By the end of Thanksgiving weekend all 30 NBA teams will have played 20 games. That’s a quarter of the season done. Time flies!
So while you’re taking a break between all those Thanksgiving fixins, let’s take a look at who would win the NBA’s most coveted individual awards at the quarter mark.
Possibly the most tightly contested award a quarter of the way through the seasons. The two clear front runners are the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and the Brooklyn Nets’ Kevin Durant.
Don’t believe us? Las Vegas has the two former teammates as the top two betting favorites with Curry at +200 and Durant at +500.
Both men are the leading scorers for the best team in their respective conferences. KD leads the league in scoring and Steph’s Warriors have the league’s best record.
Curry is number two in dunksandthrees EPM at +8.9, Durant is fifth at +6.0. Durant’s TS% and eFG% are 66 and 61. Curry is at 65 and 59 respectively.
We are splitting hairs.
But the tiebreak will go to Curry as his Warriors beat Durant’s Nets in Brooklyn head to head.
Winner: Stephen Curry
Defensive Player of the Year
Another tough award through 20 games. If we’re going strictly by metrics the best defensive EPM belongs to Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley.
A rookie is having more of an impact on his team’s defensive capabilities, than any other player in the league. Before you dismiss this out of hand, the Cavaliers have the fifth best adjusted defensive rating in the league, and they’ve played the sixth toughest schedule.
But the Cavaliers are 9-9, we don’t value defense as much as offense, and a rookie has never won that award. Sorry Evan, but we’ll be hearing from you again later.
Right now Las Vegas has Rudy Gobert (+250) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+650) as favorites. Gobert has been excellent as usual for the league’s ninth rated defense, and Giannis has come on strong of late for the Bucks.
But for the winner of this award we are going to the most versatile and smart defender on the league’s number one defense. That’s the Golden State Warriors and that player is Draymond Green (+700).
Green has been a monster on the defensive end so far this season. Among starters only Nikola Jokic, Mobley, and Gobert rank ahead of Green on defensive EPM. He’s a one man wrecking crew that not only knows where everyone on his team is supposed to be, he knows the plays the opponents are running and where they are supposed to be.
Winner: Draymond Green
Rookie of the Year
Rookies almost always are negative net values to their teams. They may score a lot, grab a lot of rebounds or block a lot of shots. But their overall contribution is a minus. That’s due largely to the fact that this is the NBA. The best and most competitive basketball league in the world.
We mentioned Mobley earlier. The anchor of the number five defense in the league as a rookie. That’s unheard of. He’s a -0.7 on offense but overall is +2.6. That’s in the 89th percentile and best among all rookies.
You have to drop all the way to the 71st percentile before you get to the next rookie. That’s the Indiana Pacers’ Chris Duarte at +0.5 overall.
The Toronto Raptors’ Scottie Barnes is a net negative overall at -1.8. But his counting stats are decent and he’s so versatile. He knows how to play and will only get better.
Shouts to number one overall pick, the Detroit Pistons’ Cade Cunningham, who has come on strong the last 10 games.
Even with the fact that he’s now going to miss a few weeks with an injury, through 20 games the best rookie has been Mobley.
Winner: Evan Mobley
Sixth Man of the Year
If ever there was an award strictly about getting buckets, this award is it. The individual that doesn’t start but has the highest points per game average almost always wins this award.
So far through the quarter mark that is the Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro. He is averaging 21.6 points per game on. 47/43/88 shooting splits. He is the overwhelming favorite according to Las Vegas at -115 odds, and the Heat are 12-6.
Winner: Tyler Herro
Most Improved Player
This is a tricky award, as voters tend to give it to players who make a marked improvement in points per game. The challenge with that is, a rookie or second year player who was a top five pick often sees that kind of jump year over year.
But does that mean most improved?
The Vegas favorites for this award are the Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant (+225) and the Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges (+250).
Morant has jumped from 19 ppg to the rarefied air of 25+. There is talk that he’s likely to make his first all-star team. All of that is phenomenal. But Morant was the number two pick in his draft class. This type of play was expected, that’s why the Grizzlies took him second.
Bridges on the other hand, while a lottery pick, was selected 12th. There are no guarantees in the draft, but even less than none the further you move from number one. Bridges’ scoring average is up to 20 points per game and all his other counting stats are at career highs.
Looking at the advanced numbers, Bridges has been an overall negative his first three seasons in the league. So far this season he is a +2.9 in EPM. That’s the 91st percentile. A net positive on both sides of the floor.
Morant is also +2.9 in EPM, but a net negative on defense.
Winner: Miles Bridges
Coach of the Year
How many of you predicted the Warriors would have the best record in the league through 20 games? Steve Kerr has tweaked his staff, added some wrinkles to his favorite sets, and allowed players to do what they do best.
Winner: Steve Kerr
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