The 2021-2022 season is nearing its end. This season has birthed new stars and given us a myriad of memorable moments. It seems like the race for all the awards this season is close. Nothing is a foregone conclusion. These are my NBA award predictions.
Rookie of the Year
Scottie Barnes - 15.3 PPG - 7.5 RPG - 3.5 APG - 1.1 SPG - 0.7 BPG - 49.2% FG - 30% 3FG, 73.5% FT - 6.6 Win Shares
Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors has the edge over his peers. Not only does his counting stats deem him highly favorable for this award, but his play on the court has also contributed to his team's success. Scottie Barnes is a versatile forward who has showcased his abilities as a defender, passer, and scorer. He plays winning basketball and his Raptors are sitting at the fifth seed heading into the playoffs. He has been consistent throughout the season and has contributed to his team reaching the playoffs unlike many of his peers who deserve honorable mentions.
Honorable Mentions: Evan Mobley, Josh Giddey, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green
Most Improved Player
Dejounte Murray - 21.1 PPG - 8.3 RPG - 9.2 APG - 2.0 SPG - 46.2% FG - 32.7% 3FG - 79% FT - 22.3 PER - 7.3 Win Shares - First Player in NBA History to Average 20+ PPG, 8+ RPG, 9+ APG & 2+ SPG
This season's Most Improved award is highly contested. Many players have taken their play to the next level and entered their breakout seasons. These improvements should go unnoticed, but the award can only go to one person. That person this season is Dejounte Murray. Murray was a first-time all-star this season, rightfully so. He is damn near averaging a triple-double on respectable shooting splits. The most impressive part of his season has been his ability to be a jack of all trades. He is the first player in NBA history to average 20 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals in a season. While he has become a Swiss army knife for Greg Popovich, on the court; he has slowly been blossoming into a leader and star in this league. This is just the beginning for the smooth guard playing in San Antonio.
Honorable Mentions: Darius Garland, Miles Bridges, Desmond Bane
Sixth Man of the Year
Tyler Herro - 20.7 PPG - 5 RPG - 4 APG - 44.7% FG - 40% 3FG - 87% FT - 56.1% True Shooting
Tyler Herro ran away with the sixth man award. Not only did he improve his play and stats, but he has also done so while coming off the bench. Herro has managed to carve out a role for himself on a contender. His confidence as a shooter and scoring mirrors that of previous sixth man winners such as Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson among others. There is no debate that he is the sixth man of the year, it's more than obvious.
Coach of the Year
Monty Williams - Phoenix Suns (64-18) - 78% Win Percentage - Best Record in the NBA - Franchise Record for Wins
After coming in second for the coach of the year last year, it's about time that Monty Williams gets his flowers for the job he is doing in Phoenix with the Suns. Under his tutelage, the Suns' franchise has almost erased a decade of irrelevance in the NBA. After making it to the NBA finals last season and falling short, Williams and his Suns have approached this season with a vengeance. That vengeance came in the form of setting a new franchise record for wins in a season. The Suns are establishing a winning culture in large part to Williams and his attitude. He has been on a steady incline as a head coach over the years and is entering that realm of top-level coaching winning basketball.
Honorable Mentions: Ime Udoka (Boston Celtics), Taylor Jenkins (Memphis Grizzlies), Mike Malone (Denver Nuggets)
Defensive Player of the Year
Mikal Bridges - 1.2 SPG - 109.6 Defensive Rating - 1st in Total Minutes Played - 1.30 Miles Average Traveled on Defense - Played All 82 Games - WATCH HIM PLAY
If you are one of those people who only reads a stat sheet, then you might not be aware of who Mikal Bridges is and what he has to offer on defense. I have lamented his abilities in the past and I'm telling you he is one of those players who you have to actually watch to fully understand the scope of what he does for his team defensively. Tune into any marquee Phoenix Suns game and you will see Bridges guarding the best player on the opposing team. The players who he often defends vary from Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic to Kevin Durant and LeBron James. His 109.6 defensive rating helped the Phoenix Suns garner a 106.5 defensive rating (only second to the Boston Celtics). His versatility and energy on defense is unmatched. He has become one of the few players you can count on to give 100% on defense every night. Just look.
Honorable Mentions: Marcus Smart, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Jrue Holiday
Most Valuable Player
Nikola Jokic - 27.1 PPG - 13.8 RPG - 7.9 APG - 1.5 SPG - 0.9 BPG - 58.3% FG - 33.7% 3FG - 81% FT - 32.8 PER (Highest in NBA history) - 15.2 Win Shares - First Player to Record 2000 Points, 1000 Rebounds, and 500 Assists
If you have read any of my previous pieces, then you know how I feel about Nikola Jokic and his case for MVP. I have no problem reiterating those sentiments. After winning MVP last season, a lot of people might have believed that there was no way Jokic can top that, well he did. With the absence of his co-stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, Jokic put on a backpack and carried the Denver Nuggets into the playoffs this season. In this season the Joker has recorded the highest player efficiency rating (PER) in NBA history; a record that was held by Wilt Chamberlain for 60 years.
Aside from that, Jokic has become one of the game's best all-around players and a generational talent at the center position. The Nuggets are heading into the playoffs as the sixth seed. Without the Joker they would have been a lottery team this season without a question. In addition, he became the first player in NBA history to record 2000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a season. The man is making history and carrying a team. If voters fatigue doesn't come into play this year, then we will see Jokic win back to back MVP awards.