We only have a week left in the NBA regular season so it’s awards time. These awards are really close. Here are the key numbers by sports reference.
There are a few things at play here. It’s been over 3 decades since a player has won three in a row. Giving the award to Nikola Jokic would be historic. For me that shouldn’t matter or be a consideration, but for some, I’m sure it will be hard to give it to Jokic when players like Michael Jordan or LeBron James never won three in a row. There has always been some level of voter fatigue.
You also have the fact that Joel Embiid is very deserving and has been in the mix for multiple years now but has never won one. For me it’s really just a two man race. Giannis Antetokounmpo has played fewer games and hasn’t been at the same level.
This is really just a two-horse race in my opinion, and Jokic has the better statistics. He’s played more games and made more of an impact by most key metrics. Embiid is so close though you really hate to see him lose the race or never get an MVP award. They are both have incredible individual years. Jokic is one-tenth of an assist from averaging a triple-double and Embiid is leading the league in scoring as a center.
What inevitably will be brought up is defense. While Embiid I believe Jokic is an underrated defender. He has a 110 Defensive Rating and a +26 net rating. Embiid has a 109 Defensive rating and a 15 net rating. By ESPN’s Real Plus Minus however Embiid is significantly ahead 10.35 vs 7.85. By FiveThrityEight’s Raptor, Jokic is significantly ahead. You can find advanced stats that like both.
As much as it probably shouldn’t matter when it’s this close I’d probably give it to the player that does haven’t one. Over time that’s pretty much how this has worked. It’s not the award for the best player in the league or Jordan and LeBron would have far more MVP’s. Even though he sat in the last game vs Denver which was annoying I’d give it to Embiid.
MVP: Joel Embiid
There is probably a little cheating having Sabonis at PF and not Center. Both he and Anthony Davis should be on an All NBA team though and that’s how they both get on. Mitchell and Fox have played far more games than Ja Morant and Stephen Curry. That was the deciding factor
Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr
He has the best defensive rating in the NBA by a significant margin (3 points), and Memphis is the top defense. He’s also averaging 3.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game in only 28 minutes.
Rookie of the Year: Walker Kessler
Paolo Banchero will win the award putting the counting stats up he has, but Walker Kessler has has the best rookie season. If I had a vote I would vote for him. He leads the class with 7 win shares and a 2.1 VORP. It’s really not even close.
Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Coach of the Year: Mike Brown
Breaking a 16 year missed playoff streak gets you this award.
Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon
Do we really need this award?