The NBA Awards Leaders At Present: Russell Westbrook is the Sixth Man of the Year, while Jayson Tatum deserves to win MVP

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There have already been some significant developments in the season, including key players getting suspended, young teams winning games, and contenders faltering more than we thought. Such examples include Kyrie Irving getting suspended, the Utah Jazz and Indiana Pacers playing inspired basketball, and the Golden State Warriors struggling to start the year. There has been a lot of drama this season from the NBA’s top stars and teams, and that won’t change as the months’ progress. Amazingly, the NBA has truly become a global game because the talent is coming from all over the world right now.

It is reasonable to say that all NBA fans have a pretty good idea as to which players are competing in the multiple award categories. But who are the current season’s top performers in terms of individual performances in terms of impact, and statistics? It is time to grant the award winners for the 2022-23 NBA season, whereby we gain an indication of what to expect from the league’s best players and coaches for the rest of the year. Here are the current leaders for the Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and of course, the MVP award.

Coach Of The Year

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Current Leaders For The Coach Of The Year Award:

  1. Joe Mazzulla
  2. Rick Carlisle
  3. Will Hardy
  4. J.B. Bickerstaff
  5. Mike Budneholzer

Joe Mazzulla was thrown into the fire this season when he was forced to take over the Boston Celtics following the Ime Udoka situation stemming from the offseason. Udoka was the man who led the Celtics to the NBA Finals, and anyone taking over that job was going to be placed in the hot seat immediately. Rather than struggling to maintain the Celtics’ standard of basketball, Mazzulla has been a seamless fit as the team has the best record in the NBA right now. Mazzulla has kept the team intact, and Boston looks like legitimate title contenders once again, thanks to that.

Rick Carlisle made a surprising decision to join the Indiana Pacers last year, and it has paid dividends. Carlisle is bringing the best out of Tyrese Haliburton, one of the better playmakers we have seen in recent times and has the team playing inspired basketball. The Pacers should have been tanking but, instead, hold the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. Carlisle has always been a sensational coach, and he is right behind Mazzulla for Coach of the Year.

Of course, Will Hardy is another coach that has somehow made a tanking team relevant in the NBA. The Utah Jazz is playing very well, currently holding the 7th seed in the West, and actually looks like a playoff team. Now, it is likely Utah will start packing it in and start tanking for Victor Wembanyama at some point, but Hardy deserves credit for showing his talents as a motivator and basketball brain.

J.B. Bickerstaff deserves credit for leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a top-3 seed in the Eastern Conference after the franchise acquired multiple-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell. Last year, Bickerstaff managed to get the whole team to buy into the defensive end and helped All-Star Darius Garland breakthrough in a competitive Western Conference. Meanwhile, Mike Budenholzer will always be in the Coach of the Year mix because he is coaching the best player in the world in Giannis Antetokounmpo and a talented Milwaukee Bucks side that will be competing for a top-2 seed in the East.

Sixth Man Of The Year

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Current Leaders For The Sixth Man Of The Year Award:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. Bennedict Mathurin
  3. Christian Wood
  4. Jordan Poole
  5. Norman Powell

Amazingly, Russell Westbrook will actually win a major accolade this season, even if his skills and athleticism have clearly waned. The former MVP and triple-double maestro is having a pretty solid year by posting 15.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 7.2 APG on 39.9% shooting from the field, 31.7% from three, and 70.7% from the free-throw line. Russ has been a poor shooter as usual, but his impact off the bench has helped the Lakers recover from a terrible start and hold an 8-12 record. In terms of bench impact, Westbrook has been the best sixth man in the league.

Bennedict Mathurin is in the mix for Rookie of the Year, but he is also in the mix for Sixth Man of the Year. Mathurin is a talented scorer and athlete who is posting 19.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.5 APG on 40.3% shooting from three. A shooter and athletic wing player, Mathurin stands 6’6” and weighs 210 lbs making him a solid modern NBA starter. In terms of star potential, Mathurin is one of the brightest in the draft.

Christian Wood has not been given enough minutes to prove he can compete at an All-Star level, but he has been a solid sixth man. The talented big man has tremendous length as a 6’10” power forward and center, and in only 25.6 MPG, he is averaging 16.3 PPG and 7.7 RPG. Wood can defend the rim very well and has a skill set that translates into the modern NBA. As the best offensive option on Dallas behind Luka Doncic, Wood can score inside and outside.

The Golden State Warriors have struggled throughout the year, and Jordan Poole has yet to find his footing since signing his big contract and also receiving that punch from Draymond Green. Poole seems to be rushing his offense but is still putting up solid numbers at 15.9 PPG and 4.6 APG on 41.5% FG, 30.5% 3-PT FG, and 84.2% FT. Because of his scoring average, Poole is in the mix for Sixth Man of the Year, but his impact has not quite been there just yet.

