With the end of November only a couple of days away and most teams at or around the 20-game mark, the regular season is officially 25% complete.
We are at the 25m mark in a 100m race.
The first relay in a 5-person relay race.
The first quarter of a 48-minute game.
You get me?
There are still a lot of games to be played, but things are slowly becoming clearer. The metaphorical ‘dust’ has settled and right now is a good checkpoint to say “sooooo how’s everything going?”
I must re-iterate, these probably won’t be the correct winners. It is EARLY.
But without further ado, your quarter-season award winners.
I had some fun with this.
MVP: Stephen Curry
Here are Steph Curry’s stats from his unanimous MVP season:
He was the scoring champion that season averaging 30.1 ppg on 50-45-90 shooting splits, nabbing over 5 rebounds and just under 7 assists, and a league-leading 2 steals per game. He led the league in OBPM and BPM. He was #1 in 538’s Raptor Metric in overall plus/minus.
Here are Steph Curry’s stats through 19 games this season:
He is 3rd in the league in scoring, averaging 31.4 ppg on 52-44-91 shooting splits, nabbing just under 7 rebounds and just over 7 assists, and over 1 steal a game. He’s leading the league in OBPM and BPM. He is 2nd in 538’s Raptor Metric in overall plus/minus only behind Nikola Jokic.
There’s a lot of competition for the MVP award, this early into the season. Luka Doncic is putting up Michael Jordan-esque scoring numbers on Michael Jordan-esque usage. Jayson Tatum is putting up dominant 2-way performances and leading the Celtics to wins along the way. Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are their regular ol’ dominant selves.
But it’s hard not to give the early nod to Steph given the fact that he is out-performing the best season of his career (and one of the best seasons in NBA history) all while simply carrying the Warriors on his back.
The Warriors are a +10 when Curry is on the court and a -19 in the minutes he sits. With the Warriors’ bench struggling, Curry has purely had to stay in ball games longer and put up some insane numbers just so that the Warriors can be 11-10.
I think his sheer impact, along with his jaw-dropping numbers, gives him the edge over the other guys right now.
But you can’t have a wrong answer right now. Any one of Tatum, Steph, Giannis, Jokic of Luka can win it as of now.
Honorable mention: Jayson Tatum, Giannis, Jokic, SGA, Donovan Mitchell
DPOY: OG Anunoby
Before you exit this article, muttering under your breath that this is some sort of homer take – let me try and convince you otherwise.
There is no question just how good Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Bam Adebayo have been on the defensive end for their respective teams. But Anunoby has kept the Raptors’ defense afloat (currently ranked 11th in the league) all while Toronto has dealt with injuries to Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr, Precious Achiuwa, Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, Otto Porter Jr and pretty much everyone else on the roster.
In fact, Anunoby & Raptors Rookie Christian Koloko are the only guys who have played in every game this season. Anunoby, for his efforts, leads the league in steals per game at 2.4. He’s 4th in total deflections. Leads the league in loose balls recovered. It’s Giannis, Jarrett Allen, Draymond, and him at the top of the league in defensive field goal percentage.
Lopez deserves all the praise in the world for thriving in his specific scheme, as a drop big for a Bucks team that has Jrue and Giannis ready to help at all times. Giannis deserves credit for being that help. Bam deserves a shout for being the anchor on defense for a good defensive team in Miami.
But OG has had to wear multiple hats on that end for his Raptors, doing so successfully, all while taking on an even larger offensive role this month with half of his team hurt.
5.5 weeks in, the Defensive Player of the Year is OG.
Honorable Mention: Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ivica Zubac, Bam Adebayo
MIP: Bol Bol
Probably my biggest gripe with NBA awards is how we, as a collective basketball society, define and determine who is the Most Improved Player.
Last year, Ja Morant won it. And while he surely did make the leap into superstardom, it should have been his teammate Desmond Bane who won.
SGA is the favorite to win the award right now for a similar reason because, in many people’s eyes, he had made that ‘superstar leap’. Tyrese Haliburton is in that conversation as well because, with the extra opportunity, he has turned into an all-star player.
But these guys were already this good. Morant was already well on his way to superstardom before winning MIP. SGA is just healthier so people are paying more attention. Haliburton has improved, yes, but a lot of that is by proxy of the extra opportunity.
Extra usage is a huge part of this – don’t get me wrong. But I just don’t like when we make it the whole equation. I’m happy for SGA to be involved in the MVP convo. I think Haliburton should be an all-star. But both of these guys were already VERY good. They have improved, but they are not the MOST improved.
That’s Bol Bol.
Last season Bol played in a total of 14 games for the Denver Nuggets. He played in 328 minutes through his first 3 seasons in the NBA.
He has already played 498 for the Orlando Magic, playing in 19 games and starting in 14. He went from averaging 2.4 points per game last season, to over 13. He’s shooting 41% from behind the arc, nabbing over 8 rebounds and blocking 2 shots per contest.
He’s playing more point guard, facilitating for the Magic with their guard rotation injured, and is – for the first time in his career – a wholly positive player. Yes, he’s been given the extra opportunity for a bad Orlando Magic team – but he’s taken a SIGNIFICANTLY bigger leap with that extra opportunity. He went from one of the worst players in a league of over 300 to a borderline top-100 guy?
He has completely revitalized his career. He is no longer a novelty act. No longer a joke.
That is THE Most Improved Player.
