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NBA Mid-Season Award Predictions

Now that the NBA All-Star Break has come to a close, teams are preparing for the second half of the season. Here at FlurrySports, it’s no different. We have analyzed and enjoyed the first half to the NBA season, and now it is time to look at the frontrunners to win the awards. The three experts weighing in will be Devin Bergasse, Chris Porter and Derek Blank.

Credit: USA Today Images

Most Valuable Player

 

Bergasse: James Harden- Houston Rockets

As of right now, James Harden leads the league in PPG (31.3), Player Efficiency Rating (30.5), Total Win Shares (11.2) and is second in APG (9.0). His team is at the top of the West with a .5 game lead over the Warriors. Houston, with no doubt, will reach 50 wins, which is usually a key factor in winning the MVP. Of course, unless you average a triple-double and your name is Russell Westbrook. If Houston finished with the top seed and Harden continues his play, I’m not sure if there is even another candidate worthy enough for this award. Many may say that Harden got snubbed last year, but I am 100% expecting him to win it this year. This is basically a no-brainer.

 

Porter: James Harden- Houston Rockets

James Harden is averaging 35.8 minutes per game, his lowest since 2011-12 when he was the sixth man for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite less playing time, Harden is averaging both a career and league-best 31.4 points per game. Even with one of the best passing point guards in the league, Chris Paul, on his team, Harden is still averaging nine assists per game, on top of five rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. This award has been a long time coming for James Harden, who has been in the conversation for MVP for the last few seasons. Recent MVPs Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook have both, statistically, taken a step back now that they each have taken on All-Star teammates, Harden is the frontrunner to win the MVP at the end of the season.

 

Blank: James Harden- Houston Rockets

The race looked tight at the start of the year, with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing great, LeBron James playing like LeBron James, and even Kyrie Irving leading the newly-faced Celtics to a top seed. But James Harden has been the consistent star this season and deserves this award. He leads the league in scoring, is trailing only Russell Westbrook in assists, and has led the Rockets to the best record in the NBA. Irving and the Celtics have regressed since Christmas. Before the trade deadline, LeBron’s Cavs were a mess. The Bucks and Greek Freak had fallen off the Earth and are now contending to even make the playoffs. Harden and the Rockets’ consistency help his case more than it helps the other candidates. Harden also recorded the first ever 60-point triple-double in NBA history, so if he continues the pace of play he’s had thus far, he’s a lock in for his first MVP award.

Ben Simmons

Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo

Rookie of the Year

 

Bergasse: Ben Simmons- Philadelphia 76ers

To me, this is a two-man race, Donovan Mitchell or Ben Simmons. You can’t go wrong with either pick here, as Donovan Mitchell leads all rookies in PPG (19.6), Slam Dunk Champion (whatever that’s worth), and is basically single-handedly bringing his team from the dead to make a run at the playoffs. However, Ben Simmons leads all rookies in APG (7.3), RPG (7.8), SPG (1.86), has a better field goal percentage than Mitchell, has multiple triple-doubles, and is second in BPG for rookies who have played over 40 games (0.91). Simmons already has his 76ers in the playoffs at the moment as the seventh seed. I am not a fan of giving this award to someone who has been in the league for a year longer, despite not playing any games, and still qualifying as a rookie; but with these stats and how well the 76ers are doing, it’s hard to deny him this award.

 

Porter: Donovan Mitchell- Utah Jazz

I think it is ridiculous that Ben Simmons is considered a ‘rookie’ despite this being his second year with the Philadelphia 76ers. I understand that he never officially debuted for the team due to foot complications his first year in the league, but he has at least been exposed to NBA players, coaching staff, and culture of the league for an extra year over his other ‘rookie’ counterparts. Therefore, I will not consider him for this award (even though he will probably win it anyway). Now that I have established that Ben Simmons is #notmyrookieoftheyear, it is time to discuss who I think should actually win the award; Donovan Mitchell. Averaging 19.2 points per game in addition to just under 3.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game, Mitchell has been one of, if not the only, bright spot for the Utah Jazz this season. The Jazz find themselves only 1.5 games out the playoff chase, in large part due to Mitchell’s electrifying style of play. Mitchell is able to both shoot AND provide plenty of high flying dunks, earning him a spot in the 2018 Slam Dunk Competition and winning. Simmons may very well win the award, but the true Rookie of the Year should be Donovan Mitchell.

