We’ve already reached the quarterway point of the NBA’s regular season, and with that, we’ve finally gotten a chance to see how things will progress up until April — that is, which teams were pretenders (the Magic and the Clippers), and which teams are for real (the Rockets and Pistons).
Through a bit over 20 games, we’ve already seen insane performances, such as LeBron’s 57-point performance against the Wizards, and major improvements from some of the league’s best, including Andre Drummond and Giannis Antetokounmpo. So, if the season ended today, who would be taking home which award? Some may be obvious, but others have a fair few candidates that could be named Most Improved Player or Defensive Player of the Year.
Rookie Of The Year – Ben Simmons
Who else could it be? Many thought that Rookie of the Year would be a multiple-horse race between the likes of Simmons, Lonzo, Fultz and others, but Big Ben has blown them all out of the water during the opening part of the season.
Helped by his year off after suffering a foot fracture which sidelined him for the entire 2016/17 NBA season, Simmons has proven to the NBA why he deserved to go first overall in the 2016 NBA draft, posting averages of 17.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists a game through 21 appearances. Not only that, but his shooting is considerably above-average for a rookie wing, shooting 50.3% from the field.
Rookies such as Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and even Lonzo Ball — if you disregard his shooting numbers — have all impressed thus far, but there’s no doubting that Simmons will run away with the ROY trophy.
Sixth Man of the Year – Kyle Kuzma
Kyle Kuzma’s emergence since being drafted has been nothing short of spectacular, and many would argue the 22-year-old out of Utah has outperformed fellow teammate and rookie Lonzo Ball this season.
Kuzma was drafted with the 27th pick this year, and ever since Summer League, has proven he should have been taken in the lottery.
Coming off the bench for the Lakers, Kuzma has been averaging 16.8 points this season along with 6.5 rebounds. Granted Kuzma did start in 11 games for LA while Nance Jr. was out, but that doesn’t take away from the fact King Kuz has been killing it off the pine so far.
If Kuzma does happen to win the 6MOTY award, he’ll be the first rookie to do so since Ben Gordon did it for the Bulls back in 2005.
Defensive Player Of The Year – Paul George
While many thought that OKC would be an offensive powerhouse when both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joined Russell Westbrook in the offseason this year, no one could have predicted just how seriously George would take the other end of the court.
Through 22 games for the Thunder, PG is leading the league in steals with 2.5 a game, as well as chipping in 0.6 blocks and 5.1 defensive rebounds per contest. Not only that, but George also leads the league in all hustle stats, with 4.7 deflections per game and 1.9 loose balls recovered a game.
Things could definitely change between now and the end of the season, as playing air-tight defense like George has been doing requires a ton of effort, but as of right now, PG13 is your Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach Of The Year – Brad Stevens
Almost the entire NBA fanbase knew that the Boston Celtics would be the one team other than the Cavaliers that could finish on top of the Eastern Conference, but what Stevens has done thus far with the squad at his disposal has been nothing short of shocking.
Losing Gordon Hayward to injury for the season in the first game of their campaign spelled disaster for Boston and their hopes of overtaking Cleveland as the top team in the East, but with Kyrie and Al Horford as healthy as ever, Stevens has proven just how good of a coach he really is.
Boston was so good in fact, that after losing their first two games, the C’s went on an absolute tear, winning 16-straight and storming to the top of the Eastern Standings before falling to Miami.
Currently sitting at 20-4, if Boston can comfortably win the East, and the Pistons fall off towards the second half of the season, Stevens will be a shoe-in for Coach of the Year.
Most Improved Player – Victor Oladipo
Involved in the trade that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City, that move has proven to be a godsend for Victor Oladipo.
Indiana is Victor’s third team since he entered the league back in 2014, and before arriving in Indy, he had never proven himself worthy of the number two pick he was chosen with.
But after freeing himself from the chains that was Russell Westbrook’s 2017 MVP campaign, Oladipo has shown the world what he can really do.
Dipo is averaging a whopping 23.4 points per game, raising his scoring average 7.5 points in almost the exact same amounts of minutes per game. On top of that, Oladipo has also increased his rebounding, passing and defensive numbers across the board.
Victor will face stiff competition from the likes of Kristaps Porzingis when it comes to year’s end, but it’s safe to say that the 25-year-old shooting guard has made the biggest improvements so far this season.
Most Valuable Player – James Harden
There’s no doubt that Harden may have been snubbed on multiple occasions for the rights to be named MVP of the league, but this year, he’s taking what’s his.
After acquiring Chris Paul via trade from the Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets have turned into the dark horse to knock Golden State off their pedestal. Granted, CP3 has missed considerable time to injury early on in the season, but that only furthers Harden’s case for MVP, as the Rockets have been a powerhouse with him leading the offense.
Harden is averaging 31.7 points and 9.7 assists a game this season across 22 games, which is good enough to lead the league in both categories, a feat which hasn’t been achieved since Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald did it back in 1973. Oh, and guess what? Nate won MVP that year too.
Even with LeBron James having one of the best years of his career, and Kyrie’s narrative being one of the strongest in the league, it’d be a robbery if Harden lost out on the MVP award for a third time in his career.