Coming into this NBA season, we all expected James Harden, Lebron James and the entire Golden State Warriors roster to dominate the league. But did anyone predict Giannis Antetokounmpo to have this type of meteoric rise? Or for Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic to lead the Orlando Magic to the best record in the Eastern Conference?
Let’s take a look at who should be getting award consideration after week two.
(I’ve also decided that we’ll only look at player awards from week to week because for the Coach of the Year award you tend to look at the season as a whole.)
Count me as one that didn’t expect this level of dominance from Giannis. He’s been out of this world and consistently at the top of the leaderboard in all the major statistical categories. And they’re not empty stats. His level of play is translating into wins for the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis is a must watch whenever he is on TV.
Giannis’ ability to score, even when everyone one on the opposing team knows he’s going to the rim, is unreal. For a player that will probably never have a great outside shot, Giannis has a remarkable ability to play off the ball with smart cuts to the basket. In isolation his size and athleticism is unfair to whoever is guarding him. Giannis is going to be great for years to come, get used to it.
Leading the LA Clippers to an undefeated 4-0 start in a tough Western Conference, Blake Griffin should be getting a lot of MVP votes this season. Chris Paul leaving for Houston left everyone wondering how good the Clippers could be and Blake Griffin has proven they’ll be great. The Clippers have dismantled teams with the #1 defense in the league and the #3 offense. At this level of play, it’ll be hard not to give Blake Griffin serious consideration for MVP. That five year contract is already looking like a great investment.
Rookie of the Year
Simmons has been fantastic playing alongside the star laden young talent in Philadelphia. Averaging 16.4 points, 7.4 assists and 10 rebounds is remarkable for a player without an outside shot. Simmons has been a triple double threat every night and looked like a veteran running the show for a 76ers team that has been very good.
Expect to see Simmons on this list a lot this season as his talent has been really shining through. And it will only improve which is scary for other young Eastern Conference teams.
For a team that received a lot of flack for their moves during the draft (rightfully so), it’s starting to look like the Chicago Bulls have a real talent in Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish big man has been lights out this season shooting 40% from three. On top of his 15 points per game Markkanen is also grabbing 10 boards a game, something that was considered a weakness coming out of the draft.
A lot of what makes a star in the NBA game is a player who proves a perceived weakness wrong. If these numbers hold for Chicago, and they get another young talent in this year’s loaded draft, they will be just fine post Jimmy Butler.
Defensive Player of the Year
Replacing a hall of famer and leading your team to the #1 defensive rating in the NBA is a huge resume builder. Patrick Beverley has brought a tenacity to the Clippers that has been a major part of them being the #1 defense in the NBA to start the season.
Beverley has always been a great defender, but putting him alongside other strong defenders like Deandre Jordan he’s shown this season that he can truly lead an elite defense in the NBA.
Losing Gordon Hayward to injury and falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers to start the year, you would have thought the Celtics would be reeling, but Al Horford and the Boston Celtics now have the #2 defense in the league. Horford has been a solid contributor to a swarming defense that will keep the Celtics in the top half of the standings all year. Their defense, plus the solid play from their core of young talent, should help them do well in the playoffs even without Gordon Hayward.
Sixth Man of the Year
Part of the surprising Orlando Magic has been the play of Jonathon Simmons who has been phenomenal off the bench. Shooting 50% from the field and 45% from three, Simmons comes into the game and provides athleticism and size on defense with efficiency on offense. Obviously it’s early in the season, but if he can keep up this type of play, the Magic are going to be a big surprise in the east.
Coming off the bench and shooting 65% from the field, Big Al has been a nice option for the Pacers. These would be career numbers for the former Jazzman, but there’s no reason he couldn’t put up efficient low post scoring in the weak Eastern Conference all season. Count me in as someone who still gets a kick out of that old school push shot.