Chief Sports Editor
With the NBA regular season over halfway done by now, it’s time to dish out the NBA Midseason Awards. A lot can happen in the latter half of the NBA calendar, but for now, these are the teams, players, and coaches who have had the most impressive start to the season.
BEST TEAM: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Even after suffering a “rocky” 10-3 start to the season, and losing star point guard Stephen Curry to an ankle injury for two weeks, Golden State is far and away the best team in the NBA. Of course, it helps having four All-Stars—besides Curry, the trio of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson were all selected to the prestigious game. At this point, the Dubs are the heavy favorites to win their second championship in a row and their third in four years. Their main competition—and the team I would call the second-best in the league—is the Houston Rockets, who are surprisingly 2-0 against them this year. If any team can keep up with Golden State offensively, it’s Houston, but they’ll need to do it for four games in a row come postseason time.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: LEBRON JAMES
I don’t care that Cleveland is currently 29-19 and are “only” third place in the Eastern Conference. I don’t care that they went on a 2-8 ten game stretch in January. LeBron is currently in the top five for both scoring and assists this season—but, you may notice that James Harden is too. This award goes to the player who is the most valuable to their team—what would happen to their team without them? We got that answer for James Harden, as Houston went 4-3 in his absence, with point guard Chris Paul leading the way. LeBron hasn’t missed significant time this season, but one can assume based on how they’ve been playing with him that they would be much worse without him. Besides Kevin Love (who was named to the All-Star squad), there have been very little bright spots in Cleveland’s season. Isaiah Thomas, who missed most of the regular season after recovering from surgery this summer, has been a disaster since coming back. Jae Crowder, J.R. Smith, and Kyle Korver have been underwhelming, Derrick Rose missed over two months, and the acquisitions of Jose Calderon and Jeff Green have proven to be non-factors. And yet, this team is still in the top tier of the Eastern Conference. And, to put the metaphorical cherry on top, LeBron recently became the youngest player to score 30,000 career points, a feat which only six players in NBA history have accomplished. LeBron James is 33 years old and the best basketball player in the world. Give him another trophy.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: BEN SIMMONS
You could easily make a case for Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen, and the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma, but none of them have showed the poise and natural talent more so than Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons. After being drafted first overall in 2016, he missed the rest of the season recovering from a broken foot. This year, though, Simmons has looked absolutely electric, averaging 16.6/7.4/7.9 on 52 percent shooting. A borderline All-Star, Simmons, along with Joel “The Process” Embiid are in position to lead the Sixers to their first playoff appearance since 2012.
COACH OF THE YEAR: DWANE CASEY
With all of the drama surrounding Cleveland and the hype around Kyrie’s new-look Celtics, it’s easy to forget that the Toronto Raptors are second in that conference. They recently beat San Antonio and absolutely demolished the Cavs, and narrowly lost to Golden State by two. Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is playing the best basketball of his career, and point guard Kyle Lowry has been a model of consistency in leading this team night in and night out. A lot of credit has to be given to Casey for navigating this team through the surprisingly competent Eastern Conference this season, and for beating and competing with legitimate title contenders.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: VICTOR OLADIPO
After spending the first three seasons of his career with the desolate Orlando Magic, and last year with the Oklahoma City Thunder (a terrible fit), Oladipo has finally blossomed after getting traded to the Indiana Pacers this past summer. He’s averaging career highs in points, rebounds, steals, and field goal percentage, and has the Pacers in position to make the playoffs. He’s also an excellent defender, and could very well make his first All-Defensive Team at the conclusion of this season.