With All-Star Weekend approaching, here’s who would take home hardware had the season ended at the All-Star break.
Rookie of the Year
The pick: Joel Embiid
Within striking distance: N/A
This one is a no brainer. Finally getting a chance to start in the NBA, Embiid has had a rookie season for the ages, and has been the focal point of a revived Sixers team.
Adjusted per 36 minutes, Joel is averaging an unprecedented 28.3 points and 11.2 rebounds. That’s a tier above the rookie seasons of some of the greatest big men ever, including Hakeem and Shaq.
The Cameroonian has the 76ers playing at a playoff level in 2017, and will certainly be in the conversation for a plethora of other awards as his career progresses.
Most Improved Player
The pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Within striking distance: Devin Booker
Yet another award race that isn’t really a race at all. Booker has had a respectable season, but nowhere near that of Antetokounmpo.
Giannis took off running with award in the first month of the season, and hasn’t looked back since. He’s been playing at an MVP (yes, MVP) level this season, averaging 24 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Don’t be surprised if he and Embiid are battling it out for the MVP trophy a few years down the road.
Defensive Player of the Year
The pick: Draymond Green
Within striking distance: Kawhi Leonard.
Draymond is the best defender on the best defensive team. That alone should be enough.
But given that his closest competition, Kawhi, is the back-to-back winner of the award, his chances are even greater. Voter fatigue is real, best showcased by LeBron James not having 6+ MVP trophies, and that trend should continue this year, with Draymond winning the award over Kawhi. Not that he’s not deserving, though.
Coach of the Year
The pick: Mike D’Antoni
Within striking distance: Brad Stevens
4th award, 3rd obvious choice.
Coming off a disappointing .500 season, and losing a plethora of difference makers in the offseason, not much was expected from the 16′-17′ Rockets.
On the back of an MVP season from James Harden, however, D’Antoni has the Rockets playing with the cohesiveness and awareness not seen in their more talented rosters of the past.
Houston is easily the most overachieving team in the league, and, barring a collapse, D’Antoni should win this award without much debate.
Sixth Man of the Year
The pick: Eric Gordon
Within striking distance: Zach Randolph
One of the main cogs behind Houston’s remarkable season thus far has been Eric Gordon. Whereas bench points were once an achilles heal of the Rockets, the acquisition of Gordon has turned that around almost immediately.
Gordon is beginning to pull away from the award, but it’s still up for grabs for all intents and purposes. If Zach Randolph can continue to be a force off the pine, and lead the Grizzlies from the 6 seed to say, maybe the 4 or 5 seed, then we’ll have ourselves a toss up.
The pick: James Harden
Within striking distance: Kevin Durant
I know we said at the beginning of the year that it was almost guaranteed that a Warrior would NOT win MVP, but KD is doing all he can to prove us wrong, and is gaining on current favorite James Harden.
The Beard boasts the superior stat line, averaging 28 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds compared to KD’s 27 points 9 rebounds and 5 assists, but KD upends Harden in the X-Factor categories.
Durant will be the undisputed best player on the undisputed best team, a team that’s currently on pace for another 70+ win season. Now, the extent of how valuable he is can be debated, but these factors often hold weight when voters weight their MVP vote.
And when it comes to efficiency, it’s all KD as well. Durant it shooting a career high 56%, while Harden is shooting a mediocre 44%, and is on pace to shatter his own single season turnover record by 100+.
There are even more X-factor candidates, but they can be all but ruled out.
Westbrook’s stock has tumbled as the Thunder’s record has. The same can be said for LeBron James. And Kawhi doesn’t put up the numbers.
It’s (sort of) a two-man race, with Harden out in front by a considerable amount.