Mid-Season NBA Awards

*TS%- True Shooting Percentage

*EFG%- Effective Field Goal Percentage

*WS- Win Shares

*VORP- Value Over Replacement Player

*BPM- Box Plus Minus

*DPBM- Defensive Box Plus Minus

*DWS- Defensive Win Shares

Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokić

PPG:  27.1        FG%: 56.7        PER: 31.5

RPG: 11.0        3P%: 41.8        WS: 8.3

APG: 8.6        FT%: 88.1        VORP: 4.4

SPG: 1.6        TS%: 65.6        BPM: 11.6

BPG: 0.6        EFG%: 60.9        Win%: .583 

What is the percentage of people that read this that will reference the Nuggets’ record as a reason to strip the Joker of his well deserved title? The answer is…*drum roll*… TOO MUCH! Those who watch the Nuggets play as much as I do know one simple fact. The team is selling on Jokić’s MVP campaign HARD. No matter though. Believe it or not, Big Honey is still putting together one of the most amazing statistical seasons in NBA history. 

Nikola leads the league in double-doubles (by a mile), triple-doubles, and he is 1.9 free throw percentage points away from having a 50-40-90 season which would make him the first center in NBA history to accomplish that feat. Not only does he lead the league in all of the advanced statistics listed above, but some of them are all-time highs for the NBA. If the season were to stop today, Joker would have the 2nd highest PER in a single season for any player in the history of the NBA. 

No one can call this season unprecedented for the Joker, since he has seen a consistent spike in productivity on a season-by-season basis since arriving in the NBA, but who could have guessed he would be this player at just 26 years of age? The answer… I DID! I have been on the Nikola Jokić train since he was drafted. I called future MVP back in 2017 before he was an All-Star and even before the Nuggets had made the playoffs during his tenure there. Nikola Jokić is my single most proud achievement when it comes to calling the future in sports, and I am taking my victory lap. 

*TPA- Total Points Added

If that was not enough to convince you of his statistical prowess, here is where the Joker lines up next to his peers in total points added this season. He is in a class of his own thus far this season, and it would be a disservice to the NBA culture to name anyone else MVP. 

Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball

PPG: 15.8        FG%: 44.9        PER: 18.8

RPG: 6.0        3P%: 37.8        WS: 2.6

APG: 6.3        FT%: 80.2        VORP: 1.3

SPG: 1.6        TS%:     56.1        BPM: 3.1

BPG: 0.4        EFG%: 52.7        Win%: .486

I never understand players like LaMelo Ball around draft time. His situation was a lot similar to Luka Dončić’s in that we all knew he was the best player in the draft, but we also knew he was going to drop past the first pick. Maybe teams will get the memo from now on… TAKE THE TRANSCENDENT TALENT! Nothing against DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Anthony Edwards, or James Wiseman. They are all at the very least good players who still have a lot to offer in this league, but you must have been crazy to think they could have elevated their teams the way Dončić and Ball have elevated theirs. 

LaMelo Ball has been an absolute phenom since he was in high school. It felt like we were waiting for his NBA eligibility forever, but it is finally here, and boy, he has not disappointed so far. It may even be safe to say at this point that he is better than his highly touted brother, Lonzo Ball. LaVar Ball agrees!

Ball has been putting up absurd numbers for a rookie who played a large chunk of the season coming off the bench. Aside from the statistical dominance, Ball seems to be lighting up my phone with B/R notifications on a nightly basis with his highlight real passing and electric transition offense. 

Ball has pretty much separated himself from the pack at this point. Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman seem to be disappearing in his shadow while Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley looks to be making small strides here and there. That being said, it would take some major unforeseen circumstances to knock Ball off his pedestal. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert

SPG: 0.5        PER: 22.5        DBPM: 2.1

BPG: 2.7        WS: 5.1        DWS: 2.5

Is he worth $40,000,000 a year? No!

Is he DPOY again? Yes!

What else needs to be said for the best rim protector in the league on the league’s third ranked defense? Those who know me know how critical I was on Rudy Gobert’s most recent contract extension, and I will never think a pure shot blocker who adds zero dimension to your offense will be worth that much money. With that said, it is impossible to deny that he is the defensive anchor of the best team in the NBA right now. 

Averaging a career high 2.7 BPG, he has found another way to up his defensive interior game. Yes, he is frequently bullied by elite centers like Jokić and Embiid, but they are virtually unguardable. The only other player in serious contention right now is Ben Simmons, and Rudy is most certainly not a foregone conclusion, but he is the DPOY midway through this season. 

Most Improved Player: Julius Randle

PPG: 23.2        FG%: 48.3        PER: 20.8

RPG: 11.1        3P%: 40.8        WS: 4.5

APG: 5.5        FT%: 80.5        VORP: 2.1

SPG: 0.8        TS%:     58.7        BPM: 4.1

BPG: 0.2        EFG%: 53.7        Win%: .514

BE WARNED… I am a Knicks fan and this is my space! MY SPACE!

Julius Randle has been nothing short of a miracle for Knicks Nation this season. Every Knicks fan this offseason, including myself, was begging the front office to ship this dude as far away from this organization as possible. Randle and Payton were public enemies 1A and 1B coming into this season. Picked up one offseason prior, Randle was what we got instead of Kevin Durant, which doomed him from the start in the eyes of the common Knicks fan. When the season started it only got worse. Not only did Randle not play up to his expectation, but he did not come anywhere close. He was ball-dominant, inefficient, turnover prone, had a terrible shot selection, and would frequently ice out young gun R.J. Barrett with the assistance of Elfrid Payton. This season on the other hand has been a complete 180.” –George Zain, “Knicks Basketball is BACK!”

I tried my best to verbalize the thoughts of every Knicks fan at the time, but words cannot truly describe the life Julius Randle has brought to this organization. After being selected to his first All-Star team, Julius is not looking to stop there. Randle is making a strong case for the All-NBA team, which will be almost undeniable if he and coach Thibs find a way to lead this Knicks team to a playoff berth. One which they are currently on pace for. 

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson

PPG: 17.9        FG%: 44.7        PER: 18.8

RPG: 4.0        3P%: 37.0        WS: 2.7

APG: 2.3        FT%: 96.7        VORP: 1.1

SPG: 0.9        TS%:     58.1        BPM: 2.7

BPG: 0.2        EFG%: 55.5        Win%: .750

Jordan Clarkson is 6th man of the year. No if, ands, or buts. He currently stands at -360 according to Vegas’s odds, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down his contributions off the bench for this Jazz team. 

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau

Win%: .514

Seed: 5th

“The way Thibs has transformed the culture of Knicks basketball is unprecedented!… Although the statistics are spectacular, I am more impressed with the buy-in from guys who were previously uninterested in defense like Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton. Coach Thibs has these boys playing awe-inspiring “swarming Knick D” as Clyde likes to say, and he deserves 100% of the credit.”George Zain, “Knicks Basketball is BACK!”

Again, trying to state the unstatable here. I know coach Thibs needs to have a better record than .514 to win this award, but if culture change and organizational impact has anything to do with this award at all whatsoever, Thibs is the front runner. He has transformed this Knicks team from a perennial bottom feeder to playoff-caliber team in just one season. An irredeemable team that has been clawing for relevance since the downfall of Carmelo Anthony finally has their leader. Julius Randle might be the MVP on the court, but coach Thibs is the MVP of this team.