Meanwhile, Norman Powell has been an excellent pickup for the Los Angeles Clippers, who have yet to find their groove with Kawhi Leonard once again dealing with injuries and load management. Powell is posting 14.8 PPG and 2.9 RPG on 37.9% from three, very solid numbers from a player who also competes well on the defensive side of the floor. If the Clippers get a better record, Powell will rise in the Sixth Man of the Year rankings.

Most Improved Player Of The Year

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Current Leaders For The Most Improved Player Of The Year Award:

  1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  2. Lauri Markkanen
  3. Tyrese Maxey
  4. Tyrese Haliburton
  5. De’Aaron Fox

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has always been a bundle of talent as a 6’6” guard with incredible scoring ability and athleticism. Gilgeous-Alexander is having an All-Star-worthy year this season, posting 31.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 6.1 APG on 50.6% shooting from the field, 33.9% from three, and 91.9% from the free-throw line. His numbers should come back down to Earth in a few weeks or months, but he has improved tremendously on the court as a more focused and impactful scorer. At 24 years old, his future is incredibly bright.

Nobody could have ever predicted that Lauri Markkanen would become this good on both ends of the floor. After getting traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Donovan Mitchell trade, Lauri has produced solid numbers across the board. The versatile forward is averaging 22.2 PPG and 8.5 RPG on 51.5% FG and 39.5% 3-PT FG. Markkanen seems to be able to occupy the small forward and power forward positions really well and has been the best player on the Utah Jazz all year.

We all know Tyrese Maxey will be an All-Star someday, but that day might come sooner rather than later. Maxey is producing 22.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 4.4 APG on 46.2% FG and 42.2% 3-PT FG. Maxey is an energizer bunny who does not stop competing on both ends of the floor, and at 22 years old, that energy won’t wane anytime soon. If Maxey can continue posting solid scoring numbers, he could realistically be in the mix for Most Improved Player.

Tyrese Haliburton has been exceptional, make no mistake about that. The talented playmaker is averaging 19.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 11.2 APG while only posting 2.6 turnovers per game as well. That assist-to-turnover ratio will absolutely work if this continues, and Haliburton has been the main reason the Pacers are in playoff seedings so far. Haliburton can score very well, but his ability to set his teammates up has made him one of the better guards in the NBA. No doubt, the Sacramento Kings could be kicking themselves for letting him go too soon.

Speedster De’Aaron Fox has been playing spectacular basketball and looks ready to take the jump to All-Star status, finally. The 24-year-old is averaging 24.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 6.0 APG on 52.6% FG, 38.9% 3-PT FG, and 82.3% FT. Surely, those are All-Star numbers, even if his playmaking ability is still not quite up to par with his scoring. Fox has been making strides to be a better floor general, and he has certainly improved that and other areas of his game. It must be known that his three-point shooting has been very impressive to watch as well.

Defensive Player Of The Year

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Current Leaders For The Defensive Player Of The Year Award:

  1. Brook Lopez
  2. Anthony Davis
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  4. Myles Turner
  5. Rudy Gobert

Brook Lopez has always been a unique big man because he used to be a solid low-post player early on in his career before becoming a shot-blocking, three-point specialist. Nobody knows how this transition happened, but Lopez is posting 0.7 SPG and a league-leading 2.9 BPG. His shot-blocking has been spectacular for the Milwaukee Bucks, who are right on the heels of the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. It would be amazing to see Lopez lift his first Defensive Player of the Year award at the age of 34.

Anthony Davis is finally back to his best on both ends of the floor. Somehow, the Los Angeles Lakers have not managed to make the most of it by holding a poor 8-12 record. But Davis has been an All-Star again, averaging 26.3 PPG and 12.7 RPG but also posting 1.5 SPG and 2.3 BPG. Davis is showing how dominant he can be on defense, using his physical gifts and timing to swat shots and protect the rim. Hopefully, Davis can continue showing what made him an MVP candidate a few years ago.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most versatile defender in the NBA, and that will always make him a contender for Defensive Player of the Year. The Greek Freak can shut down 4 positions and also has the length to handle most NBA centers as well. Giannis is posting MVP-caliber numbers on offense as usual, but he is also averaging 0.9 SPG and 1.0 BPG. Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez are forming a dynamic duo on defense, and it is becoming incredibly difficult to score on the Bucks when they lock in.

Despite the constant trade rumors surrounding him, Myles Turner is doing what he does best: block shots and defend the rim. The 26-year-old is posting 8.3 RPG, 0.6 SPG, and 2.6 BPG while starting all 16 games played. Turner seems to be getting better with age, and it is important to remember that he is a veteran who has been in the league for 7 years now. Turner has helped the Indiana Pacers grab the 4th seed in the East and deserves his recognition for competing for the Defensive Player of the Year.

Three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert may be a candidate for a fourth honor in terms of defensive accolades if the Minnesota Timberwolves can actually start showing their talent. The 7’1″ Frenchman has incredibly long arms and is a top defensive player, and will be posting solid defensive numbers all year regardless of team performance. The Frenchman is averaging 0.7 SPG and 1.4 BPG while also pulling down 11.8 RPG. But so far, Gobert is behind 4 other talented defensive players.

