With just a week left of the regular season, the NBA awards are about to leave their shelves. That means that winners for the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, and Coach of the Year are soon to be revealed.
The season has featured some new faces in the rankings, as well as some traditional figures. As we transition towards finalizing the standings, here are the top-5 candidates for each award as we speak.
2021 NBA MVP Race
5. Steph Curry
31.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Curry has done everything he can humanly do to make up for the loss of Klay Thompson. While playing in the play-in game is not ideal, Curry’s lethal shooting stroke has the Warriors as a playoff dark horse. Curry is contending with Bradley Beal for the NBA scoring title after a historic shooting month in April. At any given moment, Curry could score 50 points and that makes him a very valuable player.
4. Kawhi Leonard
25.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG
The Clippers are 4th best team in the league and the No. 3 seed in the West. In terms of small forwards, Leonard is one of the best rebounders and passers. His steals count ranks near top-5 in the league. Leonard is making a case for being crowned as the best two-way player in the league.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
28.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG
After failing to rank in the top-5, Antotkounmpo has the Bucks rolling. Nobody has gotten to the free-throw line more than Giannis, while he also ranks top-5 in offensive and defensive win shares. Giannis also ranks third in player efficiency. If the Bucks can snag the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, his stock could rise even higher.
2. Joel Embiid
29.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Embiid is in the same boat as Harden. Had Embiid not missed significant time this season, the MVP award would be his. Embiid leads the league in player efficiency rating, has made the most free throws in the NBA, and the 76ers are the No. 1 seed in the East. Unfortunately, Embiid has played 19 fewer games than our leading contender.
1. Nikola Jokic
26.4 PPG, 10,8 RPG, 8.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Not only is Jokic nearly averaging a triple-double as a center, but Jokic leads the league in offensive win shares, overall win shares, and is third in defensive win shares. Jokic trails Embiid by 0.1 in player efficiency. Despite Jamal Murray’s injury, Jokic has the Nuggets playing near the top in the NBA standings. As it stands, Jokic should win the MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year
5. Myles Turner
12.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 SPG, 3.4 BPG
It wouldn’t be right to not include the league leader in blocks. Turner is not showing up as the league leader due to an injury that has limited him to 47 games this season. With that said, if Turner had continued playing, he would have led the league in blocks by a wide margin.
4. Bam Adebayo
18.9 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Adebayo has great rebounding, steals, and blocks numbers, but what this comes down to is the respect he will receive from the media for his hustle. This award does not have a hustle statistic, but Adebayo could be the best “hustle player” in the league. He is constantly in the mix when all the action is taking place. It helps when the numbers back up the theory. In the end, Jimmy Butler is a better defender statistically with Adebayo in the middle of the paint.
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
28.2 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is remaining in the fold. He ranks in the upper tier in defensive win shares, while he is 13th in blocks per game. Giannis is not having the defensive type of season from last year but remains a game-changer in the paint.
2. Rudy Gobert
14.3 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.8 BPG
It’s going to be tough ousting Gobert out of his third Defensive Player of the Year Award. Gobert leads the league in defensive rebounds, as well as total rebounds. Gobert also ranks first in blocks and now leads the league in blocks per game with Turner’s absence. Gobert leads the league in defensive win shares as well. When it comes to defensive stats, Gobert has it locked up, but the media is going to look to make a new champion, so Gobert is in line to be runner-up.
1. Ben Simmons
14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Simmons ranks only fifth in steals per game, but there is not a single wing defender that is better than Simmons in the league. Simmons ranks sixth in defensive win shares; however, this is a stat that is predominantly led by bigs. He is the only point guard ranked in the top six, which makes him the best defending guard in the league. The media is ready for a new name at the top of defensive rankings and that is going to be Simmons this season.
Rookie of the Year
5. Jae’Sean Tate
11.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG
The Rockets are in full rebuild mode but have at least one piece moving forward. Tate’s numbers are credible stats for a starting player in this league. The Rockets are pretty bad this season, so having one shining light helps.
4. Immanuel Quickley
11.7 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The New York Knicks rise has been in part of the rookie’s rise in playing time. Quickly has the second-best free-throw percentage out of rookies with over 60 games, and ranks fifth in total points scored. Quickley is tied with Saddiq Bey for the third-most win shares, but out of the three other rookies ahead of him, he is the only player that will play in the playoffs.
3. Tyrese Haliburton
13.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.3 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Haliburton has pieced together a very successful rookie season. Haliburton ranks second in overall win shares and ranks third in total points. With Halliburton and De’Aaron Fox in the mold, the Kings have a bright future in their backcourt, especially with Haliburton running the point. Out of all rookies, Haliburton leads in assists per game.
2. LaMelo Ball
15.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.4 BPG
Unfortunately for Ball, playing in 20 fewer games than the leading contender will impact his stock in winning. If Ball had not sustained a wrist injury, he would have run away with this award. Despite missing time, Ball still ranks fourth in points, fifth in rebounds, and second in assists. It’s all going to come back to playing time and Edwards took advantage of Ball missing out.
1. Anthony Edwards
19.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Edwards is the only rookie that has scored over 1,000 points this season. He leads all rookies in points, ranks second in rebounds, and is third in assists. The No. 1 overall pick has played like the best player in the draft. Thanks to playing 20 more games than Ball, Edwards should be the second Rookie of the Year for Minnesota to win the award in the last six years.
