We’re approaching the time of the year where there’s a handful of games left. Teams are playing for playoff positioning, play-in positioning, and draft positioning. Still, in a year where everything seems unorthodox, the NBA awards conversation has heated up over the last week. However, it’s been a lackluster conversation through most of the season, thanks to an increased number of injuries.
Without meandering around the topic, the Suave Report team has some pretty strong opinions on who they believe should win the Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, and Most Valuable Player award.
Thunder reporters Addam Francisco and NBA and culture reporter AJ Bussey weighed in on their selections.
Coach of the Year:
Addam Francisco: Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns.
This selection was pretty easy for me to make, based on the fact that the Suns went from being one of the laughing stalks of the NBA for over a decade to a top-two team in the league in just one season. Williams proved his impact on a team and his players while he was in OKC, and it’s all coming to fruition now.
AJ Bussey: Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz.
Just the one-year turnaround from the sixth seed to the top team in the NBA says a LOT about not only Coach Snyder’s system but how much his players have bought into what he’s doing.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Addam Francisco: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers.
To me, this shouldn’t be a question. Rudy Gobert has won the previous two. He’s established himself as one of the best defensive players in the game. This year, it’s time for something new, and that would be Ben Simmons. He’s unique in that he’s an elite perimeter, on-ball defender, and big enough to hold his own in the paint as well. He’s averaging 1.6 steals per game and 0.6 blocks for the Sixers, who are most definitely contenders in the Eastern Conference.
AJ Bussey: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Do you know how hard it is to choose between Utah’s Rudy Gobert and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons? Both bring an immense amount of pressure every night. But when it comes to the halfcourt, being able to guard 1-5, Ben Simmons takes the cake. This, by far, is one of the closest DPOY races I’ve seen in my life (and there is no denying how dominant of a paint presence Rudy Gobert is), but Simmons brings a defensive anchor presence that Gobert at times misses.
Most Improved Player:
Addam Francisco: Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Randle is the most predictable selection in this season’s awards. He’s
unlocked his potential and is thriving in New York. Last season, the Knicks were 21-45 on the season. This year, they’re 37-29 with six games remaining. Randle went from averaging 19.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game last year on 27.7 percent shooting from three to 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game on 42.0 percent shooting from three. Not to mention, he’s in the MVP conversation.
AJ Bussey: Julius Randle, New York Knicks.
My Lakers Fan heart is happy knowing that Julius Randle has locked in not only some MVP consideration (top ten in the rankings), but he’s locked up the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Randle has been averaging 24-10-6 on 44% shooting and a career-high 42% from deep. In addition to this, he is sitting on his first All-Star season, and his Knicks have locked in their first winning season and playoff berth since the 2012-2013 season.
Rookie of the Year:
Addam Francisco: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
Along with MVP, this may be the most contested award in the NBA. In what was supposed to be the most unimpressive draft class in recent memory, the 2020 draft class produced a handful of talented professionals and two of the most enthralling that we’ve seen. Ball averages 15.6 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game over 45 games. Anthony Edwards averages 18.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists over 66 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ball hasn’t played as many games as Edwards, but the Hornets roster isn’t as impressive as the Timberwolves. Yet, the Hornets are eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 32-36 record, while the Timberwolves are second to last in the Western Conference with a 20-46 record. Have to give it to Ball.
AJ Bussey: LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
This indeed could be a toss-up, with LaMelo Ball has shown his value through and through to the Charlotte Hornets franchise. Anthony Edwards is the only consistency and upside about the Minnesota Timberwolves season. However, simply because he’s played more games doesn’t mean this award should go to Anthony Edwards. From a stats and value perspective, you cannot deny what LaMelo Ball brings to the table. He’s better than anyone could’ve expected, and it showed during his absence.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Addam Francisco: Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz
This selection was another easy one for me. Clarkson has always been a bucket. Since his days with the Lakers, I’ve noticed that, but he’s taken it to the next level, showing that he can score in multiple ways, regardless of the in-game situation. Clarkson leads the NBA in points off the bench, averaging a career-high 17.5 points per game.
AJ Bussey: Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz
While I would say don’t sleep on Derrick Rose as a 6MOY candidate, Jordan Clarkson has just about done everything to solidify this award except actually win it. Posting 17-4-2 on over 40% shooting, Clarkson has played a vital role in Utah’s success this year. This award is truly his to lose. But with less than ten games left, I’ll say he’s got nothing to worry about.
Most Valuable Player:
Addam Francisco: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
But Chris Paul is making that “most valuable” tag very enticing because clearly, he’s the most valuable on the Suns, who are currently second in the Western Conference. It’s just impossible for me to turn down a big man that’s averaging 26.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game. It’s even harder for me to go against him after seeing Jamal Murray gets hurt and the Nuggets continuing to hold their place in the top four of the Western Conference. Nikola Jokic is this season’s MVP.
AJ Bussey: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
My biased pick: the Point God himself, Chris Paul. My logical choice: Nikola Jokic. Not much else needs to be said other than…26 points a night, 11 boards, and eight dimes. As a center, that is unheard of unless you’re playing 2K. And Jokic has been playing games with the league all season, only upping his intensity since Jamal Murray’s season-ending ACL injury.