The NBA season has gone by rather quick for the typical fan, with few trades and a limited amount of injured elite player. The NBA has been shaped to the likes of the Warriors and the Cavaliers, both atop their respective conferences; however, there are players who are having an outbreak of a season for their own team even if it may not result in hoisting the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy. A player may impact the game in a variety of ways, whether it be on the defensive end, off the bench, by scoring, or even leading a team in the locker room; these are the players recognized with awards at the end of each regular season.
Despite the first half of the season coming to an end, there are players and coaches who have had significant roles for their team leading to these awards. All honors and awards will not be given out anywhere in the real NBA but may be given out in fans imagination.
Coach of The Half Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets
Mike D’Antoni has previously won this award in 2005 during his five-year stint with the Phoenix Suns finishing top three in the Western Conference three out of his five years losing in the Western Conference Finals most years. These were, undoubtedly the glory years of the Suns. Since his glory days, D’Antoni has been a part of if not the lead of the Knicks, Lakers, and 76ers before joining the Houston Rockets this year as a head coach. With D’Antoni the head of the pack, the Rockets have formed a top three offense led by James Harden, leading a team with a historic three-point production.
The defense, previously questioned by many, has been up to par with the rest of the league which has helped the Rockets total thirty-eight wins and seventeen losses as of February 8, 2017. The tremendous offense and elevated average defense which has helped the Rockets game puts them into the running as a championship contender with no small part credited to Mike D’Antoni.
Most Valuable Player of The Half Year: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
James Harden has had himself a season. Without the bearded man, The Rockets do not have much going for them. The impact of Russell Westbrook tightly squeezes by James Harden in the MVP ladder, by the smallest amount. An amount so minor that the honor can go both ways as of right now. Russell Westbrook has been rewriting record books all season long, with a total win share of 7.7, eleventh in the league among players. Russell Westbrook is averaging 31 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10 assists through 53 games. Despite turning the ball over 5 times per game, Mr. Triple Double leads the league in Player Efficiency Rating.
Westbrook has tallied 25 triple doubles and only needs sixteen more on the season to match Oscar Robinson’s incredible feat of 41. According to ESPN, Russ has a 61% chance of surpassing this number by the time the regular season ends. Every time Westbrook tallies a triple double, the Thunder have won 76% of the time. If you remove these two players from their respective teams, who has a better supporting cast? Harden has an excellent bench while Russ has Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter running the show. The Rockets are two games ahead in the 2016-17 season and this is largely in part by the supporting bench. For these reasons, this honor must go to Russell Westbrook but may have very well gone to James Harden.
Defensive Player of The Half Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert is the prototypical rim protector at 7’ 1” with a 7’ 8.5” wingspan, one of the longest the league has ever seen. Gobert is averaging 2.6 blocks per contest and has been the backbone of a top Utah defense allowing 95.3 points per game. The ‘Stifle Tower’ averages 8.7 defensive rebounds per game.
His defensive win share currently leads the league, this means that his defense alone contributes to 5 team wins. His Defensive efficiency also tops the league with 98.0. With stats like these, it is difficult to go wrong with this honor.
Sixth Man of The Half Year: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
Aside from James Harden, Eric Gordon is a perfect piece in the Rockets’ offense. Averaging 17.3 points, 3 assists, and 30 minutes per contest, Gordon appears to have rejuvenated his career in Houston off the bench. Gordon is second in the league in three-pointers made, tallying one more than Stephen Curry on the season.
Gordon is shooting 57% from the field giving the Rockets a positive spark off the bench when Harden takes a seat. When called upon, Gordon has proven to elevate his game and deliver. He is essentially better off the bench than when he starts making him the perfect man for this honor.
Most Improved Player of The Half Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Many know him for his insane length, others know him as the All-Star who's named they can not pronounce, but above all, he is the “Greek Freak”. At age 22, Giannis Antetokounmpo has greatly improved his game. This honor tends to be given to a player who has improved through opportunity, however the Greek Freak is receiving the same number of minutes as last season, but has raised his statistics in every major category. The human alphabet is averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.0 blocks, and 1.7 steals (increased from 16.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.4 BPG, and 1.2 SPG).
Giannis is one of the most well-rounded players the league has seen leading his team in all five major categories, an achievement no player has accomplished since LeBron James in the 2008-2009 season.He ranks 10th in the league in win shares with 7.8. Giannis’ long steps and ability to score have given him potential as big as his name. He has proven to be able to be a distributer when needed, a tenacious rebounder, and a timeless scorer when called upon. If he is able to keep elevating his game, “The Greek Freak” will surely be the future of the NBA with a few MVP awards down the line.
Rookie of The Half Year: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Perhaps the least shocking award of all, Joel Embiid has proven to be worth the wait. After being drafted third overall by the 76ers in 2014, Embiid has been sidelined by injuries for the first two seasons of his career, making him a rookie. He has become a dominant force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference averaging 20.2 points (second among Eastern Conference centers), 7.8 rebounds (ninth), and 2.5 blocks (first); while only playing 25 minutes per contest.
“The Process” was on the verge of making an all-star appearance as a rookie, but unfortunately the player vote did not go in his favor. Embiid is nearly doubling the second-highest scoring rookie in points and leads all rookies in rebounds and blocks. What has not been a strong rookie class has elevated Embiid’s significance and impact; ultimately making him the unanimous decision for Rookie of The Year and allowing us to Trust the Process.