Early Season NBA Awards
Rookie of the Year – Joel Embid
This is Embid’s award to lose and even if he loses it, he’ll still probably win. Embid’s play has more than live up to the hype and the rest of his classmates aren’t close to matching his production. The scariest part about Embid’s performance thus far is that his 18 and 7 a game averages are coming in only 24 minutes a night. His only competition at this point is his teammate Ben Simmons and Simmons has yet to play this year. Jamal Murray has had his moments early in the year and Sabonis hasn’t been bad for OKC but this is clearly a unanimous choice at this point.
6th Man of the Year – Eric Gordon
This could be Lou Williams or Wilson Chandler’s award if their teams could stay around or just above the .500 mark but they won’t and Eric Gordon doesn’t appear to be cooling off anytime soon. A lifelong starter, Gordon has adjusted seamlessly into the role of 6th man for the Rockets. He’s been lights out so far, averaging 17 points and shooting 44% from behind the arc on nearly 4 makes a game. Gordon acts as a poor-man James Harden when The Beard goes to the bench and he’s even more dangerous when Harden is on the court. The Rockets could be in line for a lot of awards if they continue the hot start and Eric Gordon has been huge a reason for that.
Defensive Player of the Year – Rudy Gobert
Casual fans who just watch 2 minute highlights, First Take and Undisputed will say this award should go to Draymond Green and they may not be wrong. Green has been great on defense again this year for a Golden State team that lacks rim protection and size on defense. He’s defended the opposition’s best player on the final possessions of games and he’s won each of those battles but he hasn’t been Rudy Gobert. The Utah Jazz are ranked first in points allowed and that has nearly everything to with Gobert’s play on interior. Injuries has forced Gobert to share the frontcourt with both Boris Diaw and Joe Johnson and the Jazz’s defense has still ranked amongst the best in the league in all defensive categories. The Stifle Tower also leads the league in blocks and he’s locked up some of the best at the center position so far. Over the last month, Hassan Whiteside, DeMarcus Cousin, Dwight Howard, Karl Anthony Towns and Marc Gasol have averaged only 11 points on 30 percent shooting when matched against Gobert.
Most Improved Player – Giannis Antetokounmpo
In any other season, this award goes to Kristaps Porzingis with Jabari Parker coming a close second. They both will steal some votes, but this is The Greek Freak’s award as long as he stays healthy. Giannis finished third in the voting for Most Improved last season, but he’s started this season off as one of the 10 best players on the planet. The Bucks are currently a game over .500 after many expected another wasted year after Khris Middleton, last season’s leading scorer, went down with an injury. However, much improved play from Jabari Parker and Giannis’ ascension into all-star status has Milwaukee in the hunt for a playoff spot. Antetokounmpo’s numbers on the season resemble those of someone’s MyPlayer on 2k. Excelling as his coach, Jason Kidd’s point-forward, he’s averaging 22 points on 52 % shooting, 9 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks and he just turned 22 two weeks ago. The Greek Freak should be getting MVP consideration for seasons to come and his development maybe the only thing that can dethrone the king from Akron in the Eastern Conference.
Coach of the Year – Mike D’Antoni
David Fizdale deserves legit consideration for this award because he doesn’t have a superstar like James Harden but he’s had the luxury of inheriting a Grizzlies squad whose core has been together for most of this decade. Before the season, many were torn on how good the Rockets could be. D’Antoni’s team has answered that question and then some so far on the season. The Rockets are currently 3rd in the West and they’ve already beaten both San Antonio and Golden State. D’Antoni moved James Harden to point guard, placed Eric Gordon as the 6th man, and has Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell in line for nice pay days in the future. For all of the criticism he’s received in the past, no other coach can do what D’Antoni does. He’s made more millionaires than the lotto did and he’s largely responsible for the way the game of basketball is being played today. If Houston keeps it up, he can add another Coach of the Year award to his resume as well.
Most Valuable Player – Russell Westbrook
This was the toughest award for me to decide on and if we’re doing the traditional selection process, this is James Harden’s trophy. The Beard has Houston in contention for a top 3 seed in the West and he’s been arguably the best player in the league this season. He’s averaging an unreal 28 pts, 8 rbs, and 12 dimes a night and he’s making it look effortless. But if we’re discussing who’s the most valuable player then it’s not even close. If Harden misses a game, the Rockets can plug Eric Gordon in and still be competitive at the very least. If Westbrook leaves the game for 3 minutes, OKC risks losing a lead or getting ran completely off the floor. Forget the 30-10-11 averages, forget the 8-25 shooting nights, forget the 10 turnover games, the only stat you need to know about Westbrook is that OKC outscores opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor and they get outscored by 13 points per 100 possessions when he is not. Nearly every game, Westbrook goes to the bench with around 3 minutes left to play in the third quarter. He usually returns with about 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter, OKC is usually down 8 or 10 points by then. By game’s end, Westbrook’s or Westgreat as I call him, dominant all around play usually has them in position to win the game.
The triple doubles have been immensely impressive but what’s getting lost is that those numbers are needed for the Thunder to even be competitive in most games. This team’s record shouldn’t be anywhere close to as good as it is based on the collection of talent its roster has but that’s just how good Westbrook has been. He may not ever satisfy the critics and he may not ever stop shooting contested, pull up 3’s with 21 seconds left on the shot clock, but currently Russell Westbrook is the most VALUABLE player in the NBA.
ALL NBA TEAMS
C- DeMarcus Cousins (Sacromento Kings)
F- LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F- Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
G- James Harden (Houston Rockets)
G- Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
C- Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
F- Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
F- Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
G- DeMar Derozan (Toronto Raptors0
G- Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
C- Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)
F- Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
G- Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
G- Damian Lillard (Portland Trailblazers)