Most Improved Player
5. Christian Wood
2021 Season: 21.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.2 BPG
2020 Season: 13.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Wood has the “bad team effect” hampering his votes this season. Wood could have been an All-Star based on his numbers. Had the Rockets been near the playoff play-in game, then he would likely have won this award. There are only a few players with better improvements statistically than Wood this season. With that said, the Rockets are the worst team in the Western Conference, so his stock has plummeted.
4. Zion Williamson
2021 Season: 27.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.6 BPG
2020 Season: 22.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.7 APG, 0.4 BPG
Williamson should receive some votes. After playing just 24 games last season, Williamson is shining in Year 2. HIs points are nearly five points higher, while his rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks are higher. He is also shooting over 60% from the field. Based on star power and increased production, Williamson will be a factor in the voting.
3. Michael Porter Jr.
2021 Season: 19.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG
2020 Season: 9.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Let’s break it down. In Porter’s first full season, he averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. This year, Porter is averaging 19.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. The improvement is there as the 22-year appears to finally be healthy. Porter could finish as high as runner-up based on the Nuggets’ final standings.
2. Jerami Grant
2021 Season: 22.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG
2020 Season: 12.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Grant’s play rose after he left the Nuggets for the Pistons. Essentially, Grant is the best player for the Pistons. He is averaging 10 more points than last season, while his rebounds and assists are all career highs. The problem for Grant is that the Pistons are one of the worst teams in the NBA. With that said, Grant has made a huge jump and will contend for a top spot.
1. Julius Randle
2021 Season: 23.9 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
2020 Season: 19.5 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Randle should run away with this award. Outside of his stats, his three-point field goal percentage jumped from 27% to 41%. He made the All-Star team and has the Knicks playing for a top-4 seed in the East. Nobody expected the Knicks to make the playoffs. Instead, this team could make it as far as the second round of the playoffs. If you need any assurance, watch Randle’s late-game heroics against the Clippers on Sunday. He has been doing that all season long.
Sixth Man of the Year
5. Shake Milton
12.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Milton can provide 20 points one night and then five points the next. His inconsistency will hamper his votes in the end, but he should still receive attention for his work this season. The 76ers are one of the best teams in the NBA and part of that has to do with the bench.
4. Terrence Ross
15.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Despite playing just 46 games this season, Ross was putting up near vintage Lou Williams stats. Ross was enjoying one of his best shooting seasons inside the arc, while his 87% free throw percentage is one of the best in the league. Ross will receive votes based on his early production and will finish in the top-5.
3. Derrick Rose
14.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Ten years ago, Rose was the youngest player to win the MVP. Ten years later, could he win his first-ever Sixth Man of the Year Award. It would be closure for Rose, who has battled through two major knee injuries. Rose is perfect for the Knicks’ game plan. When coming off the bench, all Rose has to do is to score. Since coming to New York, he is shooting 48.8% from the field, 41.7% from three, and can provide 25 points any given night. Voters will pay attention to his value to this New York team.
2. Montrezl Harrell
13.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Harrell’s numbers are not as flash as last season when he won the award but that comes with joining a better team. Harrell ranks fourth in points per game among bench players, while his rebounds are eighth. In regards to field goal percentage, he is the only player shooting more than 60% from the field. Harrell’s importance to the Lakers down the stretch of games does not go unnoticed, so expect Harrell to be in the mix for the award once again.
1. Jordan Clarkson
17.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Clarkson has had this award locked up for a while now. He leads all bench players in points and has been closing out games. Clarkson has made it look like vintage Lou Williams at times, a former three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner. Something tells us that deja vu is likely to happen in Utah.
Coach of the Year
5. James Borrego
The Charlotte Hornets are currently the No. 8 seed. Without a playoff play-in, the Hornets would be a first-round qualifier. Given that this is the first true year of a rebuilding season, Borrego has managed this team well. Gordon Hayward is having one of his best seasons in recent years. LaMelo Ball is a Rookie of the Year candidate. After this season, the Hornets could be a winning ball club moving forward.
4. Doc Rivers
How can you leave out the coach of the team likely snag the No. 1 seed in the East? The 76ers were a playoff team as the No. 5 seed last season. With about the same roster, Rivers turned it into the best team in the East. Voters will pay attention to that type of jump.
3. Monty Williams
The Suns nearly made the playoffs last season but fell one game short. With the addition of Chris Paul, Williams reunited with the All-Star, as he was once Paul’s coach in New Orleans. The Suns can still win the No. 1 seed assuming the Jazz lose a few games along the way. If that happens, Williams could vault to top-2 consideration.
2. Quin Snyder
The Jazz was also a playoff team last season as the No. 6 seed. With Bojan Bogdanovic healthy, the Jazz is contending for the No. 1 seed. Utah’s rise from six to one should make Snyder a top-3 vote finisher for the road. The Jazz has one week to hold off the Suns. If that happens, Snyder is easily the runner-up.
1. Tom Thibodeau
The Knicks head coach should win his second Coach of the Year Award with his second team. The former Bulls coach won the award in 2011. Ten years later, Thibodeau is taking a Knicks team that was desolate in the East standings last year and has them in prime contention to make a postseason run. Julius Randle is having a career season, while Derrick Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, is having a resurrection season. All of these have a common variable and that is Coach Thibs.
Credit for an idea: Hoop Colony