As the regular season is approaching close to the two-thirds mark of the season, we are getting closer to crowning the best players in the league for their achievements. Each season, the top awards that players and coaches can earn are the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year. These can generate massive bonuses for a player’s contract, but it also helps us spotlight the best of the best.
This season is going to have a tough race in every category. In every award category, we break down the top-3 players we have seen so far. This could change over the last 25 to 30 games left, but if the season ended today, these are the players that would be at the top for each award. These are the likely award winners at the end of the 2021-2022 season.
Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid
Player Stats: 29.4 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG
2nd Place: Giannis Antetokounmpo
3rd Place: Nikola Jokic
The fact that the 76ers are in a position to overtake the Eastern Conference is a true testament to how Joel Embiid is playing this season. The 76ers are 3 games back for the top spot in the conference and they have done it all without Ben Simmons playing this year. Last year, Simmons played, made the All-Star team, finished runner-up in the DPOY voting, and the team was the No. 1 seed in the conference. This year, he hasn’t suited up one time, but here we are with the team once again in a position to secure home-court advantage in the playoffs.
Embiid is going to get help with James Harden arriving to form a new big three of Harden, Embiid, and Tobias Harris. How that will translate to wins remains unseen as Harden joins his third team in a little less than two years. All we know is that Embiid is thinking about the championship and right now he is truly playing like the best player in the league as he is leading the league in scoring.
Right up there with Embiid is Giannis Antetkounmpo, who is having another stellar season. The Bucks are tied with the Heat with the most wins in the East. With the team fully healthy, the Bucks could make a run at repeating as champions. Individually, Giannis is second to Embiid in scoring. Meanwhile, Jokic is averaging 25.8 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 7.9 assists, a similar line to when he won MVP last season.
Defensive Player Of The Year: Draymond Green
Player Stats: 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 BPG
2nd Place: Giannis Antetokounmpo
3rd Place: Rudy Gobert
For now, the Warriors are just behind the Cavaliers for the fewest points allowed per game. The team is looking like their dynasty days when they were a top defensive team in the league. With Klay Thompson back, the defensive makeshift team is even better, but the team was doing a lot of this before Thompson was even around. Green is averaging a poor man's triple-double and even pitching in a steal and a block per game.
Right behind Green is Giannis, who is in a prime position to repeat as MVP and DPOY, something that he did in 2020. In the running as well is Gobert, who leads the league in rebounding. If Gobert can win for the second straight year, it will tie him with Ben Wallace and Dikembe Mutombo for the most DPOYs in league history.
Rookie Of The Year: Evan Mobley
Player Stats: 14.9 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.7 BPG
2nd Place: Scottie Barnes
3rd Place: Cade Cunningham
This was once a race that Scottie Barnes was running away with, but Cade Cunningham started to get healthy, while Evan Mobley broke out of his shell. The Cavaliers own the best defensive team in the league in large, no pun intended, because of their size. With Mobley and Jarrett Allen, the team has their version of the twin towers. In this case, Mobley is putting up great value Tim Duncan numbers to help the Cavaliers jockey for a top-4 spot in the East.
Barnes is turning into a solid two-way player. He is averaging 14.8 points and 7.7 rebounds. This award could come down to who has the better finish at the end of the season. The Raptors are creeping up in the standings. Whoever has the higher seed, could be bringing home a ROY trophy.
Sixth Man Of The Year: Tyler Herro
Player Stats: 20.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.2 BPG
2nd Place: Kelly Oubre Jr.
3rd Place: Kevin Love
Assuming that Herro can stay on the court, this is an award that looks like he should win. Herro has missed 10 games this season due to injuries. When on the court, he is contributing 20 points per game on the bare minimum. He looks like his 2020 self that helped the Heat make the NBA Finals. That is why it should not be surprising that the Heat is in the pack for the No. 1 seed in the East.
As for the rest, Kelly Oubre has been a great pickup for the Hornets. He is averaging 16.6 points per game for an offense that is contending for scoring the most points in the league. As for Love, he could have left the league and demanded a trade, but he reinvented his game to help accommodate those around him. Love is shooting 39.3% from three-point range and giving 14.4 points per game. He is another reason Cleveland could make the playoffs.
Most Improved Player: Ja Morant
Player Stats: 26.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.4 BPG
2nd Place: Miles Bridgers
3rd Place: Darius Garland
When looking at this at first glance, you think how can a superstar improve? We have seen what Morant has done the last two years and he has gathered our attention. Morant is a former Rookie of the Year that averaged 19.1 points and 7.4 assists last season. Look at his numbers now, he is a clear-cut reason why the Grizzlies are battling for a top-4 spot in the Western Conference. Think about it, the 38-win Grizzlies would be the No. 1 seed in the East, but are only the No. 3 seed because of the Suns and Warriors.
Miles Bridges has taken off as well and he is a success story. Bridges is averaging 19.8 points and 7.1 rebounds. He is going to get paid a decent chunk of money this offseason. The tandem of Bridges and LaMelo Ball is something Charlotte could enjoy for years to come. As for Garland, he was getting serious All-Star consideration for his year. With Collin Sexton out of the year, Garland has taken on more of a scoring role, averaging 19.9 points per game.
Coach Of The Year: J.B. Bickerstaff
Win-Loss Record: 34-21 (4th in the East)
2nd Place: Monty Williams
3rd Place: Billy Donovan
Last year, the Cavaliers finished the season 22-50 and ended up with the No. 3 overall pick. Normally, one player from the lottery doesn’t change the trajectory of the team in one season. While Mobley is a great player, Bickerstaff has a lot to do with this resurgence. If you can remember, Bickerstaff took over for John Beilein in February 2020. Last year was his first full season. This year, the Cavaliers have already surpassed their win total and are on pace to have their first winning season since 2017-2018, which was the last season with LeBron James in town.
Monty Williams deserves a lot of praise as well. The Suns marched to the NBA Finals last year but had a lot of naysayers after their run. They defeated the Lakers without Anthony Davis, the Nuggets without Jamal Murray, and the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard. Now, they are 44-10 and own the best record in the league. As for Billy Donovan, the Bulls appear to be back and have held onto the No. 1 seed in the East at some parts of the season. With DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball, there were a lot of new pieces to incorporate and the Bulls have been competitive all year.