Shoutout: Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Davis is basically averaging 27 and 10, shooting a career high 34.7% from three, posting a 27.63 PER (5th best in the league), is 4th in ESPN’s Estimated Wins Added (EWA), and has a 61.2 True Shooting Percentage. He is 8th in Offensive Win Shares, 20th in Defensive Win Shares, 6th in Win Shares, 6th in Win Shares/48 Minutes, and 19th in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). He’s 3rd in the NBA in blocks per game to boot.
Contender: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
I’m not saying, by any means, Giannis is the only good player on the Bucks, but in comparison to LeBron having Kevin Love (til recently) who is an All-Star/Third Team caliber player, Davis who had Boogie until tragedy struck, James Harden who has Chris Paul, and Steph Curry who has Kevin Durant among others, Giannis is at a clear disadvantage. Regardless, Giannis is 2nd in the NBA in PER at 28.96, 2nd in EWA, 5th in Offensive Win Shares, 11th in Defensive Win Shares, 3rd in Win Shares, 7th in Box Plus/Minus, 11th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and 4th in VORP. Giannis is averaging 27.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
Runner Up: LeBron James, Cavaliers
LeBron had the worst month of his career in at least a decade in January. On January 24th, LeBron had the lowest Plus/Minus of any player in the NBA for the month of January at -119. I don’t want to completely overreact though. The Cavs tanked and LeBron was part of the problem. He played terrible defense, if you consider just not even playing defense constituting “playing” defense.” The Cavs had no interest in playing basketball, and were too busy hating each other to resemble a team even remotely capable of getting back to the NBA finals.
All that said, LeBron’s statistical profile for the season is still incredible. He is averaging 26.4 points, 8.9 assists and 8.1 rebounds with a 62.2 True Shooting Percentage. He is 4th in PER at 28.08, 1st in EWA, 4th in Offensive Win Shares, 4th in Win Shares, 4th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and tied 1st for VORP.
Winner: James Harden, Rockets
When Harden injured his hamstring and was expected to miss around a month everyone gave his MVP candidacy a stamp of death. Well, Harden ended up missing only 7 games and, in my mind, is the clear MVP of this season.
Harden is leading the NBA in PER at 30.52 with the second highest Usage Rate, 35.9. He is 3rd in EWA. He is averaging 31.4 points per game (which leads the league) 9 assists per game (2nd in the NBA), and 5 rebounds per game. He sports a 62.3 True Shooting Percentage.
Harden ranks 1st in Offensive Win Shares, 1st in Win Shares, 1st in Win Shares/48 Minutes, 1st in Box Plus/Minus, 1st in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and is tied for 1st in VORP.
6th Man of the Year
Winner: Lou Williams, Clippers
Put this award on ice. Williams would have to start 27 out of the Clippers’ final 29 games to become ineligible for this award, so we can safely assume that won’t happen.
Lou Williams should have been an All-Star. Williams is enjoying the best season of his career. He is posting a career high in both points per game and assists per game. He is also posting a career high in PER (22.1), True Shooting Percentage (59.6), and VORP. He is maintaining performing efficiently despite a 30.1 usage rate. He is on pace to post the highest Win Share total of his career and there is no one else coming off the bench this season that is even in Williams’ stratosphere.
The only other guy that is really worth mentioning is Tyreke Evans, but he currently has started more games than he has come off the bench, thus making him ineligible for this award at present. Should Evans return to the 6th man role, he will be the clear runner-up for this award.
Defensive Player of the Year
Runner Up: Al Horford, Celtics
Among players who have played at least 29 games (I didn’t do 30 because I wanted Gobert to be in the data) and are defending at least 10 shots per game, Al Horford is defending the 2nd most shot attempts per game in the league and has the 2nd best defended field goal percentage in the league.
Among players who have played at least 29 games and are defending at least 4 shots per game within 6 feet of the basket, Horford has the 8th best defended field goal percentage on such shots in the league.
The Celtics defensive net rating actually has a slight uptick when Horford sits, but without diving into the noise of those numbers I’m willing to bet the units that don’t feature Horford are being propped up by some fluky shooting luck. I don’t put much stock into it.
Horford is 6th in the NBA in Defensive Rating, 3rd in Defensive Win Shares, and 3rd in Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Winner: Joel Embiid, 76ers
Among players who have played at least 29 games and are defending at least 10 shots per game, Embiid is defending the 11th most shots in the NBA and has the 5th lowest defended field goal percentage, only fractions of a percent behind Horford.
Among players who have played at least 29 games and are defending at least 4 shots per game within 6 feet of the basket, Embiid has the 3rd best defended field goal percentage on such shots in the league.
With Embiid on the court, the 76ers defensive rating is 99.9, which would be better than San Antonio’s league leading mark of 100.9. When Embiid sits the 6ers defensive rating falls to 106.
Embiid is 8th in Defensive Rating, 16th in Defensive Win Shares, and 17th in Defensive Box Plus/Minus. He is 6th in defensive rebounds per game and 5th in blocks per game.
Most Improved Player
Shoutouts: Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets, Jamal Murray, Nuggets, Trey Lyles, Nuggets
Spencer Dinwiddie is nearly doubling his last season averages of both points per game and assists per game, and each of his averages last year were career bests at the time. He has posted a PER of 17.46 this season after a previous career high mark of 12.72. Dinwiddie is actually 18th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus.
Jamal Murray has jumped from 9 points a game to 16 points a game, has gone from a 33% three point shooter to a 37% three point shooter, an 11.97 PER to a 16.13 PER, and a 51.8 True Shooting Percentage to a mark of 57.5.
Trey Lyles has jumped from a 6 point per game scorer to an 11 point per game scorer. He is posting his best rebound, assist, and block marks as well. He is shooting a career high 40% from three and a career high 49.6% from the field. His PER is a respectable 18.76, after a prior career high of 11.70. His True Shooting Percentage is 60.2, after previous seasons of 51.7 and 46.4. He is 20th in the league in Offensive Net Rating.
Contender: Giannis, Antetokounmpo, Bucks
While the quantity of Giannis’ improvement may not be as large as the others on this list, moving from a top 15 player to a top 6 player and legitimate MVP candidate is more difficult to do than the improvements made by others in this category.
Runner Up: Clint Capela, Rockets
Capela has become a key cog in the Rockets machine. Capela is leading the league in field goal percentage. He is averaging career highs in points, rebounds and blocks. His 25.51 PER is tied for 7th best in the NBA. He is 17th in EWA. He is 3rd in Offensive Net Rating, 7th in Defensive Net Rating, 18th in Offensive Win Shares, 17th in Defensive Win Shares, 16th in Win Shares, 4th in Win Shares/48 Minutes, and 12th in Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Winner: Victor Oladipo, Pacers
Oladipo has transformed into an All-NBA caliber player. His PER this season is 23.75 and his previous career best mark is 16.77. His True Shooting Percentage is 59.4, with a previous career high of 53.4. He is shooting a career high from the field, 48.8%, a career high from three, 38.6%, and posting career best marks in points per game, rebounds per game, and steals per game. He is averaging 24.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4 assists. He is 17th in Box Plus/Minus, 15th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and 17th in VORP.
Rookie of the Year
Shoutout: Lonzo Ball, Lakers
Get well soon!
Shoutouts: Bam Adebayo, Heat, Jarrett Allen, Nets, Lauri Markkanen, Bulls, John Collins, Hawks
While Lauri Markkanen is surely viewed as the clearly superior player among this group by the public, the four actually aren’t all that different this season. Out of the group, Markkanen sports the lowest Win Shares, PER, offensive and total rebound rate, Offensive and Defensive Rating, steal rate, block rate, and VORP.
I’m not saying Markkanen is the worst among the bunch. He set the record for fastest player to 100 made 3’s in a career. I’m just saying this is an excellent crop of rookies and these other guys are on his level at present, despite maybe not having as much upside.
Interesting note on the defensive end. Out of rookies who have played at least 30 games and are defending at least two shots per game within 6 feet of the rim, Jarrett Allen ranks 4th and John Collins ranks 5th in defended field goal percentage on such shots. Two of the guys ahead of them, Bam and Zach Collins, are defending half as many such shots per game.
Contender: Kyle Kuzma, Lakers
Contender: Jayson Tatum, Celtics
Runner Up: Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
Winner: Ben Simmons, 76ers
All these guys are dope, so here’s a table:
*Numbers in parenthesis represent each players’ rank in the statistical category among rookies
|Points/Game||16.5 (2nd)||19.2 (1st)||13.6 (6th)||15.7 (3rd)|
|Rebounds/Game||7.7 (1st)||3.4 (12th)||5.2 (6th)||5.9 (4th)|
|Assists/Game||7.3 (1st)||3.4 (4th)||1.4 (9th)||1.8 (7th)|
|Steals/Game||1.8 (1st)||1.5 (2nd)||0.9 (7th)||0.6 (12th)|
|Blocks/Game||0.9 (2nd)||0.4 (11th)||0.8 (3rd)||0.4 (12th)|
|Win Shares||4.6 (2nd)||2.9 (5th)||5.6 (1st)||2.7 (8th)|
|PER||18.3 (2nd)||17.0 (5th)||15.2 (7th)||14.6 (9th)|
|*True Shooting||54 (9th)||55.1 (5th)||59.6 (3rd)||54.5 (7th)|
|VORP||2.4 (1st)||1.2 (3rd)||1.5 (3rd)||0.3 (12th)|
*True Shooting ranks among rookies taking at least 3 field goal attempts per game
Coach of the Year
Shoutout: Doc Rivers, Clippers
There have been games this season where the Clippers trotted out a G-League team featuring Lou Williams and are still in the playoff picture as we’re about to hit the All-Star break. They currently sit a half game out, but as recently as last week they were as high as the 7 seed, and they are 6th in the league in Net Rating.
LA lost its starting point guard, an all world defender, 11 games into the season. Blake Griffin missed 16/49 games (roughly 1/3rd of the season) as a Clipper before being traded. Danillo Gallinari has missed 38 games this year. Austin Rivers has missed 20 games. Milos Teodosic has missed 29 games. Doc has cobbled together good enough play to stay relevant in the Western Conference playoff race.
Contender: Mike D’Antoni
I know that D’Antoni won this award last year and therefore no one is talking about him as coach of the year this season, but he should be mentioned among the finalists. It is the Rockets, not the Warriors, that have the best point differential in the NBA. The Rockets have the second best net rating in the league. They have the second best record in the NBA, and are only a half game behind Golden State as of this writing.
Houston has also dealt with their own injuries. Chris Paul has missed 18 games. Luc Mbah a Moute has missed 17 games. Nene has missed 17 games. Trevor Ariza has missed 10 games. And Harden has missed 7.
Contender: Dwane Casey, Raptors
The Raptors have changed their identity, mostly, from previous versions of this team and such change has been seamless and effective. The Raptors are 10th in pace, which is in stark contrast to last season when they were 22nd. They launch 32.1 three point attempts per game this season, 6th most in the league, a 32% increase over the 24.3 they shot last year, 22nd most in the league. They are 5th in True Shooting Percentage this year, up from 11th last season.
All of this has the Raptors with the second best point differential in the NBA, the fourth best net rating, and they are currently the 1 seed in the East.
Runner Up: Brad Stevens, Celtics
I understand how difficult it is for a coach to lose a top three player on your roster opening night and have to adjust on the fly, and Stevens has done an incredible job. The Celtics are the 2 seed in the East at present, have the fourth best point differential in the NBA, and seventh best net rating in the NBA. Youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are playing major roles on a team trying to compete for the conference title.
Winner: Greg Popovich, Spurs
But with all due respect to Mr. Stevens, Pop deserves this award thus far. If you compare this seasons Celtics to last seasons Celtics, basically they consolidated IT and Crowder into Irving, and flipped Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris. The team also recently acquired Greg Monroe without giving up an asset.
Popovich, however, lost his best player before the season started and got a whole 9 games of not-top-level Kawhi upon return before he was shut down again. They have not had anyone in his galaxy to step in and replace him in the rotation let alone the starting lineup.
But Pop just keeps going. Next man up. The Spurs are 3rd in the West, have the fifth best point differential in the league and the second best net rating. After the playoffs last season people were asking if there was any way for the Spurs to get off Aldridge’s contract, and the league’s collective jaw dropped when they learned the Spurs signed him to an extension. Now he is playing at an All-NBA level. The Spurs have only gotten 34 games out of Rudy Gay, 30 out of Tony Parker, 46 out of Danny Green and 43 out of Manu Ginobili. You the real MVP Pop.
G – Kyrie Irving, Celtics
G – James Harden, Rockets
F – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
F – LeBron James, Cavaliers
C – Joel Embiid, 76ers
Steph Curry has been the superior player to Kyrie Irving on the court this season, but has played 10 games less. Curry bests Irving in PER, eFG%, TS%, Offensive Box Plus/Minus, Box Plus Minus, and rebound rate. Curry’s lead in assist rate and VORP is negligible, as is Irving’s lead in Win Shares.
The comparison begs the question of value vs outstanding. The word “value” is in the MVP award, but not the All-NBA designations. So one can argue the team assembled should be the most outstanding players, as games played has more impact on your value. If it is really close, then you can use games played as a tie breaker. But Steph has clearly been better this season, so at what point do games played factor into two unequals?
I’m leaning Irving on the first team for now, as Steph has essentially missed 20% of the season, and your best ability is your availability. Assuming he does not have another prolonged absence, Steph should end up on the First Team at seasons end. Steph is 5th in Offensive Rating, 6th in Offensive Win Shares, 10th in Win Shares, 3rd in Win Shares/48 Minutes, 4th in Box Plus/Minus, 2nd in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and 9th in VORP.
Kyrie is 9th in Offensive Win Shares, 7th in Win Shares, 8th in Win Shares/48 Minutes, 9th in Box Plus/Minus, 6th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and 10th in VORP.
G – Steph Curry, Warriors
G – Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves
F – Kevin Durant, Warriors
F – Anthony Davis, Pelicans
C – LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Jimmy Butler leads the league in ESPN’s wins metric. He is 5th in Win Shares and 7th in VORP.
Aldridge is now spending 56% of his minutes at center, so I am backtracking on my statement earlier that I still consider him a power forward still. Aldridge has been the rock on the court for the Spurs this season with Kawhi missing all but 9 games. Aldridge is 13th in Offensive Win Shares, 9th in Defensive Win Shares, 9th in Win Shares, and is sporting a 24 PER on a 26.9 Usage Rate.
G – Damian Lillard, Blazers
G – Russell Westbrook, Thunder
F – Paul George, Thunder
F – Kevin Love, Cavaliers
C – Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves
Life would be so much easier if Jimmy Butler counted as a forward and I could make him a third team forward and open another guard spot. There are six viable candidates for the last two guard spots: Dame, Westbrook, Chris Paul, Victor Oladipo, Kemba Walker, and DeMar DeRozan.
So how do you differentiate among the six? Seriously, how? I mean, LOOK AT THIS.
Chris Paul, sadly, has to be the first to go because of the amount of games played, as he has only been available for 36 games. I don’t think there is any way you can convince me Chris Paul has not been a top 5 player in the NBA this season when on the court. It is really borne out in the numbers. He is leading the NBA in RPM. He is 2nd in Win Shares/48 Minutes, 5th in Box Plus/Minus and 3rd in Offensive Box Plus Minus. He has the highest Offensive Rating in the NBA. He is 17th in Win Shares, 12th in Offensive Win Shares, and 16th in VORP despite missing a third of the season thus far. If he plays enough to qualify he absolutely needs to be on at least the second team.
I don’t want to harp on why I didn’t choose people as it will sound like I am diminishing their accomplishments, so I will just build my case for the two guys I did choose.
There are only five players in the NBA that are averaging at least 25 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists: James Harden, LeBron James, Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and Russell Westbrook.
Lillard’s name is all over the leader board this season. He is 7th in Offensive Win Shares, 8th in Win Shares, 10th in Win Shares/48 Minutes, 10th in Box Plus/Minus, 5th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and 8th in VORP. He has a 24.03 PER and a 59.2 True Shooting Percentage on a 29.7 Usage Rate.
Russell Westbrook is nearly averaging a triple-double again. He is leading the NBA in usage at 36.5, and his PER is 25.19. While his True Shooting Percentage of 51.8 is ghastly, Westbrook is 14th in Win Shares, 3rd in Box Plus/Minus, 7th in Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and 3rd in VORP.
Paul George is 4th among small forwards in RPM, 19th in Win Shares, is shooting a career high 42.6% from three, and has arguably been the best defensive wing in the NBA this season.
Kevin Love is by far the second best player on the Cavs and is sporting a career high 40% from deep and 61.3 True Shooting Percentage.
KAT takes Boogie’s place on the Third Team due to the injury, but Towns is worthy of the selection. Towns is 4th in Offensive Net Rating, 2nd in Offensive Win Shares, 2nd in Win Shares, 7th in Win Shares/48 Minutes, and 6th in VORP.