What a great start to the season! We’ve already seen multiple 50 point performances, close games galore, and the best NBA fight since 2004. And now it’s time for my favorite article that I write every year … THE NBA JUST STARTED SEASON AWARDS!!!
Now it is a little different this year. Usually, I would’ve written this a week earlier when the season was literally only one or two games in. But I was having too much fun simply taking in all the great games, and I decided that I’d give the players another week to help me determine the awards.
The other thing I have to mention is that I will not be following up my thoughts on each Eastern Conference NBA team with my thoughts on each Western Conference team. I really wanted to, and trust me, I tried, but with my homework schedule, I simply wasn’t able to find time to get it done, and by this point, there’s no point in previewing a season that is already several weeks in.
But that’s in the past now. As for the present, I hope you all enjoy the unveiling of the Third Annual “The Season Just Started” NBA Awards!!!
Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry (GSW)
Per Game Averages – 33.7 points, 6.0 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 55.1% Field Goal Percentage, 52.7% Three Point Percentage
Runner Up(s): Blake Griffin (DET), Anthony Davis (NOP), Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL), Damian Lillard (POR)
Now, I didn’t pick Steph ONLY due to his three quarter, 51 point performance against the Wizards, but it was what set him apart from the rest of the runner ups. That was some 2016-esque stuff we were seeing out there. Prior to the start of this year, the consensus was that Steph was too good in 2016, and that he’ll never have a chance to win another MVP because he can never top that other-worldly year. Well, he’s on track to prove us wrong. He’s come out blazing, shooting like he did back then, and launching threes that make defenders question their worth in trying to defend him. If he can score over 30 points per game, shoot 60% from the field, 50% from three, and make six threes a game for the whole season, then it would impossible to not give him his third MVP. Another thing Steph has going for him is that some of the Curry-hate that started in the 2016 playoffs has worn off, as almost all of the hate has shifted to his teammates KD and Boogie Cousins. He’s been unfairly hated on for bad defense (even though guys like Westbrook somehow get off for this) and for “choking” (even though his playoff performance against the Rockets and Cavs was nothing but clutch last year).
The other early MVPs also have clear paths to the award, as each would make a feel-good story. Blake looks like he might finally be good again and the Pistons actually look like a decent team. I got to witness his 50 point resurrection versus my own Sixers, and it was undoubtedly impressive. But he won’t keep this up, unfortunately, as he always, and I mean ALWAYS, gets injured. Giannis has been teased as a league MVP for years, only to have the Bucks play like a very average team and ruin his chances. The difference this year is that the Bucks might finally be contenders because they have an actual coach (who might win an award as well) rather than an old and confused Jason Kidd trying to be their coach. Anthony Davis was my pick for MVP this year, and he’s looked great so far, finally having a supporting cast somewhat worthy of his talent. And Dame Lillard has to be mentioned as he’s simply scoring too much to be left off this list. But I don’t think any of these guys can touch Curry so far, as he’s reminding us that we were asking if he had surpassed LeBron just two short years ago.
Most Improved Player: Zach LaVine (CHI)
Per Game Averages – 29.3 Points, 3.3 Assists, 4,8 rebounds, 52.7% Field Goal Percentage, 39.5% Three Point Percentage
Runner Up(s): Kemba Walker (CHA), JaVale McGee (LAL), Tim Hardaway Jr. (NYK)
To be honest, I really wanted to give this Kemba. He’s been awesome to start the year and is solidifying himself as maybe even a top 15 or 20 player in the league. But alas, he had to be an all star the last two years, making it hard to defend how much he’s “improved”. That brings us to LaVine, where it is clear to see his improvement. He’s always been a great scorer, but he’s stepped it up a notch. It’s really difficult to average around 30 points per game, so I doubt that he actually keeps this up, but this is a list of who deserves the award so far, not who I think will win it when all is said and done. LaVine is still a train wreck defensively, but the Bulls’ entire team is as well, so his inefficiencies simply blend in with the rest of them. Our other two candidates, JaVale and Hardaway Jr., have been mocked many a time prior to this year, but are both of to great starts. JaVale has been good enough that you could make a legitimate case that he’s been LeBron’s most reliable teammate in LA so far (while a compliment to JaVale, that statement probably makes some Laker fans want to throw up a little bit). And I’ve always been a Hardaway fan, ’cause he never seems to miss threes whenever I’m watching, and he’s come out scorching once again, scoring 24.3 points per game and shooting over 40% from three. However, he can’t win the award as the Knicks are simply too awful for them to receive any kind of award. LaVine gets this award as this level of scoring will earn him an all star spot if it continues, but Kemba is the one who’s really putting the league on notice.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis (NOP)
Defensive Per Game Averages – 3.8 blocks, 2.5 steals, 9.5 defensive rebounds
Runner Up(s): Kawhi Leonard (TOR), Jrue Holiday (NOP), Joel Embiid (PHI)
I mainly based this one only on stats, and wow, the Brow has impressive defensive stats to start the year. Almost 4 blocks a game!!! Given, that probably won’t last, but what’s really impressive is that he’s averaging over two steals as a freaking center! He’s always been a rim protecting monster who can switch onto anyone, and if the Pelicans are finally a 50 plus win team this year, he’ll probably win it.
I’m not as proud of my runner ups, simply because I completely based it off eye test. However, that’s not that bad of a reason, as the voters will pick guys who they can remember for specific defensive plays. Kawhi has already gone semi-viral this year with his no-look steal, and would’ve been an MVP runner up for me if there wasn’t already a lot of guys in the running and the Raptors weren’t so good all around. Holiday just can’t be blown by on defense, and has already had several stretches of keeping an inferior point guard in front of him all the way up the court until he gives up and asks for someone else to take the ball up the court. Embiid is based off my own personal viewership entirely. I’ve been watching all of the Sixers games start to finish, and the only reason we’re not 0-6 is that Embiid erases everything on defense and frustrates the life out of almost everyone he plays. But the Brow has been too polarizing this far to not win an award, and there’s a good chance he’ll keep this up for the entire season.
6th Man of the Year: JJ Redick (PHI)
Per Game Averages – 20.2 points, 3.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 42.6% Field Goal Percentage, 41.8% Three Point Percentage
Runner Up(s): Julius Randle (NOP), Lou Williams (LAC)
“Oh he’s so biased, he picked a Sixers as the sixth man of the year so far” – most of my 37 readers. But it has to be Redick, okay? Even if he’s playing more than some starters and starts the second half, he still is on the bench at the start of games, and Redick has been sensational so far. He was so good that he almost out-dueled Blake Griffin in that crazy Pistons-Sixers game and hit one of the most unbelievable and-one threes in NBA history. The Sixers have been awful shooting the ball to where Redick is literally the only guy I trust to shoot threes. Every other play (like Covington and Dario) launch threes to the sound of me shouting “You Idiot!”, whereas whenever I see a JJ three, I get up from my chair and turn around in celebration, already knowing that he drained it. I can only hope that he keeps shooting this well in his new role, as the Sixers desperately need it right now.
I did seriously consider giving the award to Randle, who is the Pelicans’ fourth best player but comes off the bench as two of the better players already start at his positions. Randle has started to evolve his game, hitting pull up threes, while still having calling card in bull rushing guys to the left side. He’s averaging around 16 points and is another reason I’m starting to think the Pelicans could get as high as the second seed in the West. After Julius and JJ, there isn’t much competition right now. I simply picked Lou as a third runner up because he’s always a reliable scorer, and surprise surprise, he’s still averaging 16 point per game. But this was an easy one for me. I pick JJ Redick as the NBA season just started 6th Man of the two weeks. Trust the Process.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic (DAL)
Per Game Averages – 19.6 points, 3.8 assists, 6.2 rebounds, 43.6% Field Goal Percentage, 35.1% Three Point Percentage
Runner Up(s): Trae Young (ATL), DeAndre Ayton (PHX), Marvin Bagley (SAC), Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM)
Once again, a really tight two man race. I’ll admit, I did pick Luka because I’ve always loved him and I’ve never been much of a Trae guy. Both Doncic and Young are averaging around 19 a game, and they’re both already the best player on their teams. Given, the Hawks and Mavericks are bad, but still. Trae went off against the Cavs and did win the head-to-head game against Luka, but his shooting has been inefficient, while Luka is scoring surprisingly well and has displayed his wide array of scoring skills. Doncic barely edges out Young for the early Rookie of the Year award. As for our other candidates, they’ve been very impressive as well. Ayton is a walking 20-10 threat every night, Bagley has been shooting surprisingly well, and Jackson is already challenging Gasol’s role as a starting center in the league. NBA rookies, same as last year, are off to another great start, and at the head of it is the 19 year-old Slovenian prodigy—Luka Doncic.
Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer (MIL)
Runner Up(s): Dwane Casey (DET), Mike Malone (DEN)
I’ve teased it through this whole article that Coach Bud was going to win season just started Coach of the Year, and here it is. If he were given the award today in front of a live audience, he should give great thanks to Jason Kidd (rest in firing) for setting the bar so low that it was literally impossible to go under the bar. Budenholzer could have literally tripped over the coaching bar and he still would’ve gone higher than Kidd. But getting to his actual accomplishments, Budenholzer has clearly improved the Bucks. Their three point shooting, pace, defense, and overall cohesion all look better, and it seems as though Milwaukee have finally become the contenders we’ve wanted, and it’s all thank to Coach Bud (oh and some 7 foot Greek kid).
Dwane Casey is in a similar boat as Bud, as he’s looked great in comparison to former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons have gone from painful to watch to actually somewhat good. Now, I doubt this success continues for much longer, but so far, Casey has been a great coach. And I simply give respect to Malone for making Denver better so far and for teaching them to actually play defense. But this was the easiest one to pick so far. It’s Budenholzer, and it’s not close.
That’s the end of the my Awards. Feel free to drop a comment about who you would give the awards too, and don’t forget to follow thephillybuckeye.wordpress.com