NBA Quarterly Awards

We have recently passed the quarter mark of the regular season and, as we head towards Christmas, there’s no better time than the present to highlight the early pacesetters for the NBA’s end-of-season awards.

Unlike the Oscars, early-season performances do matter when it comes to NBA awards.  Sure, there’s plenty of water to pass under the bridge between now and mid-April and the outlook for any of these awards could change in a moment, but now is when a player (or coach) builds their buzz; elevating themselves into ‘the conversation’ before ramming their case home post All-Star.


MVP: Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)

With reigning MVP Kevin Durant missing OKC’s opening 17 games and LeBron James getting things sorted in Cleveland, the race to hoist this year’s Maurice Podoloff Trophy is wide open.  At this stage, I’d be handing the silverware to Steph Curry who has been the best player on the NBA’s best team over the first quarter of the season.  The Warriors have won 15 straight to extend their league-leading record to an outstanding 20-2 and have been paced by Curry’s 23 points, 5 boards, 7.7 dimes and 1.9 swipes per game.   Curry is top 10 in scoring, assists, steals, defensive rating and defensive win shares while holding the league’s third highest PER.  He is also a chance to join the elusive 50-40-90 club this season with red hot shooting clips of .485 from the floor, .394 from downtown and .920 from the line. The Chasing Pack: Despite his young age, Anthony Davis’ stat lines have resembled lotto tickets so far this season.  The Pellies, however, have only won 11 of their first 22 games which impacts significantly on Davis’ MVP credentials.  They’ll need to get well above .500 for The Brow to receive serious MVP consideration as the year progresses.  James Harden leads the league in scoring, has driven the Rockets to an impressive 18-5 start and, amazingly, leads the league in defensive win shares while Memphis pivot Marc Gasol and 4-time MVP LeBron James are also part of the conversation at this early stage.


Rookie of the Year: Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks)

Under the guidance of everyone’s favourite soda-spiller the 2014/15 Milwaukee Bucks have been a genuine surprise-packet thus far.  After yesterday’s road win over the Clippers, Milwaukee’s record stands at 12-12; impressive when you consider they were 5-19 at the same stage last season.  One important aspect of their improvement has been the steady play of number 2 overall draft pick, Jabari Parker, who is second among the Bucks in minutes played (behind point guard Brandon Knight).  Parker is averaging 12.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while connecting on an impressive 49% of his field goal attempts.  While there remains plenty of room to grow defensively, Parker has recently shown signs of being even more assertive on offense, averaging 14 points on 58% shooting over his past 4 games. Like the majority of this highly-touted rookie class, it’s fair to say that Parker has somewhat underwhelmed compared to expectations in the early going but it doesn’t change that fact that he is still the man to beat for the ROY Award.The Chasing Pack: Don’t look now but Andrew Wiggins is starting to make his run.  The Western Conference Rookie of the Month for November now leads all rookies in scoring and has averaged over 20 points per game over Minnesota’s past three outings, including an impressive double-double in a win over Portland that included 4 assists and 2 steals.  The new kid on the ROY block is Philadelphia’s K. J. McDaniels, the 32nd pick in last June’s NBA Draft.  McDaniels, who sat out yesterday’s overtime loss to Memphis with a sore ankle, has recently risen to 3rd among rookies in scoring while continuing to lead all NBA guards, rookies or otherwise, in blocked shots with 1.5 swats per game.


6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers)

Hopefully voting fatigue doesn’t prevent Jamal Crawford, who has won this award twice before, from becoming the first player in history to be named the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year on three separate occasions.  Crawford has continued to ball-out off the bench for the Clips this season, averaging 16.5 points (with a very healthy true shooting percentage of .584) accompanied by his usual 3 assists and a steal per game.  Crawford will turn 35 in March next year and is playing his 15th season in the NBA, making the consistency of his elite production all the more impressive.The Chasing Pack: Toronto Raptors shooting guard Lou Williams is nipping at Crawford’s heels. With 14.4 points per game, Sweet Lou is the third highest scorer on the best offense in the Eastern Conference as determined by both points per game (108.4) and offensive efficiency (111.7). He dropped 36 points in a win over Cleveland last month – a performance that included 15/15 from the free throw line – and his elite PER of 21.25 ranks slightly ahead of Crawford’s at 19.52.  Watch this space.


