The NBA season, which seems like it just started, is coming to a close quickly. Stories like the Golden State Warriors going for the season record in wins along with the San Antonio Spurs aiming for an undefeated regular season at home are still being discussed because the stories are still in flux.
What seems clear to me, however, is the season’s individual awards seem like they are locked in. Here are my picks for these awards, those who I believe have played and coached themselves into recognition.
Most Valuable Player—Steph Curry
The Warriors guard has been in the headlines all year. Ridiculous statistics and made shots have become commonplace. He is averaging, at the moment, 30 points, 6.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds, and even 2.1 steals a game, all while sitting a significant number of 4th quarters.
Curry is hardly the only reason the Warriors have had so much success, with All-Stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also in the starting line-up, and great role players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston coming off the bench, to name a few of the other key cogs. However, he is the star of this team, and possibly the whole league.
There has never been a unanimous MVP in the NBA, and it is difficult to predict that he will be the first, but there is a significant chance that we see all voters pull for Curry this summer.
Most Improved Player—C.J. McCollum
The 24-year-old guard for the Portland Trail Blazers has really made a name for himself this season, as a first-year starter for an overachieving team that looks ready to make the playoffs after losing 4 of their 5 starters this off-season. Damian Lillard is the star of the team who was snubbed from this year’s All-Star game, but we already knew how good he was.
McCollum’s most impressive statistical increase is that he’s averaging 20.7 points a game, as opposed to last year’s 6.8. Part of his new productivity has to be linked to significantly more minutes. He is averaging 34.8 minutes a game now, after a 2014-15 season in which he averaged just 15.7 minutes a game, more than doubling his average total. It is a bit of a double-edged sword. He is producing better statistics because he’s playing more, but he’s playing more because he’s doing so well.
In just his third season, McCollum looks like he will be a player that Portland can trust to be one of their better players for years to come, and he should be nominated as such this year.
Defensive Player of the Year—DeAndre Jordan
I have to say that there is a significant chance that Draymond Green wins this award, as he is the leader of the Golden State defense, averaging a block and 7 rebounds a game. But he is not the only player who plays solid defense in the front court, as Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes and the rest make significant contributions.
Jordan, putting aside his strange summer, is having a great year as the back wall for a Clippers defense that depends so much on him. He is averaging 14 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game. In defensive rebounds alone he is averaging 10.4. The award voters might not take into consideration the circumstances of Blake Griffin being hurt for a significant portion of the season, but he was the regular other big man in the starting line-up, and his injury has put even more pressure on Jordan to step up his defensive game.
More than just the statistics of blocks, his huge arms and leaping ability alter so many shots at the rim that can’t be accounted for in numbers. The Clippers are currently 46-27 and in the 4th spot in the Western Conference, thanks in part to his contributions.
Rookie of the Year—Karl-Anthony Towns
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been nothing short of bad this season, but Towns has provided a bright spot as early as his first game on the team. He’s averaging 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game for a double-double on the year, while hitting 54.8% of his shots and 82.5% of his free throws. He has won rookie of the month in the West every month this year.
After being picked first in the NBA draft, there were few who didn’t think Towns would produce well in his first season, but he has been better than anyone could expect at just 19 years old. Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks has been a cool story on the year, and could develop into a star, but the production on the year and the potential of Towns should land him a spot as the back-to-back Timberwolves Rookie of the Year after Andrew Wiggins took it last year.
Though the team is relatively awful now, there is hope in Minneapolis that Towns and the young crew could lead to real success in the future.
6th Man of the Year—Enes Kanter
Coming off of the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the PF/C is averaging 12.4 points and 8 rebounds in just 20.7 minutes per game. The Thunder are currently sitting at 3rd in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, and seem to be one of the teams that have a fighting chance against the Spurs or Warriors.
Kanter provides scoring with his back to the basket for the second team, and even plays a good amount in the closing moments of games. Still at just 23 years of age, there is a ton of room for improvement for this player in his 4th year in the NBA. He doesn’t play a ton of defense, but with Serge Ibaka also in the frontcourt, he can focus more on his offensive game.
This summer, Kanter signed a huge deal, netting him over 16 million dollars this year, for the 3rd highest salary on the team, so it is essential that he produces on the court. He does not need to be the best player on the court, as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are two of the top players in the league, so he is filling his role nicely.
Coach of the Year—Terry Stotz (But I think it should be Luke Walton)
As mentioned before, the Trail Blazers have a 39-36 record after losing 4 of their 5 starters from last season, and are in 6th place in the West. We all know that Gregg Popovich is clearly the best coach in the league, after his high levels of success for so long, but this award is just for one season.
The Trail Blazers are scoring 104.5 points per game, for 7th place in the NBA. The offense had to take a complete overhaul with the new additions to the starting line-up, but Stotts made it work.
There is an argument to be made about Luke Walton of the Warriors as well. He was thrust into the head coach role after Steve Kerr was ill for the first half of the season. Walton led his team to 39-4 with no prior head coaching experience, and 28 straight wins to start the year. However, he was not the coach for the whole year, and he was not technically the head coach, merely the interim, so it is unlikely he will be in contention.
At 6th, Stotts has his team primed for the playoffs, where, if the standings stay as they are, they will face the Thunder in the first round. They will not be favored by much of the NBA community, but we’ll see if they can win a few games and at least make it interesting.
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