Rookie Of The Year

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Current Leaders For The Rookie Of The Year Award:

  1. Paolo Banchero
  2. Bennedict Mathurin
  3. Jaden Ivey
  4. Keegan Murray
  5. Jabari Smith Jr.

The Rookie of the Year award race could be an exciting one to follow throughout the year. Obviously, one player stands out for the award: Paolo Banchero. Paolo Banchero will likely win the Rookie of the Year award after going No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft. Banchero is 6’10” with elite strength and athleticism, meaning he will have no problem carrying the offense for the Orlando Magic, as he is averaging 22.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 3.6 APG. Showing All-Star quality already, Banchero should win Rookie of the Year.

Bennedict Mathurin is in the mix for Sixth Man of the Year, but also for Rookie of the Year by averaging 19.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.5 APG. Mathurin has been the biggest reason that the Indiana Pacers are in a playoff seed outside of Tyrese Haliburton playing like an All-Star. Mathurin was an excellent pick with the No. 6 overall pick, as he is showing he can be a sure-fire starter at only 20 years old. So far, only Banchero has been playing better.

Jaden Ivey was an excellent pickup for the tanking Detroit Pistons team that had the No. 5 overall pick. A team that already has a talented guard in Cade Cunningham, the Pistons selected Ivey to bolster their depth. The 6’4” guard is posting 16.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 4.3 APG on 42.1% shooting from the field. A guard with excellent two-way potential, Ivey seems to be one of the biggest steals in the draft.

The Sacramento Kings knew what they were doing when they chose Keegan Murray with the No. 4 overall pick because the 22-year-old has excellent length and size at 6’8” and 215 lbs. A versatile athlete who can score, rebound, and defend, Murray, is showing glimpses of becoming a very talented player. Murray’s skillset has also helped the Kings fight for a playoff spot. Jabari Smith Jr, a talented player who is nowhere near his prime just yet, is posting 11.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG on a tanking Rockets team. Both Murray and Smith Jr have very high ceilings, and hopefully, we can see more as the months go by.

Most Valuable Player

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Current Leaders For The MVP Award:

  1. Jayson Tatum
  2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  3. Luka Doncic
  4. Nikola Jokic
  5. Stephen Curry

Jayson Tatum has been the best player in the world through 21 games, make no mistake about that. It seems the 24-year-old has let the 2022 Finals motivate him to reach an entirely different level because there is no more doubt Tatum is a superstar player right now. He is posting 31.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, and 4.5 APG on 48.8% FG, 36.6% 3-PT FG, and 87.3% FT. The superstar forward is demolishing teams with his scoring and has improved other areas of his game, including his defense. Tatum is averaging 0.9 SPG and 1.1 BPG while kickstarting a talented Celtics team on both ends of the floor. Since the Celtics have the best record in the NBA, Tatum deserves to be ahead in the MVP race.

Giannis Antetokounmpo will always be a stalwart in the MVP race because his two-way dominance is irreplaceable for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Greek Freak already has two MVP awards to his name and has a chance to win his 3rd one at the end of the season. Giannis is posting 31.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 1.0 BPG through 17 games. The Bucks hold the second seed in the East thanks to Giannis’ talents, and the player is right behind Jayson Tatum for the MVP award.

The Dallas Mavericks have a 10-11 record, which isn’t great, but Luka Doncic is absolutely great. In fact, he could be historically great already. The Slovenian is terrorizing defenses with his inside and outside scoring game and is averaging 33.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 8.6 APG on 50.5% FG, 31.5% 3-PT FG, and 72.3% FT. Luka is going through his usual inconsistencies from three and from the free-throw line, but that does not change the fact he is clearly a top-5 player in the world right now. Without Luka, the Mavericks are one of the worst teams in the NBA and would be in the lottery. Doncic can carry an offense singlehandedly and also does his thing on the boards, meaning he is a triple-double threat every night. Other than Tatum and Giannis, Luka has the best case for winning the MVP award so far, regardless of the team record.

Nikola Jokic is an MVP statistical darling because, as a center, he continuously averages at least 8 APG. Jokic is a once-in-a-lifetime type of talent as a center because he is literally a point guard in a 7-foot frame. The Serbian superstar can make any pass or any shot on the court and is posting near triple-double stats at 22.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, and 8.9 APG on 62.9% FG, 32.4% 3-PT FG, and 84.7% FT. Jokic is the star of the show for the Denver Nuggets, and the team is currently second in the Western Conference.

Stephen Curry has been the only bright spot for the Golden State Warriors, who are only 11-11 in the West right now. The greatest shooter alive is somehow playing his best basketball to start a season because he is averaging 31.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 7.0 APG on 50-40-90 shooting splits. The point guard seems to have found a way to dominate any game he is in offensively and is aging like a fine wine. At 34 years old, Steph is still the best point guard in the world and will need support from his teammates if he wants to lead the team to another NBA championship.

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