Stephen Curry / NBA

It’s time to cast my (nonexistent) ballot for the NBA Awards. The NBA Awards include a mix of obvious winners and heated discussions. Categories like MVP and Most Improved Player are all but over. On the other hand, the All-NBA discussion is heating up rapidly as ballots are due next week.

Below is my ballot.

MVP

  1. Nikola Jokic
  2. Joel Embiid
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
  4. Steph Curry
  5. Julius Randle

When the dust has settled, Nikola Jokic will win the MVP. He’s almost at the top of every offensive statistical category including in the top five for assists. The 7-footer is averaging 8.4 assists per game, which is ludicrous for a center. Plus, he’s doing this all without Jamal Murray. The Joker deserves this MVP, make no mistake about it.

Update on 5/18/21: The original top 5 was Jokic, Embiid, Giannis, Randle, and Paul. After the weekend, I slid Curry into 4, moved Randle to 5, and removed Paul from the top 5.

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Rudy Gobert
  2. Ben Simmons
  3. Bam Adebayo

What Rudy Gobert does for the Jazz is irreplaceable. FiveThirtyEight ran a piece about how Gobert’s season is one of the best ever. The Jazz are 11.9 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert is on the floor, which is the best in the NBA. Take Gobert off the Jazz and their entire makeup changes.

Most Improved Player

  1. Julius Randle
  2. Jerami Grant
  3. Christian Wood

I’ve written and tweeted about Randle’s improvement ad nauseam. His leap from a good talent to an All-NBA player is remarkable. Randle is the heartbeat of the Knicks and one of the key reasons for their turnaround. With career highs in almost every offensive category, Randle is a runaway winner.

Rookie of the Year

  1. LaMelo Ball
  2. Anthony Edwards
  3. Tyrese Haliburton

If LaMelo Ball doesn’t fracture his wrist on March 20 and miss time, he wins this award in a landslide. Ball’s averaging 15.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 6.2 apg and one of the main reasons why the Hornets will make the play-in tournament. However, it’s hard to ignore Anthony Edwards’s offensive explosion throughout the second half of the season. He’s a walking bucket, highlighted by his 40 point game in early May. Do you reward the better all-around player who missed more than 30% of the year due to injury or the electric scorer who played in every game and came on strong in the second half? Because he came back from injury and he’s on a playoff team, Ball gets my vote.

Coach of the Year

  1. Tom Thibodeau
  2. Monty Williams
  3. Quin Snyder

I’m sure some of you are going to accuse me of being a homer with this pick. You’re not wrong because I’m a diehard Knicks fan. However, ask yourself this question: Before the season started, did you have the Suns or Knicks making the playoffs? If you follow the NBA, then you would have selected the Suns, not the Knicks, to make the playoffs. Monty Williams has done a masterful job, taking the Suns from a fringe playoff team to a potential one-seed.

The Suns were trending in the right direction thanks to an 8-0 record in the bubble. The Knicks didn’t even make the bubble. No one predicted Thibs would turn this team around so quickly. I love the Knicks with all my heart and I had them as the 10-seed going into the year. Tom Thibodeau changed the culture of this organization in one season. He took a bunch of forgotten players, convinced them to play defense, and molded them into one of the six best teams in the East. That is the Coach of the Year.

Sixth Man of the Year

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Derrick Rose
  3. Joe Ingles

With all due respect (even though I’m about to be disrespectful), the Sixth Man category isn’t as strong as it’s been in years past. There’s no Montrez Harrell, Dennis Schröder, Lou Williams, or Jamal Crawford on the ballot. This award will either go to Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles, who both had good seasons. Clarkson is second on the Jazz in points with 18.2 in just under 27 minutes per game. Ingles aka Jingles is the glue of the Jazz. He’s a sniper from deep (45.6 3P%), a solid pick-and-roll creator, and guards the opposing team’s top wing every night. I’ll go with Clarkson, but my heart truly thinks it should be Derrick Rose, who is in the midst of a career renaissance.

All-NBA

First Team

  • G: Stephen Curry
  • G: Damian Lillard
  • F: Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • F: Luka Dončić
  • C: Nikola Jokic

Second Team

  • G: Jimmy Butler
  • G: Chris Paul
  • F: Julius Randle
  • F: Kawhi Leonard
  • C: Joel Embiid

Third Team

  • G: Kyrie Irving
  • G: Bradley Beal
  • F: LeBron James
  • F: Zion Williamson
  • C: Rudy Gobert

Determining the 15 players to make All-NBA is like picking your favorite Taylor Swift album. You change your mind every two seconds. There are over 20 guys who can make a legitimate claim for one of the 15 spots. In a typical year, 13 of the 15 available spots are solidified and only one to two selections require a debate. This year, the entire third team is up for grabs. That’s how competitive it’s been in a year where many stars missed significant time due to injury.

Position eligibility is the biggest factor in determining each team. Embiid is a true center but can be voted in as a forward. Doncic is the point guard but can be voted in as forward. It’s category fraud that mirrors the best acting races at the Oscars.

My biggest conundrum involves Embiid and Doncic. If I move Embiid to forward, Doncic takes the second guard spot, and Damian Lillard moves to the second team. If I vote for Doncic as a forward, Dame moves up to the first team, and Emiid goes to the second team. Should Embiid be demoted to the second team when he’s going to finish second in MVP voting? All-NBA is a flawed system. If I could change the ballot, I would make it two guards, two forwards, and one position that could be a guard, forward, or center. With the current rules in place, I’m putting Luka at forward, bumping Embiid to the second team, and move Dame to the first team.

Quick Hitters

  • I couldn’t leave a Nets player off the team. If Harden doesn’t get hurt, he’s on the team. Since he missed too much time, Kyrie makes it. (Kyrie has been spectacular, by the way.)
  • Zion finished top 10 in both scoring and field goal percentage.
  • LeBron missed too many games to be on the first or second team.
  • It’s hard to deny Chris Paul’s greatness, which doesn’t reflect in the stat sheet.

What does your ballot look like? Leave your selections in the comments or tweet me, @danny_giro.

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