As we head into the final stretch of the season with All-Star weekend behind us, it should be an exciting end to the season. Teams in both conferences are fighting for playoff spots and players are making their last push for a seasonal award or All-NBA team. There have been some great battles this season going on with the Defensive Player of the Year award and the Rookie of the Year award. With that said, here are my awards for each category so far this season.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: JAMES HARDEN
This award should be pretty obvious to most people who watch the NBA. This year, Harden is a runaway MVP favorite and will probably get close to a unanimous vote. Harden is leading the league in scoring by a pretty wide margin at 31.3 ppg. He is also second in the league in assists dishing out 9 a game. Harden has been the best player on the number one-seeded team in the very competitive western conference. Leading the Rockets to a better record than the Warriors so far is very impressive considering many people were not even sure that the Rockets would be able to mesh well. Let me also remind you that Harden is the only All-Star on his team. Harden has had many memorable games this season but one of his highlights was when he became the first player to record a 60-point triple double in NBA history. If he continues to play like he has been I see no reason he shouldn’t easily edge out everyone else for MVP.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: PAUL GEORGE
This award is a toss-up between Paul George and Joel Embiid. Both players are great on defense so having either as your DPOY is acceptable in my opinion. Paul George has been exceptional on defense all year. He is the league leader in steals with 2.2 per game and has a defensive rating of 104.7. He leads the league in deflections with a total of 250 which is a pretty wide margin over the next player. He is also 4th in the league in loose balls recovered with 94 this season. Paul George is a great on and off-ball defender. He has active hands whether he is in help or whether he is guarding the ball. His perimeter defense is elite and he’s a player that no one wants to be guarded by.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: VICTOR OLADIPO
After being traded to the Indiana Pacers this offseason for Paul George, Victor Oladipo made some huge changes this offseason and it really shows on the court. He turned himself into an All-Star and he is one of the best guards in the Eastern Conference. He is putting up solid numbers scoring 24.4 points per game on 48-38-81 splits. He is also dishing out 4.1 assists and is a solid defender getting 2.1 steals per game. Oladipo has been an exciting player to watch this season from game winners, to 360 dunks, and even scoring a career-high 47 points against the Nuggets. He has lead the Pacers team, which many thought would be at the bottom of the East, to the current 5th seed and fighting to be in the playoffs. He is one of the most exciting young players in this league and should be a solid leader for this Indiana Pacers team come playoff time.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR: LOU WILLIAMS
I think Lou Williams is the obvious choice for this award. He is a borderline All-Star this year and has been putting on a show for everyone to see. We all knew Lou could score but he made sure that everyone knew it by his play this year. Besides scoring 30 points multiple times, he has also scored 40 points in 3 games this season and even dropped 50 on the Golden State Warriors. He is averaging 22.9 points per game while also dishing out 5.4 assists. He is the only 6th man this year to get All-Star consideration and even be looked at as one of the biggest snubs out of everyone selected. The only one I see challenging him for the title is Tyreke Evans but even he hasn’t matched the production of Lou Williams this season.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: BEN SIMMONS
The Rookie of the Year race has become tighter as the season went on as Donovan Mitchell has emerged as a candidate to steal the show from Simmons. Despite that, I still have Simmons edging him out in the end. He is averaging a near triple-double with 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.2 steals, and is shooting an efficient 53.2% from the field. A lot of people have commented on the fact that he has no jump shot as a problem for his game, but it clearly hasn’t hurt him if he can still score 16 a game and do it at an efficient rate. Defenders play him back for the drive and give him space and he still scores on them so that says a lot about his ability to finish at the rim. He does have a turnover problem at times but that also comes with handling the ball so much and being the main instigator of your team’s offense. The pros outweigh the cons for me with Simmons and he is my pick for Rookie of the Year.
COACH OF THE YEAR: DWANE CASEY
Coach of the Year could go a lot of different ways this season but I’m going with Dwane Casey from the Toronto Raptors as my pick. The Raptors have the 3rd best record in the league (41-16) behind only the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. They are currently first in the East with a decent lead over the Boston Celtics and look like they will probably end up with the first seed. Dwane Casey made the decision to give his young guys and bench players quite a bit of minutes and it has really paid off. Their bench is 4th in the league in most minutes per game while also being 8th in the league in scoring and FG%. They have a lot of depth and that will be huge come playoff time. They have a good offense that moves the ball and they don’t turn it over. The Raptors look legit this year but the real test will come playoff time which they usually struggle. As far as the regular season goes, Dwane Casey gets my vote.