The halfway point of the 2023-24 NBA season is already upon us. Most teams have played over 40 games, making it a perfect time for an awards check-in.
Who are the current front-runners for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and other awards?
Read on to see the most deserving candidates.
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Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
Forget the dominant stat line of 25.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists for a minute. This is Jokic’s award, full stop. He is piling up triple-doubles and putting up Wilt Chamberlain lines without even giving full effort. He was the best player on the floor against the Pistons the other day while only taking three shots, finishing with 16 assists and five blocks in 25 minutes of play.
Jokic does not care about this award. He took his foot off the gas at the end of last season, allowing Joel Embiid to claim it. He then turned the dial up to 11 in the playoffs and removed any possible doubt of who the best player in the league was in winning his first ring.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be my runner-up. The Thunder have made a huge leap in the standings, and Gilgeous-Alexander has been the literal driver of that improvement. He leads the league yet again in drives per game, and he also has the most steals by a wide margin. It’s impossible to get him away from his spots on the floor due to his herky-jerky style.
Embiid has had a fantastic season in his own right. On a statistical basis, he has a great argument to be the front-runner. But he’s missed nine games already, and he has an interesting pattern of sitting against some of the better teams in the league. There is a very high possibility that he falls short of the new threshold of at least 65 games played to qualify for the award.
Rookie of the Year: Chet Holmgren, Thunder
This was supposed to be the Victor Wembanyama award but Holmgren is having a historic rookie year. He is arguably the best rookie shooter of all time — nobody with significant volume has ever matched his marks of 55 percent from the field and 40 percent on 3.
He’s far from just a spot-up shooter, though. He’s had some slick drives, showing way more ability to put it on the floor than expected. He’s been a good passer, hitting cutters within the Thunder’s offensive system.
Making Holmgren’s season even more impressive is the fact that he’s been better on defense than on offense. His 2.5 blocks per game are fourth in the league, and he’s helped anchor a Thunder defense that has risen to No. 5 overall. He has a legitimate case to be an All-Star.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Timberwolves
Gobert didn’t quite look the same while adjusting to a new system last year. The Timberwolves have worked out all their kinks — they’ve been far and away the best defense in the league, and it’s Gobert that is their bedrock.
The Stifle Tower is back to defending the rim at an elite level. Opponents are shooting 14.8 percent worse at the rim against him, per Crafted NBA, ranking in the 96th percentile of players. He’s all over the defensive leaderboards, ranking seventh with 2.1 blocks per game and fifth with 309 defensive rebounds. He’s also recovering to the perimeter well, shoring up one of the biggest criticisms against him in years past.
Anthony Davis is right there in this award. The Lakers have been a great defense with him anchoring the helm. Holmgren and Wembanyama both deserve some consideration, too.
Most Improved Player: Tyrese Maxey, 76ers
James Harden had an All-Star level season last year and the Sixers have not missed him at all because of the leap that Maxey has made. He’s upped his points from 20.3 to 26.2 per game, almost doubled his assists from 3.5 to 6.7 and remained a very efficient scorer. He has shown that he can be Philadelphia’s second-best player behind Embiid. He should be a shoo-in for his first All-Star appearance.
Keeping in mind that Maxey was relegated to the bench under Doc Rivers for parts of last year, his meteoric rise has been remarkable. The Sixers are winning in large part because of his speed, shooting and improved playmaking.
Sixth Man of the Year: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks
This award traditionally goes to the best gunner off the bench. That distinction belongs to Bogdanovic, who is averaging 17.6 points in only 28.3 minutes per game. He’s a good enough player to start on most teams, but he’s behind Trae Young and Dejounte Murray in Atlanta’s guard rotation.
Bogdanovic isn’t going to be winning any defensive awards, although he does play the passing lanes well. He doesn’t need to as an offensive spark plug off the bench. He is a fantastic movement shooter that gets them up and he can create off the dribble. He’s also a good passer, averaging 2.7 assists per game.
Coach of the Year: Mark Daigneault, Thunder
There is not a more creative coach in the league than Daigneault. His innovative offense, which capitalizes on unusual ball handler-screening combinations and a ton of cutting, has put opposing defenses in uncomfortable positions.
His defenses are equally innovative. The Thunder break some of the cardinal rules of NBA basketball, such as not helping from the strong side corner. They don’t fear switching all over the court. Daigneault does other unconventional things, such as using a 6-6 wing in Kenrich Williams as his small ball center.
Daigneault also excels on the technical side. He rarely loses his challenge calls, and he’s one of the few coaches willing to use them early in a game. He’s one of the premier play-callers in the league. Get him in a timeout situation and you will almost always see the Thunder get a great look at the end of games. He is unafraid to make as many in-game adjustments as is necessary.
He’s an aggressive coach who will buck convention, which makes him stand out in a very good way. It’s led to a lot of winning for the Thunder, and he deserves credit for that.
Source : ESPN.com