Honorable mentions: Kevin Heurter, Devin Vassell, OG Anunoby, Pokusevski, Desmond Bane, Lauri Markannen
6MOTY: Bennedict Mathurin
I’m usually on the side of “scoring isn’t everything for the 6MOTY award” and it sort of annoys me that, of all things, points per game is the #1 indicator for this trophy.
But look, man… when a rookie is leading all bench players in the league in scoring… all while helping his team win… it’s worth nothing.
Bennedict Mathurin hasn’t started in a single game for the Indiana Pacers but has put up 18.8 points per game while shooting better than 40% from behind the arc on almost 6 attempts in 27 minutes a night.
He’s the 2nd leading scorer for a team that has gotten out to a surprisingly awesome start.
He’s my pick right now.
Honorable mention: Christian Wood, Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Boucher, Norm Powell
ROTY: Paolo Banchero
Mathurin has probably been the bench spark in the league but Banchero has still been the best rookie.
He’s leading all rookies in scoring and rebounds, and he’s 2nd in assists. He hasn’t shot that well from three (only 25%) but he’s done so much damage inside the arc and has been another playmaker in Orlando.
It’s kind of wild that I’m giving two Orlando Magic players awards one month into the season but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.
Banchero hasn’t been far-and-away the best rookie. Mathurin and Jaden Ivey have given him a run for his money. But right now it’s Paolo.
Honorable Mention: Bennedict Mathurin & Jaden Ivey
Most Likely To Win NBA Championship: Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics haven’t skipped a step, beat, or anything else that is skippable. They’re 16-4 with the best winning percentage and net rating in the league one month in. They are the #1 offense in the NBA by a mile at 119 points per 100 possessions (2nd best is 3 points worse than them). Their defense is slowly starting to creep back up to normal (at 16th and climbing) and Tatum looks like a top 5 player, all while Jaylen Brown looks like an all-star. Malcolm Brogdon has blessed them with exactly what they needed from the guard spot. And not having their coach hasn’t mattered, even a little bit.
The reason I pick the Celtics over other teams (like the Bucks) is that their offense has just looked so potent. They complete actions with their eyes closed. They generate open shots with ease. Their drive-n-kick scheme is hard to counter.
Just seems like they’re poised for another deep playoff run and most likely, an NBA championship.
Most Disappointing Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
You won’t find someone who was more all-in on the Timberwolves this season. They have made me eat my words.
Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell haven’t been good enough playmakers in the starting lineup. Karl Anthony-Towns has looked awful on defense. And the cast of gritty, veteran players the Timberwolves traded in exchange for Gobert are sorely missed.
To be fair, Gobert has been his regular ol’ self. But the team has not at all adjusted around him.
At first, I thought Gobert would be able to plug holes for the Wolves, fix the things that were broken, and elevate them.
But instead, the Timberwolves have been unable to play with him. And I’m starting to worry.
Most Exciting Team: Sacramento Kings
Well, you win some and lose some… because there was no team I was higher on this season (compared to my peers) than the Sacramento Kings.
De’Aaron Fox has looked like an all-star next to some actual shooters. Domantas Sabonis has thrived as a center on offense. Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk have provided an extra scoring punch that was needed. Keegan Murray, Harrison Barnes, Trey Lyles have done a nice job rounding out the core. The Kings have the 2nd best offense in the league.
Head Coach Mike Brown has them playing better defense. And they are, quite literally, beaming with light in the capital of California.
Funniest/Most-Confusing Team: Atlanta Hawks
I’m honestly just not sure what to make of this ball club. They traded or let go of all their shooters and now they rank near the bottom of the league in that category. They should be much better defensively because of the addition of Dejounte Murray, but they’re still middle-of-the-pack on most nights. Trae Young hasn’t shot the ball well, and that’s a good sign because once he does, they will look better.
But I’m just bleh about them in general. John Collins has become an afterthought. But they have seen good contributions from young guys like Jalen Johnson, Onyeka Okongwu, and rookie AJ Griffin.
Something just tells me that the Hawks need to make another move. What that is? Depends on what’s out there.
But they haven’t looked like a juggernaut. And they haven’t necessarily been disappointing.
They’re just sort of there.
Best Storyline: NBA Parity
There are 16 teams with 10 or more losses. There are 14 teams with 9 or fewer losses. Only 8 games separate the best team in the West (currently the Phoenix Suns) and the worst team (the lowly Houston Rockets). In the East, 12 teams are fighting for 10 play-in spots. Every night is a dogfight. It’s early, who knows if it stays this way.
But NBA parity is here, folks. It kinda looks ugly. But it’s made the league a whole lot more interesting.
Worst Storyline: The Brooklyn Nets
Self-Explanatory. I’m tired of talking about them. Things are picking up, Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons are playing well. But there’s no doubt, they’ve been the biggest headache of the season through the 1st month. Or Kyrie has. Anyways. Done.
Most Underrated Player: Ivica Zubac
I was planning on writing this a while ago, but #perfecttiming.
Zubac just dropped 31 points, 29 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a single game against the Indiana Pacers. He has been the lynchpin behind the Clippers’ 2nd best-ranked defense. He’s gotten even better in the Pick n Roll as a roller, generating a whopping 1.20 points per possession as the roll-man.
He’s an insanely underrated player. The Kevon Looney of the Clippers, if you catch my drift.
And he deserves his praise this month.