 

Blank: Ben Simmons- Philadelphia 76ers

Surprise! Another tight race. The rookie class this year has been stellar, but the player who looks to be the favorite wasn’t even in this year’s draft. Ben Simmons looks to edge out a loaded class in his controversial rookie year. Donovan Mitchell, Lauri Markkanen, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum and many others have all been impressive, but Simmons’ all-around play pushes him over the other rookies. His usage rate is absurdly high for a rookie, and he is tied for fourth in assists per game. Simmons just barely beats Mitchell for the award, but look for Mitchell to make a second-half push after Utah traded away Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood, two players who were taking minutes away from the young stud.

Lou Williams

Credit: NBA.com

Sixth Man of the Year

 

Bergasse: Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers

The dude is a bench player, on a not-so-great team, and almost made the All-Star team. That’s why. I don’t need stats or numbers for this choice. This award may be the most obvious of them all.

 

Porter: Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers

Despite being as injury-riddled as they are, the Clippers have kept Lou Williams as their sixth man, and he has simply run with it. He is averaging career-highs, or close to it, in almost every single category; points (23.3- CH), assists (5.3- CH), 3P% (38.5%- CH), and FT% (90%- CH). He is also averaging 2.5 rebounds per game (tied for second-best) and 1.1 steals per game (tied for second-best). Lou Williams has truly embraced being the guy off the bench for his team. This will most likely reward him with his second Sixth Man of the Year award in his career.

 

Blank: Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers

This one was a little easier to predict. Lou Williams has been a lone bright spot for what was supposed to be a rebuilding Clippers team. In fact, he’s got his team in contention for the playoffs, which led to the Clippers rewarding him with a new multi-year contract. This award usually goes to a scorer off the bench, and Williams fits that mold. Last year’s winner Eric Gordon will be in contention, and after a roster shakeup in Cleveland, a player like Hood or Jordan Clarkson may emerge as a potent weapon off the bench. But as it stands right now, Williams is a lock for the award and should stay that way the rest of the season.

Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Player of the Year

 

Bergasse: Andre Drummond- Detroit Pistons

What Drummond does for the Pistons defensively is something no other player does in the league, not Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, or Paul George. Drummond’s value to his team as the last line of defense is remarkable. He averages 1.6 BPG, which is tied for seventh, but rarely gets any steals. So how can someone with those stats win this award? Well, when you lead the league in Defensive Rating (98.7), Defensive Plus/Minus (5.8) and Defensive Win Shares (4.1), you are definitely in the conversation. His impact on the Pistons pushes them to a near playoff spot. Without Drummond, Detroit is looking at a top seven or eight draft pick, in my opinion. Let’s not forget what he’s best at though, rebounding. He has a defensive rebounding total of 587 on the season, which you could probably guess, leads the league.

 

Porter: Andre Drummond- Detroit Pistons

Of course, Paul George and Draymond Green are two of the top favorites to win this award this year. However, I like dark horse candidate Andre Drummond to take the cake for this award. Drummond accounts for a league-leading 4.1 Defensive Win Shares. In a tight race for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, the wins that the Pistons earn as a result of Drummond’s defense may just help the Pistons climb into the playoffs, despite being under .500 going into the All-Star Break. He also has a league-leading defensive rating of 99, is averaging 1.6 blocks per game, and has a league-leading 864 total rebounds. On top of all of that, Drummond is also averaging yet another career-high in rebounding, a feat he has accomplished each year he has been in the league, with 15.7 rebounds per game. Drummond may not be as flashy, loud, and well-known as other NBA defensive stars, but numbers don’t lie, and they point to him being the best defensive player in the league right now.

 

Blank: Paul George- Oklahoma City Thunder

This is another tight race, and it’s always harder to predict this award than any other. It’s easy to look at stats and pick a winner that way, but stats don’t always tell the entire story. Draymond Green never has the most steals or blocks in the league, but is always a favorite to win it because of his tenacity and ability to defend all five positions. However, Paul George has played extremely well in his new uniform and is my favorite for DPOY. Everyone knew he was a strong defender back in his days in Indiana, but since jumping ship to OKC and not having to be the number one scoring option, he can focus more of his attention on the defensive end, and it’s paid off. He leads the league in steals per game and tipped passes, and is always assigned to the top wing player on the opposing team, especially with teammate Andre Roberson going down from injury for the year. George is my winner here, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a player like Green wins either.

