We’re off and running to another great NBA season. There has already been crazy upsets, awesome dunks (see James Johnson’s murder of Victor Oladipo), heartbreaking injuries, off the court controversy, and more beautiful basketball all around. And for any of my original followers, they’ll remember what it’s time for … THE NBA SEASON JUST STARTED AWARDS!!! For those who are unaware, I’m showing you guys who would win the awards if the season ended today. NOTE: These are not predictions for who will win these awards by the end of the year (for that see my Season Preview), nor are they who I want to win the award even. Last year’s SJS (Season-Just-Started) MVP was Westbrook, who people may know is one of my least favorite NBA players. I even admitted that after the first 2 games that Kawhi or Anthony Davis may deserve it more, but I insisted that the media would love to hype up Westbrook and that as long as the Thunder aren’t terrible, a triple-double average will win the MVP. With that said, it’s time to get into the fun stuff! This year, we have even more awards, opinions, and NBA observations all around!!!
SJS Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, PG/SF/(every position) Milwaukee Bucks
Stats: 38.3 ppg, 5.0 apg, 9.7 rpg, 2.7 steals per game, FG% of 62.7%, 43.4 PER (!!!!!!!) and a 2-1 record
Runner Up(s): James Harden, Blake Griffin
Last year we had a flurry of 40 point performances to start the year, so picking the top players was easy. This year, there’s only been one guy to start with crazy stats and nice wins: The Greek Freak. Already living up to Kobe’s challenge, the Freak is snatching league headlines with those giant hands of his. Last night, he had the best performance of anyone so far with a 44 point outing to beat the Blazers, which included an incredible steal-dunk-block sequence in order to secure the win. Giannis looks like he might be having a Westbrook like year of crazy stats, delivering in the clutch, having no other stars, and wooing the media in order to win MVP. Only difference is I’m rooting for the Freak on this one.
SJS Defensive Player (of the short year): Kevin Durant, SF Golden State Warriors
Stats: 0.7 steals per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, 4.7 blocks per game
Runner Up(s): Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert
WARNING TO ALL WHO ARE TRIGGERED BY THIS PICK: This is just who would win it right it now. Not who’s the best defender in the league, and not who’s going to win it. KD probably won’t win this. Gobert is still a beast, Giannis blocks shots with his elbows, the Warriors already have probably the best defender in Draymond Green, and Kawhi will return shortly. But if KD can do this for 82 games, then he deserves that trophy. His blocked shots have been an incredible revelation and he really has reborn himself for the Warriors. Too bad that this reborn version is currently averaging over 6 turnovers per game, but hey, you give and you take.
SJS Sixth Man (of the short year): Eric Gordon, SG Houston Rockets
Stats: 22.3 ppg, 83% from the foul line, only 20% from 3,
Runner Up(s): Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith
I already picked Gordon for Sixth Man OTY in my season preview, and I stated just how effective he is. He hasn’t shot very well at all so far, but other things like his athleticism and defense have proven just how valuable he is. He was one of the reasons Houston pulled out that confusing win on opening night, with 25 points and some ferocious dunks. Even though I dislike Crawford, he gets a mention for 17 fourth quarter points and a clutch 3 in a T-Wolves win over the Jazz. J.R. also has been doing his thing and letting it fly, but still, this is Gordon’s award to lose.
SJS Most Improved Player: Nikola Vucevic, C Orlando Magic
Stats: 27.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.7 blk per game, 68% from the field, 50% from 3, 36.4 PER
Runner Up(s): Kristaps Porzingis, Dennis Schroeder
Did you know that he used to be a Sixer??? I know you didn’t but it still kills me every time I see him playing and remember that he was a good player for us, only to be traded and prosper in Orlando. Vuc has had an incredible start with a 41 point outing, shooting lights out from 3, and beating both the Heat and the Cavs. If he keeps this up, the Magic will have an all star and a playoff spot. Porzingis has been great, but he obviously had a higher reputation than Porzingis to start, and Schroeder is quietly putting up 26 a game himself, but I’m still going with my man Nikky Vucevic.
SJS Coach (of the short year): David Fizdale, Memphis Grizzlies
Runner Up(s): Frank Vogel, Scott Brooks
This is the hardest (and by far the most boring) award to pick right now. I’d go with Fiz as the Grizz have racked up a 2-0 start with a convincing win over the confusing Warriors. I’d also give a shout out to Vogel for the Magic’s decent play so far, and Scott Brooks as the Wizards have looked great in both games.
SJS Rookie (of the short Year): Ben Simmons, SF/PF/PG Philadelphia 76ers
Stats: 15.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 6.0 apg
Runner Up(s): Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith Jr. De’Aaron Fox
I know this seems like a homer pick. Everyone is drooling after Lonzo’s admittedly great performance. But you know who that was against, the Suns, who are now being questioned as the worst defensive team of all time. And furthermore, Lonzo was also horrible against the Clippers, while Simmy has had an awesome 3 games against 3 playoff teams (Wizards, Celtics, Raptors). He’s near a triple-double average, and I can say as a Sixers fan, he is the only guy who has not been a disappointment so far. If Simmons had a jump shot, he could legitimately be an All-NBA player this year. He’s that freakishly good. Otherwise, all the other rookies (except for Fultz, RIP to myself and his free throws) have looked pretty good.
Early Season All-Star Teams:
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Vucevic, John Wall, Kristaps Porzingis, Dennis Schroeder, Bradley Beal, Demar DeRozan, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, Hasaan Whiteside (barely missed: Tobias Harris, Kyle Lowry, Jaylen Brown, Victor Oladipo)
Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Kevin Durant, Marc Gasol, Damian Lillard, Andrew Wiggins ( barely missed: Carmelo Anthony, Klay Thompson, Mike Conley, Karl-Anthony Towns)
Best Free Agent Addition: Paul George, OKC Thunder – even with a loss last night, the first game showed how helpful a shooter like George is
Potential Worst Big Name Free Agent: Chris Paul, Houston Rockets – Did anyone else notice that the Rockets looked a lot better with CP3 resting. They seemed to play faster and more fluid. Paul is now out 3 weeks. Bold prediction: Houston has the best record in the league when he returns.
Most Disappointing Team: Philadelphia 76ers – I know they’ve played 3 good teams. I know it’s still early. I know this is a typical Philly fan overreaction. But I’m really worried. They need to take Embiid of minutes restriction, enough is enough. Simmons is great but can’t shoot, and it hurts that the players around him aren’t great shooters either. The bench stinks. Dario is struggling and getting torched on defense. And Markelle … oh my gosh it’s bad. Like, REALLY bad. I don’t know what to do. I think the Sixers made a huge mistake. Lonzo, Tatum, and Josh Jackson might haunt my dreams forever.
Favorite Note so far: The refs seem to be noticing traveling!!! Adam Silver must’ve said something, because I’ve seen a ton of travels called and they’re all correct. I love to see the player’s faces when their 3-step side shuffles are finally being called.
Bold New Predictions:
Bucks finish 2nd in the East
Schroeder actually does make the all star game
Warriors are in 5th in the West for a couple of weeks
Simmons and Ball both record multiple triple doubles
Bulls start the season 2-28