The weekend’s All-Star break marked the midway point of the 2020-21 NBA regular season. Although there is obviously still time for things to change certain players have set themselves apart in each category. Here are the 2021 Midseason NBA Awards.
Sixth Man of the Year
The Utah Jazz have had a lot go right this season and Jordan Clarkson has been a huge reason for that. Clarkson is the league’s leading scorer off the bench with 17.9 points per game and has been exactly what the Jazz need when they sit their starters. Clarkson carries a respectable load as a bench player, he is second on the team in both scoring and usage rate to Donovan Mitchell. With the Jazz at the top of the league standings, Clarkson has clearly had an impact on winning and deserves the award at this point in the season
Most Improved Player
Perhaps the one bright spot of the Detroit Pistons season has been the emergence of Jerami Grant. In his first season with the Pistons, Grant is averaging 23.4 points per game, nearly 10 points higher than his previous career high of 13.6. Grant is also having a career year in both rebounding and assists per game. Grant’s numbers are inflated a bit due to his usage rate on the Pistons but such large improvements from his career averages and the fact that he has remained healthy gives him the slight edge at this point in the season as the leagues Most Improved Player.
Rookie of the Year
LaMelo Ball came into the NBA with more hype and expectations than any other player in his class and so far he has lived up to them. In terms of stats, Ball has dominated the rankings leading all rookies in points, assists, rebounds and steals per game. Ball has played his way into the starting lineup and is the primary ball handler on a Charlotte Hornets team currently sitting at the seventh seed in the eastern conference. The youngest Ball brother has proven to have both a great feel for the game and a love for flashy highlight plays that gets fans out of their seats. Ball is one of the special young talents that comes around who provides both real impact and excitement to the game and will likely be the runaway Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year
If there is one player that has stuck out on the defensive end this season it has been Ben Simmons. For a wing player, Simmons is a great rebounder averaging 7.9 per game. In addition to being tied for fourth in steals per game with 1.6, Simmons is tied for the lead in deflections per game with 3.9 and loose balls recovered with 1.4 per game. However Simmons impact goes beyond basic numbers. His rare combination of size and athleticism makes Simmons one of the most versatile defenders in the league. The ability to guard all five positions at an elite level and make the best players in the league uncomfortable when he’s guarding them sets Simmons apart from other candidates. The race may be close, but at this point Ben Simmons is an early favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year.
Most Valuable Player
This is the season NBA fans have been waiting to see from Joel Embiid. With the 76ers (24-12) holding the best record in the eastern conference, Embiid has taken the step another step in his development and is dominating every time he steps on the court. Currently Embiid is second overall in scoring with 30.2 points per game and is fifth in rebounding with 11.6 per game he also leads the league in free throw attempts per game with 11.6. The seven-footer is punishing teams with his size near the basket but has also been one of the league premier shooters from midrange and has become a more than reliable option from behind the 3-point line. On the season, Embiid is having his best year shooting the ball in all regards with 52/41/85 shooting splits. To go along with his incredible offensive season, Embiid is playing at an elite level defensively and is likely to be on the 2021 All-defensive team.
Embiid has always been a force but this season he has taken it to another level and is doing it on a nightly basis. If he maintains his level of play and keep the Sixers at the top of the east, Joel Embiid will likely earn his first MVP Award.
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