They don’t hand out awards for doing a quarter of a job in real life or in the NBA. That will come at the end of the season, but after the buzzer sounds for the first quarter of the season it is good to take stock in where we are today.
The NBA season is a marathon that allows for check-ins every 20 games to see where everyone is this long, beautiful season.
In all likelihood, these will change over the course of the season. But, through 20 games these are my personal picks for all of the major awards and the All-NBA Teams.
Virtually every team has played 20 games this season and with the Player Participation Policy, all players need to play at least 65 games to be eligible for any of these awards.
Coach of the Year – Jamahl Mosley (+400)
The easiest award to hand out at this stage in the season is coach of the year. The Orlando Magic are second in the Eastern Conference, just had a franchise-tying nine-game winning streak snapped and have the sixth-best net rating in the league.
This season Mosley also expertly navigated injuries with two starters (Wendell Carter Jr. and Markelle Fultz) both missing 15 games each. Mosley has pushed the right buttons to turn this Orlando team from a novelty to a legitimate playoff contender.
Rest of the Ballot: Ime Udoka, Joe Mazzula, Michael Malone and Chris Finch
Most Improved Player – Alperen Sengun (+300)
This is the weirdest award in the NBA. Sometimes it is for a player that improves significantly on the year before and other times it is to acknowledge moving from good to very good.
For this exercise, I am focusing on the former. This season Sengun has gone from a talented question mark to a probable All-Star on a playoff-caliber team. He got in better shape, grew during the summer and is putting together his version of a Domantas Sabonis/Nikola Jokic season with his own flair.
If this goes the other way then Tyrese Maxey has this award sewn up and delivered. Maxey does not need this to continue building his resume with an All-Star berth, All-NBA selection and playoff run all in his near future.
Rest of the Ballot: Cam Thomas, Coby White, Shaedon Sharpe and Mark Williams
Rookie of the Year – Chet Holmgren (-150)
So far this season Holmgren is second among rookies in points and blocks, third in rebounding and sixth in steals. Holmgren has the counting stats to keep up with Victor Wembanyama, while also anchoring the defense of one of the best teams in the league.
Holmgren has seven double-doubles and is flirting with the type of shooting splits that are reserved for the most efficient scorers in the league. He has 53-39-86 splits through his first 19 NBA games.
Rest of the Ballot: Wembanyama, Ausar Thompson, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Keyonte George
Most Improved Player – Malik Monk (+1200)
This is building up to be one of the most intriguing awards of the season with over a half dozen real candidates in the mix. This season Monk is averaging a career-high in scoring (14.4), assists (4.6), three-point shooting (41.3%) and free-throw attempts per game (3.2).
Monk has filled in as a go-to scorer and playmaker with De’Aaron Fox out of the lineup and as a perfect perimeter partner with him when healthy.
Rest of the Ballot: Cole Anthony, Tim Hardaway Jr., Immanuel Quickley and Chris Paul
Defensive Player of the Year – Anthony Davis (+550)
Davis is putting together his best overall defensive season with 12.5 rebounds, 2.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. While the Los Angeles Lakers offense has been up-and-down this season, the defense has been more of the constant.
With Davis anchoring the defense and seeming to be healthy so far there are very few players this season building a resume that will compete with what he has. If Davis can stay healthy (play 65+ games) and Los Angeles gets closer to the top third of the league in team defense this will be Daivs’ award to lose.
Rest of the Ballot: Rudy Gobert, Evan Mobley, Bam Adebayo and Jrue Holiday
Most Valuable Player – Nikola Jokic (+150)
The MVP this season has the opportunity to build a growing legacy with Jokic looking like the frontrunner for his third trophy. Only eight players in league history have more than two MVP’s on their mantle, setting the stage for Jokic to join the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six), Michael Jordan (five), LeBron James (four), Wilt Chamberlain (four), Larry Bird (three) and Magic Johnson (three).
After winning two MVPs and a championship Jokic is building what might be his masterpiece season. The big man is averaging a career-high 29.0 points per game.
He is also leading the league in rebounding (12.8), a career-high 9.8 assists per game, 19 double-doubles (in 20 games) and a league-leading eight triple-doubles. There are very few metrics that do not show Jokic as the best player in the league, especially on the offensive end.
Rest of the Ballot: Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Giannis Antetokounmpo
First: Gilgeous-Alexander, Doncic, Tatum Antetokounmpo and Jokic
Second: Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Kevin Durant, Sabonis and Embiid
Third: Maxey, Anthony Edwards, Jimmy Butler, LeBron James and Anthony Davis
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