By Andrew Cheigh and Judson Schnall
With the NBA All-Star break on its way, we are going to predict the NBA awards for the season.
Coach of the Year (COTY) :
Andrew: Billy Donavon (Chicago Bulls)
Just last year, the Bulls missed the playoffs, winning only 31 games. Billy Donavon’s Bulls have already surpassed 31 just a little past the halfway mark of the season. Even with key players like Zach Lavine, Alex Caruso, and Lonzo Ball missing significant time either due to injuries or entering the league’s health and safety protocols, Donavon has managed to keep his Bulls atop the Eastern Conference, ahead of powerhouses like the Nets and Bucks.
Judd: J.B. Bickerstaff (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Many, myself included, believed that the Cavaliers would stumble to a top-5 pick this season. That hasn’t been the case. Despite losing 2 key guards, the Cavs have already surpassed their win total from last season and sit at 30-19, tied for 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Bickerstaff’s “big-ball” lineup featuring 3 7-footers, a lineup that almost nobody believed would work, has thrived, especially defensively. Bickerstaff is my pick.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) :
Andrew: Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Draymond Green is on pace to win his second Defensive Player of the Year Award this season. The forward, who was once criticized for being “too small” for the NBA, has been the defensive anchor of the Warriors for years. Currently, the Warriors have the best defensive rating in the league (102.6). Draymond’s ability to keep up with the quickness of the best guards in the league and guard 7 footers, along with his contagious energy, speak to his versatility. The Warriors once again are one of the best teams in the league, and sure, you can say that Steph returning to his MVP form causes that, but even Curry himself admitted that their success starts on the defensive end, led by Draymond.
Judd: Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Draymond has powered the league’s best defense. His defensive versatility has been a huge part of Golden State’s success this season. The Warriors have been a defensive juggernaut for many years, and Draymond deserves a lot of credit for that. He’s my pick for DPOY.
Most Valuable Player (MVP) :
Andrew: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Stephen Curry has been the favorite for the Most Valuable Player Award up until this last month, when he hit a huge dry spot. Nikola Jokic has taken over as the front-runner for this award, as he has put up nearly unrealistic stats of 26.2 points per game (while shooting 57.1 percent from the field), 13.8 rebounds per game, and 7.7 assists per game. To further his case, Jokic is quite possibly the most impactful player to a team in the league. When on the floor, the Nuggets have a 9.3 net rating, compared to having a -13.6 net when he is not. The Nuggets are one of the best teams in the league when he is on the floor, and the worst when he is not. Due to Curry’s struggles, Nikola Jokic is my prediction for Most Valuable Player.
Judd: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Jokic is top-10 in the league in points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage. The Nuggets have consistently fallen flat without him on the floor, boasting a 9.3 net rating (higher than Golden State’s league-leading 8.2 net rating) with him and stumbling to a -13.6 net rating without him. Will Barton is the next-best player on a team that has won 27 games. I have Jokic repeating as MVP.
Sixth Man of the Year (6MOTY) :
Andrew: Tyler Herro (Miami Heat)
At the moment, nobody is really in close contention with Tyler Herro for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. The 22 year-old is averaging 20.4 points per game, which is the most of any bench player, along with 4.9 rebounds per game, and 4.0 assists per game. Coming off a disappointing sophomore season, Herro has bounced back to become a perennial all-star thus far. Herro is also shooting a wild 39 percent from three, and has transformed into a leading facilitator for Miami.
Judd: Tyler Herro (Miami Heat)
This one’s easy. Herro is putting up borderline all-star numbers off the bench this season, averaging 20.4 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three. He has bounced back in a big way following a disappointing sophomore season. The 22-year old Kentucky product is the clear front-runner for the award.
Rookie of the Year (ROTY) :
Andrew: Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Evan Mobley has been the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award the whole season, and that is unlikely to change. Mobley’s case for the award begins on the defensive end. Mobley averages 1.7 blocks per game, which currently is the 7th most in the NBA. Additionally, his lateral quickness, along with his 7’4” wingspan allow Mobley to guard both forwards and centers, while also bringing down 8.1 rebounds per game. Offensively, Mobley is averaging 15 points per game and 2.6 assists per game. His production on both sides of the floor, as well as the success of a previously substandard Cleveland team makes Mobley my prediction to win the award this year.
Judd: Evan Mobley (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Mobley has made an impact in his rookie season, producing on both ends. He has played a major role in the Cavs’ success this season. Mobley’s numbers are impressive, especially for a rookie. Mobley is averaging 15.0 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, and 1.7 blocks per game. The USC product has my vote.
Most Improved Player (MIP) :
Andrew: Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)
Ja Morant has absolutely risen to superstar status this season. Some are even considering Morant to be a potential MVP candidate. In nearly every single statistical category, Morant has made huge strides. He is currently averaging 6 more points per game than last year (26 points per game this year), 2 more rebounds per game (6 rebounds per game this year), and is shooting nearly 5 percent more efficiently (49 percent from field this year). Though Miles Bridges and Darius Garland are both closely in contention, if the season were to end today, I would give the award to the 22 year old Morant.
Judd: Miles Bridges (Charlotte Hornets)
Bridges has improved in almost every statistical category and has arguably been the best player on a good Hornets team. He has taken on a featured role in the Hornets’ offense, averaging 20.2 points per game and shooting 48.8 percent from the field. Bridges is also averaging 7.3 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game, all career-bests. The Michigan State product should receive an all-star nod and is my pick for MIP.