Defensive Player of the Year: Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors)

Say what you like about Anthony Davis or Roy Hibbert, but the Bogey Man gets my vote for Defensive Player of the Year thus far.  Quite simply, Bogut has been the most important element of the best defense in the league to this point.  The Warriors lead the league in both opponent field goal percentage and defensive efficiency and Bogut, Golden State’s defensive anchor, leads the league in both defensive rating and defensive real plus-minus.  Bogey Man may not lead the NBA in blocked shots (he ranks equal 4th) but according to SportVU opponents have shot just 38.6 percent at the rim when Bogut has been there defending it which is best in the league among rim protectors.  The point here is that Bogut is a heady defender who is not at all interested in the box score.  Instead, he focuses on protecting the rim without fouling and forcing opponents into tough, contested attempts possession after possession.  As is well known, the ever-present issue for Bogut is health and, worryingly, he has missed the last few games with knee soreness.  The big fella had his knee drained over the weekend and will hopefully be back on the floor for the Dubs early this week, continuing his march towards his first ever DPOY Award.The Chasing Pack: New Orleans star Anthony Davis and Indiana’s Roy Hibbert present as Bogut’s primary competition for this award thus far.  Davis, who is playing at an incredible level across the board, leads the league in blocked shots and ranks inside the top 10 for both rebounds and steals.  Hibbert, meanwhile, has carried the undermanned Pacers on defense this season and ranks third in opponent field goal percentage at the rim (40.5%), trailing only Bogut and Houston’s Dwight Howard.


Most Improved Player: Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

Nobody has placed a better bet over the past 12 months than the one Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler placed on himself heading into this season.  In late October Butler turned down the Bulls’ four-year, $40 million extension offer, ensuring that he will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season.  Clearly, Jimmy Buckets saw his own leap coming even if not many others did; at least not quite to this extent.  Butler shot less than 40% from the floor last season, but the former Marquette star is currently posting a true shooting percentage of .597, thanks to a field goal percentage that is edging toward 50%. Butler’s overall offensive output has gone through the roof this season on the back of an improved post game and a career-high 8.3 FTAs per game, resulting in a scoring average (21.0) that ranks just outside the league’s top 10.  Last month I wrote about Butler’s amazing journey to the NBA but as each week of this season passes, Butler continues to write new chapters to his incredible story.  Is it possible the next part of his story could take place at MSG during the league’s All-Star Weekend in mid-February?The Chasing Pack: Once again, Mr. Incredible – Anthony Davis – appears in the chasing pack for one of the Association’s major awards.  The Brow’s ascension to the game’s absolute elite is not a major surprise to keen NBA observers, but the speed at which he has risen there certainly deserves recognition.  Los Angeles F/C Jordan Hill, Golden State duo Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Milwaukee PG Brandon Knight and Orlando’s Tobias Harris have also been receiving early-MIP buzz.


Coach of the Year: Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)

The Warriors are off to their best start in franchise history and rookie head coach Steve Kerr is loving every minute of it.  “It means I’m the luckiest coach in NBA history because I inherited a really good team,” Kerr told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne last week.  Kerr certainly did take over a talented roster, including a potential MVP in Steph Curry, but the 5-time champion deserves considerable credit for the changes he’s made to the Dubs’ structures and the way he has managed the team.  The Warriors have improved significantly at both ends of the floor this season and are quickly asserting themselves as genuine title contenders.  Kerr recently became the first coach in NBA history to begin his career with a 19-2 record – a mark that has now extended to 20-2 on the back of a remarkable 15-game winning streak.  Kerr is simply running away with the COY Award and may be out of sight before too long.The Chasing Pack: Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer has definitely impressed with his work guiding the 16-7 Hawks to 3rd place in the East, especially after the tumultuous offseason that played out in Atlanta.  Others who have laced up their sneakers to run after Kerr include Toronto’s Dwane Casey and Memphis’ David Joerger.


Agree with my selections?  Disagree?  Let us know by tweeting @liam_santa or @Downtownball or by adding your thoughts in the comment section below.


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I like to think that I bring the all-important little man’s perspective to the Downtown crew. The rim may be 10-feet high folks but the court, itself, is at ground level. My one season playing ball on the national scene was back in 2001/02, when I played the vital role of 4th-string PG as a member of the Victoria Titans. Go back and watch the tapes, I’m confident that only Patty Mills outranks me worldwide as an end-of-the-bench towel-waver. This experience, however, gives me the kind of an insight into pro hoops that can only be gained by spending time ‘behind the curtain’. These days I spend most of my spare time squeezing every last cent out of my League Pass subscription. And when I’m not playing, watching, writing about or podcasting about basketball, you’ll find me soundly outplaying all-comers at the fantasy version of the game. Safe to say that if I had a tatoo it would say ‘mum’. But if I had two tatoos, the second one would definitely be of a basketball. Follow me on twitter: @liam_santa

One Response

  1. Michael at |

    Bit tough not to have Marc Gasol in DPOY consideration. Hopefully Bogut is ready to go Wednesday for Warriors @ Memphis.

    Jordan Hill MIP… really? His numbers per 36min are almost identical if not worse (FG%, Rebounding) this season than last season. And alongside Boozer/Davis hes a big part of the worst interior defense in the league.

    Andre Iguodala for 6th man. Would be a nice way to buck the trend of this being yet another offense only award.

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