With Under a Month Left in the Regular Season, Who Takes the Hardware?
Is there ever a time too early for predictions?
I would say not.
We made predictions before game number one, so why not run it back once more.
With just over ten games left to go in the regular season, the landscape can’t really change by much now anyways, right? Even if it does, that means we can run this once more – can’t hurt. With many teams now jostling over playoff positioning, it seems like the individual hardware could all but be locked up and with that being said, we can make our predictions.
Coach of the Year: Dwane Casey (TOR)
Changing the culture and the flow of the offence, Dwane Casey has been able to revitalize the Toronto Raptors.
No longer a team that many look down upon once the playoffs begin, this year’s Raptors’ squad looks dangerous. The ball movement has improved, the Raptors are more efficient, and are a top-five offensive and defensive team in the league. They are also a near lock for the number-one seed in the East and have set themselves apart as a major threat to the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors ooze trust, team chemistry, and solidarity and are on their way to their franchise’s first ever 60-win season.
Honourable Mentions: Brad Stevens (Bos), Quin Snyder (UTJ)
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons (PHI)
Do you trust the process yet?
Ben Simmons said it best last week – while Donovan Mitchell can put the ball in the hole, Ben Simmons can do a little bit of everything. He has very quickly become the focal piece of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise alongside Joel Embiid, and has assumed the role of point forward. Simmons already has shown the capability of becoming an elite playmaker and it’s only a matter of time before Simmons becomes an All-Star.
Honourable Mentions: Donovan Mitchell (UTJ), Jayson Tatum (BOS)
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
When a bench player nearly becomes an All-Star, the decision becomes fairly simple.
Although Eric Gordon has been an incredible primary scorer off the bench for the Rockets and Fred VanVleet has spearheaded the best bench in the entire NBA all season long, it is Lou Williams who has run away with the award months ago. Predominantly in a bench role, Williams has averaged 23-points per game, often seeming like an unguardable offensive weapon.
Honourable Mentions: Eric Gordon (HOU), Fred VanVleet (TOR)
Executive of the Year: Daryl Morey (HOU)
The Golden State Warriors look vulnerable and it is all thanks in part to the job that Daryl Morey has done.
Not only did Morey go out acquire Chris Paul, but he also added pieces that would transform the Rockets from an offensive juggernaut to a team that now fires on all cylinders on both ends of the floor. The acquisitions of Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker strengthen the Rockets’ defense, which now ranks within the NBA’s top-10.
Honourable Mentions: Danny Ainge (BOS), Kevin Pritchard (IND)
Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo (IND)
What at one point looked like a very lop-sided trade, has paid great dividends to the Indiana Pacers.
Victor Oladipo has come into his own as an elite two-way player. Not only has he continued his pesky defense, he has turned into an All-Star and a franchise centre-piece for a Pacers team that looked lost after moving superstar Paul George out of town. The Pacers now have direction and it begins with the clear Most Improved Player of the Year Victor Oladipo.
Honourable Mentions: Fred VanVleet (TOR), Clint Capela (HOU)
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid (PHI)
This one is easy.
Rudy Gobert has not played nearly enough games, Kawhi Leonard has barely played, and Draymond Green has been more reserved on defense this season, seemingly saving up the energy for another deep playoff run. Kevin Durant has had a renaissance year defensively, but it was not nearly as good as that of Joel Embiid’s.
The Philadelphia Sixers centre has held opponents to a top-five lowest field goal percentage around the rim, while being able to step out and defend smaller players in isolation. On the season, Embiid has averaged 1.8-blocks per game, while boasting a defensive rating of 102.
Honourable Mentions: Al Horford (BOS), Rudy Gobert (UTJ)
Most Valuable Player: James Harden (HOU)
If Defensive Player of the Year was easy, this one’s simply a joke.
This is the year for James Harden.
The Houston Rockets have been the best team in the entire NBA all season long and a big part of that is due to the play of James Harden. On the season, Harden is averaging 31-points, 5.2-rebounds, and 8.7-assists, while leading the league in PER, Offensive Win Shares, and Box Plus/Minus. There is no disputing it this year, Harden has been the runaway MVP.
Honourable Mentions: Kyrie Irving (BOS), Stephen Curry (GSW)