The 2021-2022 NBA season is in full swing. At the end of the season, the league hands out five major awards. With most teams having played a quarter of their games, players have already left their marks for the year. Award speculations have begun, and if the season were to end today, here is who would win those awards.
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Most Improved Player
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat
The Miami Heat guard has taken that next step into becoming an NBA star. In his third year with the team, he has become one of the team’s best scoring options for the Heat. Herro first came onto the scene during his magnificent run in the Orlando “Bubble” during his rookie season. That playoff run was the first introduction for the guard to the NBA landscape. Although he finished with a hot start in 2020-21, the finish to the season was a bit disappointing.
This season, however, he has taken the step forward that everyone thought he would have last year. Herro is averaging 21.7 points, 3.8 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game with great efficiency. His shooting percentages are all career highs, as he went from 43 to 45 percent from the field. He also improved from three-point range from 36 percent to 39 percent, and from 80 percent from the free throw line to 87 percent. All his stats are career-highs thus far into the season, and he is second on his team in scoring.
Sixth Man of the Year
Montrezl Harrell, Washington Wizards
The 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Los Angeles Clippers a, Harrell was amongst the best big men on the bench in the league. The center was traded from the Lakers this past offseason in the Russell Westbrook deal, and landed in Washington. Harrell this season is averaging 16.6 points, 8.1 rebounds per game on 65 percent shooting from the field. The center is the offensive and defensive energy off the bench for the team. Harrell does it all for the Wizards, and is having a great season, statistically. Without Harrell, the Washington Wizards would not have the same success they are currently having.
Herro is also a great candidate for this award. Although he has started a handful of games of late (due to injuries to the Heat’s lineup), the guard does not win primarily for that reason He has started too many games, as compared to Harrell. Harrell has only started one game this season, and has dominated every second unit, while closing games in the fourth quarter.
Defensive Player of the Year
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Draymond is back, and the Golden State Warriors are cruising through the league this season. Green was thought to have started his career-arc decline, as the past two seasons the league saw a lack of energy from the power forward. This season, Green seems more rejuvenated and energetic. It is the same type of energy that matches his time when the team was winning the NBA Championships.
The power forward is averaging 1.1 steals with eight rebounds and a hair under one block per game. These numbers do not jump out to the eye right away. Green is has been able to make a huge impact against opposing team’s offenses, as the forward shut down the best player in nearly every game. In a recent game against the Brooklyn Nets, former teammate Kevin Durant started the game six of his first 11 in the contest. Head coach Steve Kerr would put Green on Durant for the second half, and the forward would hold one of the best scorers in the league scoreless on all eight of his shots from the field.
Rookie of The Year
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors, Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
If the season ended today, the NBA would have their first co-winner of this award since 1995. Both Barnes and Mobley have been incredible so far this season. In 1995 two future All-Stars and Hall of Famers Grant Hill and Jason Kidd shared the award. At the rate that each of the rookies are playing, the league might see another anomaly as a chance to hand out the award to two.
The Cavaliers drafted Mobley third overall in the 2021 draft. The San Diego native came into the draft as the best center, and was projected to be the most NBA-ready player. A former USC Trojan, Mobley came into the league red hot, as he is as fluent on the court as a 10-year veteran. He is averaging 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting from the field with 34 percent from long distance. He will be a force for the remainder of the season, as the Cavaliers are already looking to play him heavy minutes and run the offense through their rookie.
The Toronto Raptors have their next star in Barnes. A slight resemblance to Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, he has the highlight reel to recreate the late 1990s and early 2000s of the franchise. Barnes is more than that, however, as he is capable of helping his team win games. The rookie is averaging 15.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from three. Barnes has been consistent and is only getting better as the season progresses.
Most Valuable Player
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Curry has been lights-out for the Golden State Warriors this season, while averaging 27.8 points per game on 45 percent from the field and 41 percent from three. The two-time MVP winner is having another phenomenal year shooting the ball. Last year, Curry was an MVP candidate on a struggling Warriors team. Now that the team is competitive again, Curry’s chances of winning the award have skyrocketed.
Durant and Chris Paul are also very high candidates to win this award, currently. Durant has been extremely efficient this season, shooting 53 percent from the field and 39 percent from downtown. He has been unstoppable offensively, as he is the current leading scorer in the league. Paul is averaging 14.5 points and 10.1 assists per game. The Suns’ point guard is not as prolific at scoring the ball, as he is the playmaker for two All-Star caliber players. Paul has led the Suns to the best record in the NBA and is currently the maestro of the team’s success.
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Main Image Credit: via The Athletic