NBA Midseason Awards

With the NBA taking a week off for All Star Weekend, CST Co-Editor in Chief Joseph Frescott selects his midseason award winners. 

NBA Midseason Awards

Joseph Frescott, Co-Editor in Chief



Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid

Going into this season, the consensus regarding the MVP race was that it would be between three of the NBA’s best: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Luka Doncic. However, as we stand midway through the year, the more notable candidates are widely considered a surprise to most. Out of all of the surprises this season, one of the more pleasant has been the re-emergence of the Philadelphia 76ers and the breakout year of their star center Joel Embiid. Through 36 games, Embiid is averaging 30 PPG, 11.6 TRB, and 1.4 BLK, while also averaging the best shooting splits of his career. These numbers, which are all career highs, along with the Sixers great success so far this season makes Embiid the obvious choice. With the MVP routinely going to the best player on the best team, the Sixers big man is in prime position to run away with this award. Following this hot start, if the 76ers can continue their success and maintain their spot as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, expect Embiid to be the first Sixer since Allen Iverson to win the MVP.

6th Man of the Year: Jordan Clarkson

Going into the season, Jordan Clarkson was favored to win as the 6th man of the year. This comes as no surprise, as the 6 year veteran has found his home in Utah after being bounced around to a variety of teams early in his career. He has been considered to be a consistent scorer early in his career, and this season Clarkson has established himself as one of the best pure scorers in the league. Through 37 games, he has exceeded all expectations, averaging a career high 17.9 points on 45% shooting. With the Jazz finding unprecedented success early in the season, Clarkson has been a crucial part of their run, as he provides the much needed bench depth, scoring, and leadership needed to be a top contender. If Clarkson and the Jazz continue this early success, the 28 year old may finally receive some much needed recognition. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Ben Simmons

The unprecedented success of the 76ers this season goes beyond just the outstanding play of Joel Embiid. Embiid’s right hand man, Ben Simmons, has played really well so far this season. When looking at the stats, Simmons doesn’t have any significant increase in any defensive categories. The 24 year old is averaging 1.6 steals per game along with 0.7 blocks, numbers that aren’t career highs for him. However, the reason why he deserves this award goes beyond the numbers, and has much more to do with the impact he has had on his team. When you watch the 76ers play this season, it is clear that Simmons can guard any player in the NBA, regardless of their position. This ability to lock down any superstar that the Sixers play gives them a huge advantage, and is the main reason why they rank 3rd in defensive efficiency, which is significantly higher than the previous two seasons. This is an advantage that Simmons has over other significant DPOY candidates such as Rudy Gobert, as he is more versatile and well rounded defensively. With all the criticism that he receives for his lack of shooting and “development” as a player, it is time to give Simmons the respect he deserves, as he is one of, if not the best defensive player in the NBA.

Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks have been nothing short of awful over the past few seasons. Since their playoff run in the 2012-2013 season, the Knicks have yet to make the playoffs, let alone come close to having a winning record. There are a variety of different reasons for this, most notably a lack of consistency. With 8 different head coaches in the last decade and numerous changes to the roster, the Knicks seemed to be on track to another disappointing season. However, new Head Coach Tom Thibodeau had other ideas, and so far this year, he is looking like the savior of the New York Knicks.

Coming into All Star Weekend, the Knicks held the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference with a 19-18 record. This was the Knicks hottest start since their last playoff appearance. The craziest part of this is that when comparing this year’s team to that of year’s past, it doesn’t look all too different. Other than the rookies, the Knicks roster is essentially identical. However, the one major difference is Thibodeau and the culture that he has instilled in this franchise. Under Thibs, the Knicks have a Top 3 Defense, and are projected to win more games than the last two seasons combined. Not only that, but Coach Thibodeau has been a major reason why Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley have all had breakout seasons thus far. Overall, when it comes to coach of the year, Tom Thibodeau clearly has the best case for this award. 

Rookie of the Year: LaMelo Ball

The start that LaMelo Ball has had this season had been nothing short of special. The Hornets guard is averaging 15.8 points per game, along with 6 rebounds and 6 assists. While these stats are impressive alone for a rookie, what is even more impressive is how easily his game has translated to the NBA. From his elite playmaking ability, to his efficient shooting despite taking low percentage shots, the rook has proven he was worth the 3rd overall pick. Not only has LaMelo had a hot start to his rookie year, but the Hornets have been playing phenomenal as well. With Ball running the offense from the PG position, Charlotte has a 19-18 record, and currently stands at the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. Out of all of the awards, this one was definitely the easiest to pick, as LaMelo has started the season miles ahead of the competition. 

Most Improved Player: Julius Randle

The race for the Most Improved Player Award should be extremely interesting to watch. With players such as Christian Wood, Jerami Grant, Collin Sexton, etc. all having breakout years, it is difficult to choose who has improved the most so far this season. Out of all of these candidates, Julius Randle has had the most impressive start to the season. Coming off of a forgettable 2019 season, the former Laker and Pelican was looking like another Knicks free agent bust. The 2014 7th overall pick had something to prove this year, and his performance has been phenomenal thus far. Through 39 games, the Knicks star is averaging 23 points per game, along with 11 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Randle is also doing so while shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three. When compared to last season, he is averaging roughly 4 more points per game, 2 more rebounds and 3 more assists, all while shooting much more efficiently from the field. On top of all of this, he has led the Knicks to their best start since 2012, and was selected to his first All Star game. In the span of one season, the 6 year veteran has gone from an efficient scorer to a versatile playmaking wing who can stretch the floor and lead a franchise. This tremendous turnaround is the reason why Randle is the Most Improved player so far this season.