On this week’s episode of the Heatin’ Up Podcast Wes, Andrew, and Luke discuss who they believe would win the Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Most Improved Player if the season ended right now. In other news, Heatin’ Up Podcast host Luke Gibson signed with the Atlanta Empire a member of The Basketball League (Article about TBL coming soon).
It is no secret that when James Harden joined the Brooklyn Nets he made an immediate impact. He came out the gate putting up 32 points against the Orlando Magic in his first game with the team. Before Harden’s arrival, the Nets were sitting at 7-6 (0.538). Since his arrival the team has won 73% of their games going on a 28-10 run and are currently sitting at an impressive record of 35-16. Harden is nearly averaging a triple-double with 25.4 points, 11 assists, and 8.7 rebounds. Though the only statistical title that he currently holds is in assist it is no secret that Harden has had the biggest positive impact on a team in the NBA this season.
Statistically speaking, Nikola Jokic is the best player in the league. I made the mistake of not drafting him in my fantasy league and instead I picked Damian Lillard… Though the Nuggets are sitting at #4 in the West the only way I see him winning this award is if he can bring his team up to the #1 spot.
Should Gobert win the award again he would be one of four players to win the award more than two times. The Jazz currently have the third best defense in the league and are sitting at #1 in the West largely in part of their defensive performance and Gobert’s contribution to that. The Jazz are real contenders in the West this year because of their defense. They currently have the largest point differential scoring 9.7 more points on average than their opponent. Gobert is currently #2 in rebounds (13.2) and blocks (2.9). Offense sells tickets defense wins championships and the Jazz can make it and win the NBA finals with their defense.
Giannis is defending his defensive player of the year title this year and the award if it was given out today would be between Gobert and Giannis. The Bucks have the fourth best defense in the league and the best defense in the East. Statistically, Giannis is not in the top five in any major defensive category.
Had LaMelo not gotten hurt this award would have been his. His impact on the Hornets has brought them from a team that finished the season at #9 or #10 in the East and missing playoffs to a team that is now sitting at #5 in the East fighting for a position in playoffs. Before getting hurt LaMelo led rookies in rebounds and assist, which many critics find shocking because they thought he would play greedy basketball. Up to this point Ball has won three Rookie of the Month awards and has consistently been the best rookie on the court this season.
Edwards leads rookies in points per game sitting with 17.6. Edwards’ impact on the Timberwolves has been noticeable and is in large part a reason he is in the ROY conversation. He currently has the second most minutes per game on the team behind Malik Beasley and is scoring more than every teammate, except for Beasley, that has not yet been an allstar. Though the Timberwolves sit at the bottom of the Western Conference the team has a lot of looking forward to do. The team is still filled with young stars with loaded potential to become a playoff contending team in a competitive conference.
Now that LeMelo is out we can incorporate Hilburton into the ROY conversation. Haliburton is one of the best defensive rookies in the league this year leading the pack in steals and blocks (Behind a now hurt LaMelo). Unfortunately for Haliburton the experts that vote on who wins the ROY pays attention to offensive performance more than they do defensive. If there was an award for Defensive Rookie of the Year Haliburton would take it home at this point in the season. With the King’s being in a better position than the Timberwolves and Haliburton already looking like he has played a few years in the league, especially on the defensive side, if I had a vote in this year’s ROY award my vote would go to Haliburton.
I could argue all day that within the last two seasons SGA has been the most improved player in the league. With Westbrook leaving OKC somebody had to step up and become a leader in Oklahoma City and SGA took on that challenge. In his third year in the league he has been apart of three different rosters. Charlotte drafted him in 2018 and on the same day traded him to the Clippers for Miles Bridges and two second round picks. SGA was apart of the Paul George trade after the conclusion of the 2019 season. In my opinion, OKC won that trade.
Since joining the Knicks in 2019 Randall has led the team in every major statistical category. Being that the team has significantly improved from last season and Randall being a large part of that success could lead to him winning this award.
Wood has taken a leap in his points and assist per game since joining the Houston Rockets and being given a more pivotal role on the team. While Houston is in rebuild mode after losing Westbrook and Harden Wood has been proven to be an asset to this team and is playing his best basketball in his seventh year in the league.
Though Detroit sits at the bottom of the East, individually Grant has proven to be the top asset for the team leading in points and blocks per game. Grant has seen the most minutes on the floor for the Pistons this year and is their #1 go to guy. Grant has increased his points per game from 12 to 22.5 this season. With stars in Denver like Jokic and Murray out of the rotation Grant has had to step up and become a leader. Though the team is not performing well this season Grant has proved to us that he can be a top player on a team.