We're not even ten days into 2019 and I'm already in my feelings. I was reading this book called Skippyjon Jones to my son last night. It's about a cat who wants to be anything in the world, except for a cat. His imagination gets him into some hilarious situations.
There was a part where he was having a standoff with a gang of Mexican Chihuahuas, and he was trying to convince them that he's actually a dog. And for some reason, I started tearing up. Not because of the story. but because I started thinking about how one day, he won't want me to read him books anymore. He'll be reading books to himself, not needing me for anything. I only helped give him the gift of life! Ugh. I guess that's not enough for kids these days. SMH.
After wiping away my two tears, my son got up and started playing with his cars. I was watching the end of the Philadelphia 76ers game, and when they showed their current record my tears began to flow again. I realized we're already halfway through the NBA season. Which mathematically means, there's only half of a season left. Which emotionally for me means that my heart is half-empty. But what's most importantly, is that my heart is still half-full.
So instead of sitting here in misery and sulking in the fact that time is still linear, I figured we could celebrate what we've seen so far this season. It's time for some Mid-Season awards!
Most Improved Player
When Paul George was traded for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo, most people had said that the Oklahoma City Thunder won the trade. And with George deciding to stay in OKC, they did. However, that doesn't mean the Indiana Pacers lost. Last year Victor Oladipo won this award, and halfway through this season, his buddy who traveled with him in the trade is keeping the award in Indiana.
His jump in numbers is staggering when you compare this season and last season. He is only playing one more minute per game, but he has been extremely efficient in his time on the floor. Sabonis is averaging 14.9 points per game (11.4 in 2017-18), 3 assist per game (2 in '17-18), 9.6 rebounds (7.7 in '17-18), 62% on field goals (51% in '17-18), and an incredible 71% from three-point range (35% in '17-18).
All of these numbers are indicative of the way the team has used him this season. He is visibly much bigger and stronger than he was just a year ago. Those NBA weight rooms are working well for him. He's taking most of his shots from within 10 feet of the rim, and less than 13% of his shots are coming from three-point range. His play has helped his team maintain the 3rd spot in the East, and if he keeps it up he will help them stay there.
IN THE RACE: D'Angelo Russel, Pascal Siakam, Jamal Murray
Sixth Man of the Year
During the offseason, Derrick Rose said that he wants to be the first player in NBA history to win a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and the Sixth Man of the Year award. He was already the youngest to ever win the MVP, and now he can fulfill the rest of his goal. His play off of the bench this season has rejuvenated his career, and has made all those who love his game appreciate it once again.
This time around, the highlights are coming with him playing less than 30 minutes per game. He is shooting with the best efficiency since his sophomore season in 2009-10 with 48.6% from the field. He is also averaging the most points per game since his 2011-12 season with 18.9.
His best performance came on an emotional night when he dropped a career-high 50 points against the Utah Jazz early in the season. It reminded everyone of what Rose once was, and what he still can be on any given night: Electric. Now that I'm looking at these numbers, he could also be a candidate to win Most Improved Player. Maybe we'll leave that goal for him for next season.
IN THE RACE: Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrel, Spencer Dinwiddie
Defensive Player of the Year
The last guard to win NBA Defensive Player of the Year was Gary Payton in 1996. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Paul George could bring the award back to the backcourt. In a season where the Thunder are without their best defender in Andre Roberson, George has thrived.
He leads the league in steals per game with 2.2, which is also the best he's ever had in his career. He also has a career-high with 0.6 blocks per game. This is all a benefit of his teammates. The Thunder are number one in the NBA in Defensive Rating, thanks to guys such as Steven Adams and Russel Westbrook.
But most of their success falls on the shoulders of George. Defensive Win Shares is an Advanced stat that takes into account a player's contribution to team wins based on their defense. Paul George is one of the best in the league with 2.9 which also leads his top-ranked defense. Should he keep this up, his nickname may soon be The Mitten or Glover or Guy Who is Good at Defensive Things.
IN THE RACE: Russel Westbrook, Miles Turner, Rudy Robert, Robert Covington
Rookie of the Year
The Ben Simmons Rookie of the Year memes have been hilarious. Maybe this year they'll give it to Donovan Mitchell instead. But even if those guys were somehow eligible, we might still be giving the award to Luka Doncic. This teenager has been even better than his biggest believers may have thought he'd be at this point in his young career.
His professional basketball experience has proven to be what has separated him from the rest of the pack. His late game performances have been great for any player in the NBA, let alone a rookie. His stepback threes have been electrifying, and has already given defenses fits. His ball handling skills have helped him embarrass two top defensive players in Paul George and Rudy Gobert.
His numbers speak for themselves as he is averaging 19.6 points per game, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.9 assists. He's got the Dallas Mavericks looking like a fringe playoff team, and at worst, a team with a bright future due to their young star. The Rookie should also be receiving some All-Star consideration, I'm just sayin'!
IN THE RACE: NONE. LITERALLY NO ONE ELSE.
Most Valuable Player
Usually by the halfway point in the NBA season, there is a clear front runner for the MVP award. We have been lucky enough this season to have two front runners in Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. The former is trying to establish himself as a solidified superstar, while the latter is trying to go back-to-back with the most coveted individual award the league has to offer.
I could play the fence and say they are both the respective MVP's so far, but I'll pick a side. James Harden is incredible, his run over the last 20 games or so has been historic, and he is an Arizona State alum. However, halfway through the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the MVP. This is not to say that things could change over the next few months. But for now, it is The Greek Freak's award to lose.
His new coach, Mike Budenholzer, has opened up his game to heights we have been waiting for. He is second in the league in Win Shares with 6.7, only behind Anthony Davis. He is first in the league in defensive plus-minus. His team has the best record in the NBA because of his play. And he is - wait a second, damn it. As I'm sitting here thinking about it, I'm changing my mind. I am gonna straddle the fence, because James Harden is freakin' amazing.
Harden is first in *clears throat* three-pointers made, free throws made, free throws attempted, total points, points per game, usage percentage, plus-minus, offensive plus-minus, minutes per game andddd value over replacement. Yeah... Let's keep it going, he is top-5 in win shares, player efficiency rating, assists, and *wait for it* STEALS! Yes, he is top-5 in a defensive category. That alone should make him the MVP.
But to top it all off, he has already had the top "MVP moment" of the season. On the road against a fully healthy squad in the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets were without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon and they were down 20 points in the second half. None of this mattered because Harden put the team on his back and hit crazy shot after crazy shot, which led to his 44 point triple-double consisting of 10 three's. None more memorable than his shot that won the game for them in overtime that silenced the crowd.
Say what you want about the guy's game, but he is clearly the best offensive player in the league who has also improved on his defensive play.
IN THE RACE: Lebron James, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving
Just a man trying to make the most of his time on this planet.