With the NBA season winding down, it’s award season; and things are starting to heat up. There are 5 primary awards that players can earn for their on-court efforts during the 2017-2018 season. The Rookie Of The Year, Defensive Player Of The Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man Of The Year, and the coveted MVP award.
Rookie of the Year
With young talent becoming a more common theme in the NBA, there are a good amount of rookies that are having an impact for their team already. Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz is putting up close to All-Star numbers already. Being selected as the 13th pick in the draft, he perhaps may be playing against the doubters who passed him up. If that’s the case, he sure has done just that, and if it weren’t for Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, he would probably be the front-runner for the award. Ben Simmons is having the kind of season many expected him to have after being selected No. 1 in the draft in 2016. He averages 16.5 points per game and more than 7 assists and rebounds per game as well. His efforts have helped put the 76ers in serious contention.
Defensive Player of the Year
There are many players in the NBA who can take over a game offensively, but there aren’t many that can take over a game defensively like the contenders for the Defensive Player Of The Year. Let’s start with the big man anchoring the best defensive team in the NBA, Al Horford. Al Horford has always been known for his offensive skill set, but this year he really took a giant leap on defense. His ability to block shots, get steals, and play on the perimeter has made the Boston Celtics a dynamic, gritty team on defense. The reigning Defensive Player Of The Year, Draymond Green, has also continued his run of excellence on defense. He’s putting up similar numbers to last year, but the Warriors were also the number one team on defense last year. However, the fact that the Warriors have slipped to the fourth best defensive team may impact his chances of winning the award.
Most Improved Player
The NBA is all about player development, hard work, and improving as an all-around player, and there are a lot of guys whose hard work has really started to pay off. In a trade that sent Paul George of the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder, many Pacers fans were starting to panic. Little did they know that by losing their star player, they gained another young star in Victor Oladipo. Oladipo has made the Pacers one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. His aggressive and polished style of play has earned him his first All-Star selection. He has better numbers in almost every key stat compared to last year. Victor Oladipo for Most Improved Player should be a lock.
No player has impacted their team off the bench, like career Sixth Man, Lou Williams. Williams is having a career year averaging just above 22 points per game and shooting lights out from beyond the arc. Traded to the Los Angeles Clippers early in the season, he has made them a much more dangerous offensive team even after their loss of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. However, he’s in a weird situation for the award, since he has also started many games. He has come off the bench more than 30 times this year, which makes him eligible for the award. As long as he continues coming off the bench more often, he should be the clear favorite to win this award.
All of the NBA awards are tremendous accomplishments for players to achieve, but no award is more of an accomplishment than the coveted MVP award. The four-time winner of this award, LeBron James, may have a shot at winning it once again. He has been the leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers through their rollercoaster ride of a season. He’s had more triple-doubles this season than any season in his career. He’s also averaging a career high in assists and having one of the most efficient years of his career. However, he probably still isn’t the favorite to win the award, because of a bearded man named James Harden. James Harden has skyrocketed (no pun intended) the Houston Rockets to the best team in the NBA. His resume for this season is ridiculous. He is leading the league in scoring, he averages almost nine assists per game, he had the first ever 60 point triple-double, and he has given the Rockets the best record in the NBA (as of 3/8/18). The Beard is having a historic year, just give the man the award.
Award season is almost here, so we will just have to wait and see how the rest of the season unfolds. One thing that is for sure, is that the players contending for awards are well deserving of their potential NBA hardware.