NBA Player Awards: Who are the Mid-Season Frontrunners?
By Jamie Griffith
We are approaching the halfway point of the 2021 NBA season and what an unpredictable season it has been, making the race for each end-of-season award that much more interesting.
Here are Sports Locker’s picks for each award so far!
Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokic
Jokic has been exceptional this season as his vies to become the first Centre to win the MVP Award since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. The big Serbian is averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists per game and he leads the league in offensive win share and value over replacement player (VORP), highlighting his importance to the Nuggets.
Furthermore, Jokic has improved on the defensive end too. He now averages 1.7 steals per game and has also become the lead defensive and offensive orchestrator of his team, taking over the responsibility from an aging Paul Millsap this year.
If Jokic can lead his team to a better record than their current 17-14 standing, nobody will stop him taking home the award.
Honourable Mentions: Joel Embiid, LeBron James.
Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball
There was a fear amongst traditionalist NBA fans that Ball would not successfully transition into the NBA as he snubbed college offers in favour of playing a year in the Australian National Basketball League with the Illawarra Hawks. Those doubters could not have been proven more wrong.
Ball leads rookies in points, assists, and rebounds per game (14,6,6) and is only improving. His efficiency could still use some improvement, but the Hornet’s guard has shown he has both the ability and confidence to become a star already, this early in his career.
Honourable Mentions: Tyrese Halliburton, Anthony Edwards.
Defensive Player of the Year: Myles Turner
Turner’s monstrous 3.5 blocks per game propel him to the front of this race. The Centre’s Indiana Pacers side have been one of the shocks of the season, sitting 4th in the Eastern Conference as we approach the season’s midpoint. This is in no small part down to Turner’s defensive achievements.
He has solidified his position as the league’s best rim protector and his ability to force paint-centric players to the perimeter cannot be underestimated when analysing the Pacers’ success.
Honourable Mentions: Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid.