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Our 2022-23 NBA midseason award winners

The NBA has never had a bigger collection of talent than it has right now. Still, there are awards to give out, and we nominate our midseason frontrunners.

It’s been a while since we’ve experienced an NBA season with as much parity and equity as this year. A handful of games separate teams in the playoff standings for both conferences. The talent pool of players from the top on down has never been richer. Unfortunately, this has made the number of All-Star snubs higher than ever. 

It’s also made dictating who will win the end-of-season awards more difficult, as there are so many viable candidates for who should win the annual accolades. We’ve narrowed down who deserves each, considering stats, context, and situational elements to hand out our midseason awards. 

MVP: Luka Dončić 

As of right now, nobody carries their team more than Luka Dončić, whose team falls apart when he misses a game. His stats are insane — 30.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.6 APG, and 1.7 SPG. His advanced metrics are even better, as he averages career highs in offensive and defensive box plus/minus, TS%, and PER. 

When you think about which player is most valuable to his team, how can you not pick Dončić, whose team is 0-7 in games where he is out from the start? Dončić is the best offensive player in the NBA, and it’s time to reward the young superstar with the MVP trophy he deserves. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr.

There has been a recent controversy behind Jackson’s ability to impact the defensive end, but even if his stats are inflated, he’s still been an absolute beast. The 23-year-old has 66 blocks and 22 steals in 16 home games compared to just 37 rejections and 12 steals in 17 away games. And with the NBA recently speaking on the home scoring issue, it appears this will not affect his ability to earn top honors at the season’s end. 

His impact has boosted the Memphis Grizzlies to sixth in the NBA in defensive rating, at 110.1. Jackson is not a flashy player, only averaging 17 PPG, but there’s no more dangerous shot-blocker in the league. Jackson is approaching historic territory with a block percentage of 10.6%. Only former NBA legend Manute Bol has blocked more than 10% of two-point field goals attempted throughout an entire season. Not bad company. 

Coach of the Year: Michael Malone

The time has come for Mike Malone to win Coach of the Year. He’s finished in the top 10 three times but has yet to win it, even though he has been behind the development of back-to-back MVP Nicola Jokic. This season, there’s no excuse for his recognition. 

His Nuggets are finally fully healthy and own the top spot in the Western Conference standings. They are currently first in net rating, offensive rating, and 14th in defensive rating. That’s an impressive feat by Malone, who has been around for the entirety of the Nuggets’ rebuild around Jokic when he took over in 2015. It’s time for Malone to be given his flowers.  

Sixth Man of the Year: Russell Westbrook 

Westbrook seemed to be on the path toward losing his spot in the NBA. But this season under Darvin Ham he has taken to a bench role, finally adjusting to his diminishing athleticism and inconsistent shooting to lead the second unit. In his new role, Westbrook still averages 15.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 7.5 APG. His shooting splits are still “Westbrick,” and the Lakers are still a handful of games out of the play-in tournament, but you can’t blame Westbrook this season. 

Westbrook complements the Lakers in a smaller role, as he has been able to be more on-ball and lead the point of attack with the bench unit, as opposed to being stuck in the corner as a spot-up shooter like he was under the previous regime. Westbrook has accomplished what many former stars were incapable of, evolving his game to fit the team’s needs and accepting a smaller role. 

Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero

It’s essential to shout out Benedict Mathrurin, whose mere presence has turned the Indiana Pacers’ season around and vaulted them into the playoff hunt. But this is a runaway pick for Paolo Banchero, who will be the first number-one overall selection to win Rookie of the Year since Ben Simmons in 2018. 

Before Banchero’s arrival, the Magic already had one of the best cores in the NBA, and his addition brings a true number-one option with superstar potential. Benchero is averaging 20.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 3.7 APG, showing excellent on-ball scoring capabilities while cooking opponents on all three levels. The biggest plus for Banchero is he has immediately impacted winning for the Magic, who are only three games back from the play-in, an impressive feat for a team who just selected first in the NBA Draft. The future is bright for the Magic for the first time in over a decade.

Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai has been hidden beneath the disgusting tank jobs Thunder GM Sam Presti has orchestrated over the last two seasons. He’s been so good Presti has had to sit him longer than his injuries have necessitated, keeping SGA’s improved play from hurting their draft standings. This season, it’s gotten past the point of being ignored. 

The fifth-year guard is averaging 30.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 5.6 APG, making a case not only for the MIP award but MVP as well. The Thunder are just three games under .500 thanks to SGA’s incredible play. SGA is not only getting everything he wants on offense, but he’s also making his teammates better as well. Perhaps nowhere is his MIP-worthy jump more evident than the eFG% rise from .496% last year to .529% this season. With that kind of progression, an MVP award may be in this star’s near future.