It’s officially the second half of the NBA season! Every team has played over 41 games, the trade deadline is coming to a close, and NBA All-Star Weekend is right around the corner. Thinking back to last summer, this NBA season was looking to be one of the greatest seasons ever. So far, it has lived up to the excitement. New exciting faces, an explosion of scoring, records being shattered, the list goes on and on. Since it’s the halfway point of the season, it’s only right to give out the NoLimitJumper NBA Mid-Season Awards.
Sixth Man of the Year: Norman Powell (Raptors)
Runner Ups: Montrzel Harrell (Clippers), Lou Williams (Clippers), Dennis Schroder (Thunder)
After losing Kawhi Leonard to free agency last season, the Raptors were expected to revert back into mediocrity and become a seven or eight seed in the Eastern Conference. As of January 27, 2020, they are second place in the East behind the Bucks, and are tied with the Denver Nuggets for the 4th best record in the entire league. They are in the same spot that they were in last year. Although he is not the sole reason for their success, Norman Powell has shown immense improvement in nearly every statistical category, which has led the Raptors to success over the past few months. The most significant increase that Powell has made is to his efficiency. A man who was once a 28.5% shooter from deep now has the opportunity to be apart of the 50/40/90 club, as he is shooting 51% from the field, 41% from deep, and 84% from the free throw line. He is also second in the league in True Shooting Percentage amongst all shooting guards (14th amongst all players) with a TS% of 63.7. Norman Powell, a man only known for his high flying ability, is now a prolific shooter and overall efficient specimen.
Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
Runner Ups: Mike Budenholzer (Bucks), Rick Carlisle (Mavericks), Quinn Synder (Jazz)
What more is there to be said about Coach Spoelstra that already hasn’t been said? He’s one of the greatest coaches in the modern era and may go down as one of the best to ever do it. He has turned a team that has defined “middle of the pack” in the NBA since 2014, into a potential title contender. One factor that separates himself from his adversaries is his ability to develop talent. He has developed no-name players like Duncan Robinson and Derrick Jones Jr. into solid role players, as well as developing rookies Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn into potential ROY candidates. Lastly, the development of Bam Adebayo has been huge for the Heat. Spoelstra has developed a 9 ppg, 7 rpg, player into an all star. Bam now averages 16 ppg, and 10 rpg, tremendous numbers for him given where he started. Due to his keen ability to develop players, and his leadership on and off the court, Coach Spoelstra has what it takes to lead South Beach to a high playoff birth, and possibly a run for the championship.
Most Improved Player: Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
Runner Ups: Devonte Graham (Hornets), Bam Adebayo (Heat),
After being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans last season in a blockbuster deal, Brandon Ingram has grown into an all-star caliber player. Although he has improved on all levels of the spectrum, BI has shown the greatest growth in his offensive ability. Recently, he has been virtually unguardable. He has been averaging 25 ppg on 59% True Shooting Percentage, which is remarkable given the amount of weight he has to carry in order to win games for his team. We all know about the comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his body type and what not, but Ingram has really been playing like the Slim Reaper himself. He scores on all three levels: inside the paint, mid range, and from deep, he’s a walking mismatch one on one, and he has shown great strides in becoming a leader on and off the court. Even at the ripe age of 22, Brandon Ingram is showing us flashes of Hall of Fame potential, and I’m very excited to see what he has in store for us moving forward.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant (Grizzlies)
Runner Ups: Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets), Kendrick Nunn (Heat), Tyler Herro (Heat)
The Grizzlies are having their best season in recent memory and it is largely due to the production from Ja Morant. He’s an electric point guard with elite court vision, crafty moves around the rim, and inhumane bounce. Morant has separated himself from his fellow rookies has proven to be the most promising prospect of his class. He has been averaging 17 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 7 apg on 30 mpg. What impresses me the most about Morant is his ability to control the offense. He is seventh in the league in team assist percentage, holding 35% of his teams assists. Ja’s game is very mature and poise, yet flashy and creative. It’s only a matter of time before Ja Morant grows into a superstar talent in this league.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert (Jazz)
Runner Ups: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Anthony Davis (Lakers), Jonathan Isaac (Magic)
The Stifle Tower is the best shot blocker in basketball, period. Although he only averages 2 blocks per game, (fifth in league), he leads the league in block percentage with 67.6%, that means he blocks more than two thirds of the shots taken on him, that’s insane. He is also top five in the league in defensive field goal percentage with 40%. Rudy Gobert is a hustler, a shot-stuffer, and one of the smartest help-defenders in the league today. At the mid-point of the season, there is nobody who deserves this award more than the Stifle Tower himself.
The Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
Runner Ups: Lebron James (Lakers), Anthony Davis (Lakers), Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
The Greek Freak is having another MVP season, leading his team to the best record in the NBA… again. Giannis is dominating from all angles of the game. Giannis has become one of the most efficient players in the entire legaue amongst both sides of the ball. He is second in defensive win shares, top five in defensive rating at 98, and he’s leading the Bucks to the best defensive rating in the entire league at 101.7. On top of his tremendous numbers on defense, he does just as well on offense. He averages 30 ppg, 12 rpg, and 6 apg on an exceptional 55% from the field. The scariest part about this season for the Freak, is his shot from deep. Once a 25% shooter from behind the three-point line, Giannis has improved his 3p% to 32%, an impressive jump in such a short amount of time. Giannis is the most unstoppable player in the league, and this season he’s proving that. He is unguardable on offense, especially with the new improvements made to his jump shot, and he is a versatile specimen on defense. There is truly no answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo, and he’s only going to improve going forward.