It’s that time of the year — time for everyone to voice their opinions on who they think should win each NBA award. Whether your someone with a vote (or someone like me), it’s a fun thing to debate about. It lets us look back on the entirety of the regular season while attaching labels to some of our favorite players. If I had a ballot, here’s who I would pick as winners for the major awards and All-NBA teams.
MVP - Nikola Jokic
Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo are having stellar seasons and deserve to be praised for what they do on the basketball court. They also should be clear second and third place finishers in the MVP race. I don’t mean that as a slight to either of them, so I won’t sit here and tear down either player. Instead, this is meant to be a compliment as to how legendary this season from Nikola Jokic has been.
So lets talk about Jokic.
The Joker is averaging 27/14/8 and has a 66.1 true shooting percentage. He also leads the league in both offensive and defensive win shares, and offensive and defensive box plus/minus.
The Nuggets’ second-best player, Jamal Murray, is yet to suit up this season, and their third-best player, Michael Porter Jr., has only played in nine games. Despite all of that, the Nuggets still managed to clinch a playoff berth in the Western Conference, and will be a matchup nightmare for whoever they play.
If you remove Nikola Jokic from the Nuggets’ roster, they would likely be the worst team in the league. I mean, the other four starters are Monte Morris, Will Barton, Aaron Gordon, and Jeff Green.
Nikola Jokic is the Denver Nuggets and he should be the league’s MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year - Marcus Smart
If I was going to bet on Defensive Player of the Year, those odds would be concerning. I understand why Marcus Smart is the favorite. I mean, he’s who I would vote for. But there are a ton of deserving players that could steal votes. Also, a guard hasn’t won the award since Gary Payton in 1996.
For me, this is simple: Marcus Smart is the best defensive player on the best defensive team in the league. If you need someone to shut down an opposing guard/wing, Smart is one of the first guys you’d pick.
All odds are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook and are current as of 4:00 p.m. CT, April 8.
Rookie of the Year - Scottie Barnes
There’s a real case to be made for both Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham, but I’ll be surprised if Scottie Barnes doesn’t end up winning it. He’s the most deserving.
When you watch Scottie and the Raptors play, it’s almost impossible to believe he’s a rookie. The Raptors are an incredible team (it looks like they’ll finish in the five-spot in the East), and Barnes is one of the biggest reasons they’ve been so succesful. He’s started in all the games he’s played, and averages over 35 minutes a night.
The basic box-score stats back up everything positive people say about Barnes. He’s averaging over 15 points per game to go along with 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
If the season ended at the All-Star break, Evan Mobley would’ve ran away with the award, but the Raptors (and Scottie) have been turning it on amidst a skid from the Cavs.
It’ll be weird if Scottie Barnes doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, but looks like one of the better players in the second-round of the playoffs.
All-NBA First Team
Center: Nikola Jokic
Forwards: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum
Guards: Luka Doncic, Devin Booker
That’s right, folks! We have our first Dallas Mavericks sighting. Despite a slow start to the season according to the standards applied to Luka Doncic, he absolutely deserves to be one of the two guards on the First Team. He’s arguably the best player in the NBA, and has really grabbed this season by the horns. Luka’s the best guard in the league, and the Mavs’ playoff hopes are in his hands.
Devin Booker earned the other guard spot. He’s the best player on the best team (and it’s not even close). If that doesn’t qualify him for First Team, I don’t know what does.
Giannis and Tatum have the forward spots since I hate the idea of cheating and calling Joel Embiid a forward. Nikola Jokic gets the center spot since he’s the league’s MVP.
All-NBA Second Team
Center: Joel Embiid
Forwards: Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan
Guards: Steph Curry, Ja Morant
I wish I could award Ja Morant an honorary First Team spot, because he’s been the most fun player in the league this season. But ultimately, his numbers aren’t good enough to justify putting him above Booker or Luka. Steph is an obvious choice to pair with him, despite having a down year according to the Steph Curry standards.
If Kevin Durant played more games, he likely would’ve grabbed the First Team spot over Jayson Tatum, but due to missed games and the lack of Nets success, he has to be a Second Teamer.
It hurts to not have DeMar DeRozan on the first team. He’s been nothing short of incredible all season, and prior to the Bulls slide, he looked like a First Team guy. But the talent in the league is too strong. There’s no reasonable case to be made anymore for DeRozan to edge out any of the First Team guys.
Some people are going to cheat and put Joel Embiid on the First Team as a forward. I get it, but I don’t like it. He’s been the second-best center in the league this year, and that’s something to be proud of.
All-NBA Third Team
Center: Karl-Anthony Towns
Forwards: LeBron James, Pascal Siakam
Guards: Zach LaVine, Trae Young
Karl-Anthony Towns was the easiest choice for the Third Team. There’s no argument to be made for any other center in the league.
The Lakers sucked this year (like, really sucked), but ultimately LeBron’s numbers were too good to keep him off. It’s not easy to put up 30/8/6 on efficient shooting. Pascal Siakam deserves the final forward spot. He’s quietly put together a great season on a Raptors team that desperately needs him. He’s been fantastic.
The Third Team guards were the hardest to choose. There are a lot of guys you could make an argument for. Ultimately, I went with Trae Young and Zach LaVine. Both of those guys are having great statistical seasons and deserve to be recognized for their contributions to their team’s success. The Hawks were disappointing this year, but without Trae, they’d be an utter disaster. Zach LaVine is the second-best player on a team that was considered a real contender for most of the season.
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