We’ve reached the midway point of the regular NBA season. So far, each team has played half of the 82 games allotted. Traditionally, that’s more than enough for the awards committee to form an idea on which players are in the running for a host of awards, including the highly sought-after MVP title.
Of course, athletes will be judged on their performance throughout the entire 19-week season. Still, some likely prospects are beginning to emerge.
These are the players sports bettors in Georgia have had their money on all season. Let’s take a look at four of them.
#1 Most valuable player (MVP): Nikola Jokić for the Denver Nuggets
This may turn out to be the trickiest gambit of all. Not only is the list of possibles for this category long and the competitors closely matched, but the criteria for selection is somewhat nebulous.
Granted, it’s hard to agree on the criteria of the Most Valuable Player. This much is certain though: no one wants to see it become political or illogical, like the Oscars. Therefore, it’s best to keep in mind that the operative word in the title is “valuable,” i.e. the player who proved essential to his team’s success.
Curry maintains a strong case for MVP as usual, although his recent shooting slump and the Warriors struggle to run offensive sets are putting a damper on things. This is why having an outstanding supporting cast can be of enormous advantage.
Players like Durant and Antetokounmpo happen to find themselves in such a fortunate position. Durant has Harden and Irving to bolster him up while the “Greek Freak” has Khris Middleton at his side.
By contrast, Jokić, who didn’t sit out a single match, managed to play most of the season without his two best teammates, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
The difference between Jokić on the court and Jokić on the bench is startling. The Nuggets have a 9.3 net rating when the big man is playing, but only a -13.6 net when he isn’t.
In other words, Denver plays like one of the best teams in the league with Jokić, then pretty much turns into an undisciplined college team without him.
Each night, Jokić hustles to gain a comfortable lead for his team, only to have the bench blow it. They simply can’t maintain their head start, forcing the Serbian center / power forward to once again battle it back.
Yet, humble as he is, the “Joker” never complains. And his mental fortitude in decisive moments is exemplary. Thanks to him, the Mile-High City has a 20-15 record in games, the fifth-best winning percentage in the West.
Denver without Jokić would be like Paris without the Eiffel Tower, or London without Big Ben. The value he brings to his team is incontrovertible. He’s been the lynchpin to all their successes so far making him our first choice for this year’s MVP race.
Below, the other heavy favorites ranked according to their probability of winning:
- Stephen Curry
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Kevin Durant
- Demar DeRozan
#2 Defensive player of the year: Draymond Green for the Warriors
In recent years, Green has become the embodiment of defense for the Warriors. He thrives in this position like no other.
While most players follow the maxim, “a good offense makes the best defense,” Green believes a solid defense is what wins games. He is their rock of Gibraltar; the star they hitch their wagon to both in offense and defense.
By Jan. 14 Golden State’s defensive rating stood at 102.3, the best of any team in the NBA since the 2016 Spurs. This is due in large part to Green’s ability to get his teammates in gear and bark orders at them if necessary.
At 6’ 6”, he’s not afraid to guard the bigs, drill opposing guards, and disrupt a team’s favorite pick and roll combo. As an exceptional defensive player, Green has the knack for fulfilling multiple roles on the court, depending on where he is needed most.
While he might not be the quickest on his feet, he’s blessed with one of the swiftest minds in the league. Oftentimes he knows what the opposing team will do before they do. This almost innate understanding of the game makes him long overdue for his second DPOY.
Incidentally, Green just signed a multi-year deal with Turner Sports, a subsidiary of WarnerMedia responsible for airing the show “Inside the NBA.” The media cooperation is based in Atlanta, Georgia where popular support for sports betting is on the rise.
#3 Sixth man of the year: Tyler Herro for the Miami Heat
The 21-year-old burgeoning star for the Miami Heat, who brims with confidence is a shoo-in for this award. As the highest-scoring bench player in the league this season with 20.7 points a night, he’s also averaging 38.3% from the three-point line.
Only three players are averaging at least 20 points, five rebounds, and four assists per night, while also reaching 38% from the arc. Stephen Curry and Devin Booker are two of them, the other is Tyler Herro.
Despite a lackluster 2020 season, the former Kentucky guard shone this year transforming himself into one of the NBA’s best reserve players. Enjoying career-high numbers, part of his hard-earned success came from his commitment to regularly hitting the gym.
Herro gained about 10 pounds during the season, most in muscle, allowing him to impose his will better offensively. Nowadays he seems more at ease when he pulls up to shoot from the three, or from inside 10 feet.
But while his assists have gone up, so have his turnovers. If Herro hopes to see his role elevated from the sixth man to the starter, he needs to tweak his dribbling skills and tighten his handle.
#4 Most exciting player: Ja Morant for the Memphis Grizzlies
It’s the rush hour when Morant steps on the court. The sheer entertainment value this man brings to the sport has fans glued to their screens each time the Grizzlies play.
The way he fearlessly puts his 174-pound body at risk for a couple of points intrigues opponents. His on-court antics, from staring down young Warriors fans to dribbling the ball a few feet ahead of him show just how much fun he’s having.
Although the Grizzlies are an awesome team in their one right, Morant’s panache gives them a little more swagger.
All in all, the NBA presents 14 annual awards to recognize its teams, players, and coaches for their accomplishments. The NBA Championship trophy, which goes to the winning team of the NBA finals is not part of the awards.