Brad Stevens

Credit: Matt West/Boston Herald

Coach of the Year

 

Bergasse: Dwane Casey- Toronto Raptors

This is probably the hardest award to hand out, in my opinion. There are a couple of really good candidates to go with Dwane Casey, such as Mike D’Antoni, Brad Stevens, Nate McMillan, and Brett Brown. I’m giving this award to Casey because of the jump the Raptors have made this year. Toronto finished as the third seed last year in the East and nearly got bumped out of the playoffs by the Bucks in the first round. This team managed to stay together over the summer and made a big jump in my eyes. The Cavs imploded to start the year, and who knows where they will finish, Boston exploded a chunk of the roster, and Brad Stevens and Kyrie have done an excellent job of staying near the top of the east despite that. However, Boston has been on a slight decline and Toronto came up and took the first seed from them at the moment. This team has a high-quality roster that plays very well together. They are top-five in both Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. An improving DeMar DeRozan, an offense that averages 112 PPG, and a team that does not shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to crunch time are all ingredients of great coaching. Dwane Casey and the Raptors have risen to the occasion of who wants to be the beast of the East. They may not come out of the East in May, but with the job that Casey has done and if they keep trending upwards and capture that top spot, they actually just might do it, which is something nearly laughable at the beginning of the season. Do not sleep on the North or Casey.

 

 

Porter: Brad Stevens- Boston Celtics

Call it my Celtics bias, but Brad Stevens deserves to be this season’s Coach of the Year. We all know Gordon Hayward’s injury and how that affected the way the Boston Celtics had to proceed for the rest of the season. Many ‘experts’ put Boston as a team that would most likely go 48-34. However, Brad Stevens has taken one of the sourest lemons of the NBA season and turned it into lemonade, and currently has his Celtics at 41-17 and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Stevens’ starting lineup consists of a 21 and 19-year-old with a total of 1.5 years of NBA experience between them. He has taken players like Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis and turned them into productive role players. It is no mystery that Stevens is one of the best coaches in the league and has been for the past couple seasons, and this is the year he finally, and officially, is recognized for it.

 

Blank: Nate McMillan- Indiana Pacers

Again, this is a really tough one to predict. The award usually either goes to the coach who led his team way beyond expectations, or who led his team to the top record, usually by a large margin. While Steve Kerr and the Warriors look to be the best team, they don’t look to be as dominant as they have in recent seasons, so I’m going with the former of the two. Two candidates stand out for coaches exceeding expectation; Erik Spoelstra and Nate McMillan. Spoelstra had his Heat sitting as high as the fourth seed at one point in the East, but have dipped a bit since. Before Goran Dragic was entered as a replacement in the All-Star game, there were no representatives from Miami. That shows Spoelstra’s ability to put wins together without star talent. But I think McMillan just barely tops Spoelstra here. The Pacers are fighting for a playoff spot right now in what everyone thought would be a rebuilding year for them. Victor Oladipo has played better than anyone had imagined and earned himself his first ever entry to the All-Star game. If the Pacers can end up making the playoffs, I think McMillan wins it, but if they fail to reach, voters may look to Spoelstra.

Credit: Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports

Most Improved Player

 

Bergasse: Victor Oladipo- Indiana Pacers

Part of the reason why I didn’t give Nate McMillan Coach of the Year was in large part due to Victor Oladipo. To me, McMillan is not the reason why the Pacers are the fifth in the East, but rather because of the first time All-Star Victor Oladipo. This kid has carried his team all season and has been clutch when his team needs him the most. The Pacers have been below average on defense this season, but because of their seventh ranked offensive rating, mainly because of Oladipo, they are the most surprising team in the East. A few years back, Oladipo was coming off the bench (for some reason) in Orlando, and now, Oladipo is leading a team to the playoffs by averaging 24 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG and 2.1 SPG. All while shooting 48% from the floor, 38% from three, and 81% at the line. And by the way, all of those stats I just listed are up from last year. Oladipo has improved in every aspect and I cannot deny him this award.

 

Porter: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks

The 2016-17 Most Improved Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo was scary enough last year when he averaged 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. However, the 23-year-old Greek Freak has raised his game another level and is currently putting up 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Despite being a mediocre three-point shooter, he is demonstrating that he is attempting to develop it and is shooting near 30% from three-point range this year. Giannis plays solid defense, can get to the rim with ease, and is steadily improving his jump shot. Oh, and he can do stuff like this.

 

Blank: Victor Oladipo- Indiana Pacers

As mentioned before, Oladipo has been amazing for the Pacers, leading them to a potential playoff spot. Oladipo was brought over from OKC, along with Domantas Sabonis, in a blockbuster deal during the offseason for Paul George. At the time, OKC looked to be the winner of the trade, and although George has played well, the trade doesn’t look so lopsided anymore because of Oladipo’s play. Taking the reins as the number one scorer on the team, Oladipo hasn’t missed a beat. Greek Freak’s play has improved greatly too and even has himself in serious MVP consideration, but no one has ever won the award twice, so Oladipo takes home the award.

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