It seems like just yesterday, the season had just begun and we were poised to welcome our new Orlando Magic overlords. Today, we’re almost 60 games into the regular season and things, more or less, have regressed back to normal. With all our knee-jerk overreactions put to rest, let’s hand out some midseason awards.
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
Harden has literally everything going for him at this point.
Stats? Check. Harden is 1st in scoring (a career-best 31.3 PPG, a full 3.5 PPG more than Antetokounmpo who comes in at 2nd), 3-pointers made, free throws made, usage rate, PER, win shares, box plus/minus, while also 2nd in assists and 8th in steals. If averages bore you, he’s also the first person since Kobe to score 50 points in back to back games (albeit in a loss) and the first player to ever record a 60-point triple double.
Eye test? Check. Remember when Harden was literally basketball cancer? Remember when Rockets games lasted three hours? Remember when Harden would dribble the ball between his legs for 22 seconds then draw a foul? Praise the basketball gods, the dark days are (mostly) behind us. The free-wheelin’, three-point shootin’ Rockets are an absolute joy to watch. Harden is an offensive savant who is playing at the height of his powers. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Narrative? Check. With the Westbrook MVP backlash in full swing, Harden would already have a slight edge in the minds of voters. Couple this with the fact that the Rockets have the best record in the league when literally everyone thought the Warriors would waltz into the Finals. A lot can change ‘til the playoffs, but if the season ended today, the MVP is Harden’s to lose.
Rookie of the Year: Donovan Mitchell
I’d like to preface this by stating that I had Mitchell winning ROTY before he won the Slam Dunk contest. That was a travesty, DSJ was saving his best dunks for the Finals and you know it.
He’s winning ROTY because of this.
And all the other times he whipped out his gigantic pair of cojones for the entire league to see. Did you know he’s joins MJ, AI, and Griffin as the only rookies to score 40 twice in a season?
I hear you. Sure he can score, but Ben Simmons is 2nd in scoring among rookies, while also 1st in rebounds, assists, and steals. Simmons is far and away the better playmaker and defender. Philly is in the playoffs, Utah isn’t.
To which I say: the Rookie of the Year is usually the rookie who scores the most points. And not without reason. At the end of the day, scoring will be the measuring stick that will determine a rookie’s future in the league. The fact that Donovan Mitchell leads the Jazz in field goal attempts, not just during their league-best 11-game winning streak, but for the entire season is an indication of how vital he’s become to the franchise.
You also can’t tell me that Simmons’ extra year of NBA coaching and training doesn’t count for anything. He’s a rookie on a technicality. Can we retroactively take away Brogdon’s trophy and give it to Simmons? #NotMyPresident
This wasn’t an easy decision by any means, but the final test is with the game tied with two minutes to go, who do you want bringing down the ball? Gimme Spida-man.
Defensive Player of the Year: Al Horford
This is a toss-up at this point.
I’d give a slight edge to Al Horford, the defensive anchor of the team with the best defensive rating in the league. He wins by default because I can’t really talk myself out of it. Here’s the case against everyone else:
There’s a movement for Kevin Durant to get it, and while his defense has shown marked improvement, I’m not sure he’s surpassed Draymond Green as the team’s best defender. On the one hand, are we ready to enshrine KD with Jordan, Hakeem, Robinson, and Garnett as the only MVPs to win DPOY? On the other, he did play defense in an All-Star Game…
Rudy Gobert has only played 32 games. If he plays the rest of the way and leads the Jazz to a Top 3 defense, the Stifle Tower becomes a contender. The same can be said for Joel Embiid.
Paul George was an elite defender when Andre Roberson was there to help share the load. These days, PG-13 spreads himself too thin on both ends of the floor to make the same defensive impact.
Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo
This was tough.
Should we give it to Giannis, who not only has taken another Greek Freak-sized leap this season (23-9-5 in 2017 to 28-10-5 in 2018), but has also continued to grow up right in front of our very eyes?
DeMar Derozan deserves some love as well, who’s become a much craftier passer and a threatening three-point shooter. He might have also cemented his place as the best Raptor in franchise history.
But I guess you gotta give it Oladipo who has figuratively dunked on the throats of everyone who said he wasn’t worth his contract. After averaging 16-4-3 in OKC, Oladipo’s recording a career high 24.4 points per game with 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Most importantly, he’s led the Pacers to 5th in the Eastern Conference, in a season when they traded their franchise star and set to rebuild.
Coach of the Year: Dwayne Casey
Somehow always underrated and under the radar, the Toronto Raptors are the #1 team in the East. And it’s due mostly in part to Dwayne Casey who’s managed to reinvent the Raptors offense and bring it to the modern era. Last season, fans were pulling their hair at the highly inefficient and easily predictable offense—DeRozan and Lowry would take turns isolating the ball and clanking a midrange jumper—ranking 22nd in threes attempted and dead last in assists. This season, they’re 5th and 12th in those categories respectively.
With the Cavs’ appearance in the Finals finally in question, can the Raptors take advantage?
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
Lou Williams. That is all.
Executive of the Year – Daryl Morey
Daryl Morey is the Martin Luther King of basketball nerds everywhere. He had a dream. He never let go of said dream. When everyone told him to wake up, he doubled down and acquired as many 3 and D players as possible. He even signed Iso Joe for the heck of it.
Bonus points for taking every opportunity to shit on the Warriors.
And now really quickly, let’s go through some made-up awards.
Dion Waiters Achievement in Self-Confidence: Austin Rivers
Normally, this award is reserved for Dion Waiters. But with Dion Waiters out for the season, we needed a new source of utterly irrational confidence. HERE COMES AUSTIN RIVERS!
Never mind the fact that he’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and minutes, Austin Rivers got former teammate Chris Paul so riled up, we got TunnelGate. Did I mention Rivers didn’t play that game? Never change, Austin. On that note…
NBA Dad of the Year: Doc Rivers
In a world of LaVar Balls, be a Doc Rivers.
Most Valuable Forty Year Old: Manu Ginobili
I was gonna give it to Vinsanity for still going for it at 41, but he’s gonna be dunking ‘til he’s 60. How many more Manu dunks do we have? This might be the last one…
In Memoriam: Steven Adams
We’re gonna miss you mate.
Best Non-Basketball Moment: That One Time a Chihuahua Shat on the Bucks Logo
I love the NBA.
Photos from Getty Images