as well.
In the hunt: Trae Young, Bam Adebayo, Brandon Ingram, Devonte’ Graham, Jaylen Brown, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam
Sixth Man of the Year – Lou Williams
I only pick Lou Will because at this point it is just assumed that he’s going to win. He is the standard pick. But upon close consideration of top candidates, I really don’t think voters should rush into this. Montrezl Harrell is more efficient and has more impact in less time on the court than Lou. And I believe that this is what a good 6th man needs to be. On top of this, other point guards who’ve had almost identical season to Lou are Dennis Schroder, Derrick Rose and Goran Dragic, all of whom you can arguably make a better case for. Although Lou Will’s the easy choice, I really hope the choice gets tougher, as it deservedly needs to be.
In the hunt: Montrezl Harrell, Derrick Rose, Dennis Schroder, Goran Dragic
All NBA 1st Team
G: James Harden, Luka Doncic
F: Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Nikola Jokic
Yet again, the guards and forward spots are filled with the top 4 for the MVP race. Anthony Davis sneaks in in front of LeBron with higher efficiency ratings and win shares (win shares being important since they’re on the same team). The newest name here, Nikola Jokic, didn’t even get mentioned in the quarter season All-NBA teams, but has jumped into the 1st team off a very solid few months, which is pretty impressive considering how poor he was to start the season. If the Nuggets can keep up their great record (34-15) and Jokic continues his form, he’ll be a pretty easy pick for the centre spot.
All NBA 2nd Team
G: Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard
F: Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James
C: Rudy Gobert
LeBron obviously makes this team, alongside Kawhi in the forward spot, who although ‘taking it easy’, is making his limited appearances count with some incredible numbers and impact on the floor. After an outrageous stretch of games, Lillard cements his spot in the 2nd team, and can honestly end up pushing Harden out of the 1st team if they both continue their current forms of late. Kemba jumps up into the 2nd team off his 2nd All-Star start in a row, still spearheading the impressive Celtics to their 32-15 record. And just like Jokic, Gobert springs into contention as one of the best centres in the league. As previously discussed in the DPOY award, Gobert is really making a mark with his impressive defence, which is resonating around the league and especially the media.
All NBA 3rd Team
G: Trae Young, Ben Simmons
F: Jimmy Butler, Pascal Siakam
C: Joel Embiid
The 3rd team is where it gets interesting. Just like the All-Star voting, do you award individual brilliance, or a winning record? In this instance, it’s a bit of both. I believe that Trae Young’s individual brilliance is too good to ignore. In only his 2nd year, Trae is putting up numbers that would usually put him in the MVP discussion. Simmons’ game is also becoming quite impressive, and probably gets in due to his incredible defensive skills. At the same time, he has definitely been an important part of the Sixers’ good record, especially considering Embiid has missed games and not been as good as some people thought he would be. Speaking of, Embiid gets in JUST over Adebayo because he is a slightly better overall player and has had more impact when playing. Butler gets in because he is the biggest reason Miami have done so well and is overall one of the best players in the league. Siakam rounds out the team with another improved season and having been selected as an All-Star starter with his first selection.
In the hunt:
G: Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul, Khris Middleton, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving
F: Brandon Ingram, Domantas Sabonis, Jayson Tatum, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Bam Adebayo, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andre Drummond
All Rookie 1st Team
G: Ja Morant, Kendrick Nunn
F: Zion Williamson, Michael Porter Jr., Eric Paschall
Ja has guaranteed himself a spot in the 1st team. Zion is basically on his way to cementing his spot too. Bar anything drastic I think Nunn has also cemented his spot too, especially considering his undrafted storyline. The last two spots are the only one’s up for grabs, and it’ll be interesting to see who can really put in the work over the last half of the season. Right now, Porter Jr. is showing why he was once considered to go Pick 1 in his draft. He is fast becoming the Nuggets most important player off the bench and can be a huge asset in the Playoffs. For now, Paschall squeezes into the last spot for his consistency as a reasonable contributor to the Warriors’ league-worst season.
All Rookie 2nd Team
G: Tyler Herro, Matisse Thybulle De’Andre Hunter
F: Brandon Clarke R.J. Barrett
There are a multitude of players who could rotate through the 2nd team, but I believe these 5 are currently the best next 5. Herro’s sharpshooting and playmaking has been fairly important off the bench for Miami, at times slotting into the starting line-up. Thybulle has already become one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders and is by far the best defender in his rookie class. Hunter has had a quite year but has been reasonably consistent as a regular Hawks starter putting up solid enough numbers. Clarke was a decent draft sleeper for the Grizzlies to get and has shown that he can be an efficient and effective option off the bench. And finally, R.J. Barrett’s numbers and contributions have been somewhat lost in what is possibly one of the most embarrassing Knicks seasons to date. He deserves some recognition purely because he has to deal with that franchise.
In the hunt:
G: Coby White, Darius Garland, Terence Davis, Jarrett Culver
F: P.J. Washington, Rui Hachimura, Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes