By: Glen Ivol
With the calendar nearing February, it seems like a good time to give out some Mid-Season Awards.
Favorite: LeBron James
Other Candidates: Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden
Dark Horse Candidates: Jimmy Butler
My Pick: LeBron James
With no real runaway player to select for MVP at this point, the narrative around LeBron James has no real holes. Yes, the Cavs have struggles as of late, with a 2-8 record in their last 10 and back to back blow out losses last week. His counting stats are incredible with James averaging 27.3 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks. This is not to forget his 19.5 Player Impact Estimate, ranked second behind only Antetokounmpo. In his 15th season, LeBron is putting up some insane numbers for someone at this stage of their career. If he can lead the Cavs to a top-two-or-three finish in the East after playing the first two months without Irving or Isiah Thomas. However, look for the MVP to come down to the wire with anyone still in it.
Defensive Player of the Year
Favorite: Draymond Green
Other Candidates: Al Horford, Paul George, Andre Roberson, Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid
My Pick: Joel Embiid
No player can impact the outcome of a game on defensive end this season more than Joel Embiid can. I know the narrative around him is that he can’t stay healthy, he can’t play in back-to-backs, etc. However, Embiid is almost single handedly keeping the Sixers in the playoff race and his stats show it. He leads the team in Defensive Rating at 100.2 and Net Rating at 8.7 and defensive rebounding percentage at 27.4. When you dig deeper, the true story gets shown. If you look at Embiid’s impact when he is on the court with the current starting five (Simmons, Redick, Covington, and Saric) is absurd. Using NBA.com, those four have a net rating of 17.6 with Joel on floor and -9.1 net rating when he is off the floor. That is a 26.7 swing. 26.7. Also, their combined Played Impact Estimate drops from 61.7 to 45.5 when Embiid takes a seat. If that doesn’t shoe his value on the court to this team, I’m not sure what does.
Rookie of the Year
Favorite: Ben Simmons
Other Candidates: Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, Lonzo Ball
Dark Horse Candidates: OG Anunoby, Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen
My Pick: Donovan Mitchell
I badly wanted to pick Ben Simmons for the stability he has brought to the Sixers at point guard and the team. However, it was too hard to turn down Donovan Mitchell. He is literally a walking highlight reel. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. . Mitchell has become the focal point of the offense and current paces all rookies in PPG at 19.2. He is also shooting 45% from the field, 34% from three and averaging 3.4 rebounds and assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Not bad for someone taken thirteenth overall. The Jazz were supposed to be lost without Gordon Hayward. They were supposed to be finished before the season started. Yes, they are fading from the playoff picture but not having Rudy Gobert on the back line has killed them. This is where my edge for Mitchell comes out and that’s his supporting cast/role on the team. Ben Simmons has an All-Start starter in Joel Embiid playing with him and Jayson Tatum, the other favorite, plays for the number one team in the east as a third or fourth option. Mitchell has taken over as the man carrying the Jazz and is doing it better than anyone could have imagined, which is why I gave him the edge her. Oh, did I mention he could dunk?
Sixth Man of the Year
Favorite: Lou Williams
Other Candidates: Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans
My Pick: Lou Williams
Sweet Lou is having the season of his life at age 31 and he should be loving every second of it. Williams just gets buckets and his 50-point barrage against the Warriors was amazing. Williams is currently averaging 23.5 points per game, which would be the most for a bench player (ever). Plain and simple, Williams should have been an all-star and has held the Clippers season together. Blake Griffin has missed time, DeAndre Jordan has missed time, Milos Teodosic has missed time, Danilo Gallinari has missed time but yet her the Clippers are a game out of 8th place in the west and Williams is a BIG reason why. How yeah, don’t forget he dropped 50 on the Warriors to give the Clippers their first win in over three years against them.
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