We’re more than half way through the NBA season and already it’s been full of surprises. The Denver Nuggets are in the two seed in the west, the Sacramento Kings are in Playoff Contention, LeBron’s injury, and much more. We are looking to have a wild second half to this season. But first let’s take a look back and grant some recognition to the players that deserve it.
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
There are many players putting up great numbers for the season so far, but nobody is even close to James Harden. He is putting up 36.7 points, 8.1 assists, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.1 steals per game. He is literally tearing up teams on a nightly basis.
He even went through a five game stretch where he averaged 52.2 points per game. Its beyond impressive how someone can do that against the world’s best basketball players. The Houston Rockets are a much worse team than last year, but they are still contenders because of what Harden is doing this season. If he keeps it up he might just earn back to back MVP awards.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic
Coming into the NBA, Luka was considered the best international prospect ever. So far he has lived up to the hype. He is averaging 19.0 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game. He is already competing at a high level as a nineteen year old.
Doncic is a wizard with the ball, making shots you can’t believe and constantly coming up with clutch plays for the Mavericks. It’s a great feeling for a team to know that they have their franchise player, and the Mavericks are probably ecstatic knowing that they have their guy. The sky’s the limit for this young star.
Defensive Player of the Year: Paul George
So far Paul George is having the best offensive season of his career. It’s pretty extraordinary that his defense has been so impressive as well. He leads the NBA in steals and is third in defensive win shares. This award has typically gone to front court players in recent years, which emphasizes how remarkable Paul George’s defensive game has been. Instead of guarding down low, he has the task of locking down the other team’s best perimeter player every night. The Thunder have the best defensive rating in the NBA and a big reason why is because ‘PG’ is leading the way.
Sixth Man of the Year: Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis has been a key factor to the Pacers success this season. He is nearly averaging a double-double off the bench with 15.0 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Sabonis is also pulling his weight in defense with one of the better defensive teams in the NBA. The Pacers are at their best when Sabonis is on the court which says a lot since they are currently third in the eastern conference. Why he’s not starting is a matter of logistics but with Victor Oladipo out for the rest of the year look for Domantas to have an even bigger role for the team going forward.
Most Improved Player: De’Aaron Fox
The Sacramento Kings have been one of the big surprises this season. They are currently two and a half games out of the playoffs and a big reason for their unpredictable success is the development of De’Aaron Fox. He made a leap from last season going from 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assist per game to 17.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 7.2 assist per game. Fox has stepped up as a leader for a team that hasn’t been this close to the playoffs in over a decade. He will be a key factor for the Kings in their late season push for the postseason.
Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer
The Milwaukee Bucks are in the top seed in the East and Budenholzer is a big reason why. The Bucks have made a couple of tweaks this season which have them one of the best teams in the NBA. Offensively the Bucks have made great strides this season as Milwaukee has the second best offensive ranking in the association. With LeBron no longer playing in the East the conference is wide open and the Bucks are the favorites to win it.
With the second half of the season underway only time will tell if these players and teams can continue to play at the level they have been since the beginning of the season.
All stats from: Basketball-reference.com
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