With only about two full weeks left in the NBA season, the race for the awards given out at the season’s end is heating up. When you look at the play of some of the guys up for the awards, the race is close this year in essentially every award category. It is also important to note that the Coach of the Year race is down to the wire as well between many worthy candidates. So, when it comes to who will walk away with the hardware, who will it be? Let’s discuss.
KIA NBA MVP
Besides the NBA title, the MVP trophy is one of the most important awards handed out at the season’s end. This year, the race is coming down to two centers, which I am sure Shaq is proud to hear considering he was the last center to win MVP over 20 years ago. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid are in the hunt, as well as a familiar face in Stephen Curry, making his name more relevant than it already was.
However, this award, as of right now, I think should be landing in Denver with Nikola Jokic. Jokic is putting up stellar numbers at 26.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game, leading the current third seed Nuggets in the Western Conference. What notches Jokic ahead of the competition is that he has played every game this season and is essentially putting up a nightly triple-double. Jokic has also added to his case by continuing to perform despite losing his partner in crime in Jamal Murray to a season-ending injury.
When the smoke of the regular season clears, Nikola Jokic should emerge as the KIA NBA MVP.
- Nikola Jokic
- Joel Embiid
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Stephen Curry
- Luka Doncic
Winner: Nikola Jokic
NBA Coach of the Year
Continuing down the line of trophies, the Coach of the Year award will be the closest race out of any of the awards. As far as who deserves to win, now that could be said about quite a few coaches. Whether you look at coaches with teams that were expected to win games or teams that have been turned around completely, the field of candidates is fruitful. As of right now, the award I believe should either go to Tom Thibodeau with the Knicks or Monty Williams with the Suns.
Thibs and Williams have taken lottery teams and turned them into legitimate playoff teams. Williams has turned the Suns into one of, if not, the top team in the Western Conference this season. Thibs has revived the Knicks into a defensive powerhouse, which has surprised many people. Despite all the high praise for Thibs and Williams, again, the field of worthy coaches is quite expansive, but that award should land in either New York or Phoenix.
- Monty Williams or Tom Thibodeau
- Quin Snyder
- Doc Rivers
Winner: Monty Williams
Defensive Player of the Year
This award is one that typically sees many of the same names year to year and this season is sticking to that narrative. After Giannis took home the award last year, stripping Rudy Gobert of his defensive crown, it appears Gobert is back in line to take home the award again this year. While the race is still rather close, Rudy Gobert is showing why he is one of the best rim protectors in basketball. Gobert is putting up 2.8 blocks per game while also averaging 13.5 rebounds per game and 10.1 of those rebounds coming on the defensive side of the ball.
Gobert has once again asserted his dominance as the anchor on defense for a stellar Utah Jazz team.
- Rudy Gobert
- Ben Simmons
- Bam Adebayo
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
Winner: Rudy Gobert
Sixth Man of the Year
For a long time, I’ve felt this award should be renamed the Lou Williams Sixth Man of the year award with how efficient Lou was off the bench but that is a conversation for another day. This season, Lou is not on the list, but some solid performers are running the list this season. A familiar name in Montrezl Harrell, who won the award last year, has once again asserted himself into the running despite a drop in minutes after changing teams from the Clippers to the Lakers in the off-season.
However, there is a non-familiar name at the top of the list, and his name is Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson is having a career season coming off the bench at 17.5 points per game for the Jazz. What makes Clarkson so appealing for the award? Clarkson is the second-leading scorer on the Jazz, only behind Donavan Mitchell, and he comes off the bench.
If that alone does not solidify Clarkson as the favorite to win, then I honestly have no idea what will. Jordan Clarkson will need to continue to support the Jazz offense at his career-high clip, and he will lock in this award.
- Jordan Clarkson
- Montrezl Harrell
- Joe Ingles
- Shake Milton
Winner: Jordan Clarkson
Most Improved Player
While this award is not as prestigious as an MVP or Coach of the year award, it is still important to recognize the players that have made a jump in production this season. Brandon Ingram brought home the award last year, but this year might have one of the most dominant performers taking home the award. Before I get carried away, do not look past the play of guys like Jerami Grant for the Pistons, who most were looking to see if he would take his solid bubble play and build on it and he did just that.
Other names that have elevated their play are guys like Zach Lavine, who has become the centerpiece for the Bulls offense. Lavine looks to become the first Bulls player ever to score 25-plus per game while shooting 50-plus percent from the field and 40-plus percent from the three-point range. Keep his name in the running for sure.
But the name that should probably walk away with the trophy is Julius Randle with the Knicks. Randle is having a career season, where he has scored 30-plus six times and 40-plus twice. At 24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, all career highs, Randle has cemented himself at the top of this list. Randle should more than likely win this award and also be put into an MVP conversation in some way, shape, or form if the Knicks manage to finish as a top-four seed in the East.
- Julius Randle
- Jerami Grant
- Zach Lavine
- Michael Porter Jr.
Winner: Julius Randle
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