A Moment to Recognize

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Jokic Named MVP, Gobert Named Best Defensive Player in Award Recap

NBA awards season has come and gone.

As is the case each season, the league recognizes its best and brightest stars as the year comes to an end. This year was no different as the league looks to get back to normalcy.

In a season filled with surprises, the NBA watched young players turn into stars and veteran All-Stars establish themselves as superstars. With Nikola Jokic leading the pack as one of the more unique MVPs in league history, the NBA surely remains in great hands as the abundance of star power is very clear.

Let’s jump right into recapping this year’s awards!

Sixth Man of the Year – Jordan Clarkson

Jordan Clarkson was able to top his teammate Joe Ingles to take home the award for the best bench option in the league.

Despite a disappointing collapse in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs by the Utah Jazz, Jordan Clarkson has been able to find a niche on a team that will surely continue to get better as they surround franchise stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert with talent.

“For me, it was tough my first couple years,” said Clarkson, who led all bench players in scoring with 18.4 points per game. “I started in L.A. [with the Lakers]… just coming into myself, trying to find the impact I could have in this game and what I could bring to it. When I got that role, I just kind of took it and worked at it, and this situation, being traded here to Utah from Cleveland, really enhanced everything.”

Receiving 65 first place votes, Clarkson became the primary shot creator of the team’s second unit and helped provide the secondary scoring the Jazz needed to clinch the first seed in the conference.

Coach of the Year – Tom Thibodeau

No one gave the New York Knicks a chance before the start of the season and they proved us wrong.

Give your head a shake if you counted Coach Tom Thibodeau out back in the Fall, because I sure did. Known for his defensive and no-nonsense tactics, not only did Thibodeau help bring the Knicks back to the playoffs, he also helped to reset the culture in an organization that desperately needed to turn the corner.

“Anytime you get an award like this, I’m obviously honoured, but it’s more a reflection of our group and our organization, ” said Thibodeau upon accepting the award.

In the span of just one season, Thibodeau has helped turn around the fortunes of one of the game’s most storied franchises.

Rookie of the Year – LaMelo Ball

Lavar Ball’s prophecy has come true.

LaMelo Ball was spectacular in his freshman campaign en route to capturing the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.

The flashy and exciting point guard put on an absolute show each and every night he stepped onto the court and averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.1 assists per contest. Despite missing a sizeable chunk of the season due to a broken wrist, what Ball was able to do on the court in 51 games was unquestionable for voters.

“I think Melo has adjusted to the NBA game better than any of us ever thought this early in his career,” Michael Jordan said of his young rookie guard back in March. “He has exceeded our expectations.”

After taking a nice step forward this past season as an organization, the Hornets will look to take another big leap in 2021-22 with the hopes that Ball can continue to develop into a franchise cornerstone.

Most Improved Player of the Year  – Julius Randle

Continuing the trend of the New York Knicks taking a big step forward, none of what we have seen this season from the league’s blue chip franchise would have been possible without Julius Randle.

The former lottery pick has finally turned into the stars we were expecting him to become back when he was first drafted in the lottery by the Los Angeles Lakers. During the 2020-21 season, Randle was able to elevate every single aspect of his game, from his defense, to his playmaking ability, to his perimeter shooting.

“I just wanna say thank you to everybody involved,” Randle told reporters in a press conference after being named the league’s Most Improved Player.  “I mean it truly was a team thing. Everybody in the Knicks organization, top to bottom, I can’t thank everybody enough.

“All my teammates, everybody, they trust me and empower me. I just wanna thank them for allowing me to lead them. And then my family, my wife, my son, everybody, like everybody, has played a part in helping me continue to become the best version of me on and off the court.”

With Thibodeau at the helm and Randle continued growth, the Knicks future looks to be a bright one.

Defensive Player of the Year – Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert is still the defensive king of the NBA.

The Utah Jazz center has anchored the league’s top-five defense en route to helping lead the Jazz to the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

It’s hard to come up with any more superlatives for the importance of Gobert’s play as he takes home his third Defensive Player of the Year award. The league’s leader in both defensive win share and defensive rating has not only been an anchor for the Jazz, but his fit in the team’s pick-n-roll offense has helped the Jazz turn into an NBA powerhouse and a team that will continue to improve.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Gobert. “When I started basketball as I kid, if somebody would have told me that I was going to be defensive player of the year, I would have never believed them, let alone three times.

“It’s hard to put into words the things that you can achieve when you just enjoy what you do, first of all, and when you have a group of people that believes in you and you put the work in every single day. I try to write my own story, try to enjoy my own journey, but just being one of only four guys that have won the award that many times, it’s just amazing.”

There is no question that we are watching one of the best defenders the game has ever seen.

Most Valuable Player of the Year – Nikola Jokic

Far and away the most valuable player in the NBA was Nikola Jokic.

No matter where you happened to look, Jokic’s name was up at the top of any leaderboard. The unselfish superstar helped lead the Denver Nuggets to a second round appearance in the absence of his co-star Jamal Murray.

It’s not often that a center takes home the most valuable player award in today’s modern version of the NBA, but Jokic is by no means your typical center. A walking triple-double, Jokic is the best passing big man in the history of the league and the entire Nuggets offense runs through the seven foot European who acts as a point-center while on the floor.

Averaging 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists all while leading the league in most offensive advanced metrics, Jokic is truly one of the more unique players in the entire game.

***

All-NBA First Team

  • Stephen Curry (GSW)
  • Luka Doncic (DAL)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
  • Kawhi Leonard (LAC)
  • Nikola Jokic (DEN)

All-NBA Second Team 

  • Damian Lillard (POR)
  • Chris Paul (PHO)
  • Julius Randle (NYK)
  • LeBron James (LAL)
  • Joel Embiid (PHI)

All-NBA Third Team 

  • Bradley Beal (WAS)
  • Kyrie Irving (BRK)
  • Jimmy Butler (MIA)
  • Paul George (LAC)
  • Rudy Gobert (UTA)

All-Defensive First Team

  • Ben Simmons (PHI)
  • Jrue Holiday (MIL)
  • Draymond Green (GSW)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
  • Rudy Gobert (UTA)

All-Defensive Second Team

  • Jimmy Butler (MIA)
  • Matisse Thybulle (PHI)
  • Bam Adebayo (MIA)
  • Kawhi Leonard (LAC)
  • Joel Embiid (PHI)

All-Rookie First Team

  • LaMelo Ball (CHA)
  • Saddiq Bey (DET)
  • Anthony Edwards (MIN)
  • Tyrese Haliburton (SAC)
  • Jae’Sean Tate (HOU)

All-Rookie Second Team

  • Desmond Bane (MEM)
  • Isaac Okoro (CLE)
  • Immanuel Quickley (NYK)
  • Isaiah Stewart (DET)
  • Patrick Williams (CHI)

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