HoopsHype awards: How our ballot would look

AP Photo/Matt Slocum

HoopsHype awards: How our ballot would look


HoopsHype awards: How our ballot would look

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With the regular season all but wrapped up, the 2021-22 NBA awards season is almost upon us, with hotly-contested debates circling primarily around the most important accolade of them all: Most Valuable Player.

The Rookie of the Year race is also a close one while Defensive Player of the Year is as wide open as it has been in years.

Below, check out the 2021-22 NBA awards ballot as voted upon by HoopsHype staffers.

Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokic

What was a razor-tight race a few weeks ago became less of one recently, with Nikola Jokic doing enough, in our minds, to become the clear choice for 2021-22 MVP, his second consecutive time taking home the award.

Not only are Jokic’s raw statistics – 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 1.5 steals on 58.3/33.7/81.0 shooting splits – preposterously impressive, he also became the first player ever this season to accumulate 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a single campaign.

As if that weren’t enough, he also leads the league in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), Box Plus/Minus (BPM), Win Shares per 48 Minutes (WS/48) and in our own metric, Global Rating, posting one of the most statistically impressive seasons basketball has ever seen.

Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo did enough to make this race interesting throughout the season, but there’s no question by now who the winner should be.

Jokic’s stats are far from empty, too, as the big Serbian makes the Denver Nuggets an almost-unheard-of 16.5 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor. That mark for Embiid is 12.1 points per 100 possessions and for Antetokounmpo, it’s 10.6 points per 100 possessions.

Consider, too, that the Nuggets are 48-33 while having two max salary players in Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray in street clothes, for the entire season in the latter’s case and for the majority of it in the former’s, meaning that Jokic was able to carry Jokic into comfortable playoff positioning with the team’s second-best player being Aaron Gordon.

That’s not to knock Gordon, but he’s not exactly a James Harden or a Khris Middleton.

The race was interesting for most of the season, but Jokic is the clear MVP for 2021-22, and each of our eight voters had him as such.

Below, check out the final ballot, in which Embiid and Antetokounmpo came in tied for second:

Rookie of the Year: Evan Mobley... and Scottie Barnes

We promise we didn’t do this as a cop-out to choosing an actual winner, this race was just really close and resulted in Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes both finishing with the exact same number of total points, 32 apiece. Four of our eight voters had Mobley as No. 1 for Rookie of the Year while the other four had Barnes finish first.

And can you blame us?

Both first-year players were excellent in their inaugural campaigns, with Mobley and Barnes playing major roles in helping the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, respectively, post surprisingly impressive seasons, with both teams headed to the playoffs this year.

Mobley is averaging 14.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 blocks per game to go with a 12.89 G-Rating while Barnes is putting up 15.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals with a 14.00 G-Rating. Both had negative swing ratings by the slimmest of margins – Mobley by 1.3 points per 100 possessions and Barnes by 2.0 points per 100 possessions – and both have ridiculous upsides, as Mobley and Barnes are two of the more uniquely impactful first-year contributors we have seen in a while.

The Rookie of the Year actual race probably won’t end in a tie, but this could wind up being the closest one of them all when the NBA does actually announce it.

In third in this race, by the way, came the No. 1 pick of last year’s draft, Cade Cunningham, who finished the year on a strong note. He did enough this season to prove he was the right choice at No. 1 for the Detroit Pistons, and his future looks just as bright as that of Mobley and Barnes, if not brighter thanks to his do-everything lead-guard capabilities.

Below, check out the final ballot for Rookie of the Year:

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert

A single vote separates the winner of this award in our estimation, Rudy Gobert, from the second-place finisher, Marcus Smart. Just six votes separate the French big man from third-place Bam Adebayo, too.

Maybe it’s voter fatigue or the Utah Jazz ranking just 12th in defensive rating this year (110.4) – Smart’s Boston Celtics rank first in that same stat, by the way, while Adebayo’s Miami Heat sit fourth, but we digress – but Defensive Player of the Year hasn’t been this wide open in a while.

Still, our voting had Gobert finish in first for the award, which is tough to argue against considering the 7-footer leads the league in nightly rebounds at 14.7 and fifth in blocks at 2.1. What’s more, with Gobert on the floor, the Jazz perform like the best defensive unit in the league. Without him, they plummet to 21st.

It wasn’t as clear-cut as it has been in other years but even so, we have Gobert taking home Defensive Player of the Year for 2021-22, which would be his fourth time winning the award if it does happen, a feat that would tie him with Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace for most of all time.

Below, check out our final ballot for Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player: Darius Garland

Most Improved Player is often the most difficult award to pin down, as voters can go in various different directions with who they choose to select. It’s easier to say who the best player or rookie has been than it is to pick who has improved the most from year to year unless a certain player has exploded from benchwarmer to All-Star.

And since that wasn’t the case this year, we had seven different players receive votes as Most Improved Player.

Even so, Darius Garland wound up earning the accolade, according to us, as three of our eight voters tabbed him as their selection for Most Improved Player. It’s tough to argue against that, too, as Garland became an All-Star for the first time this season, averaging 21.8 points (up from 17.4 last year), 3.3 rebounds (up from 2.4) and 8.6 assists (up from 6.1).

Couple that with the fact that Garland has been the best player on the first good Cavaliers team this century without LeBron James on it and our voters saw enough to name him Most Improved Player for the campaign.

Finishing in second and third on our final ballot were Desmond Bane, who nearly doubled his scoring average to 18.2 points while shooting 43.6 percent from three on nearly seven nightly attempts, and Ja Morant, who went from high-level All-Star last season to borderline MVP candidate in 2021-22.

Another popular candidate for Most Improved Player this season, Jordan Poole, finished fifth for the award while Tyrese Maxey finished just ahead of him at fourth.

Below, check out our final ballot for Most Improved Player:

Sixth Man of the Year: Tyler Herro

Despite a late push from vocal members of the analytics community to have this award go elsewhere, Sixth Man of the Year for 2021-22 is about as cut and dry as any award, with Tyler Herro the heavy favorite to take home the accolade.

Fair or not, recent history indicates that Sixth Man almost always goes to the best bench scorer on the highest-caliber team, and this campaign, that is undoubtedly Herro, who is second on the Heat – the No. 1 seed in the East this season – in scoring at 20.7 points nightly and doing so with solid efficiency at 44.7 percent from the floor, 39.9 percent from three and 86.8 percent from the foul stripe. Herro has also improved his playmaking to the tune of 4.0 assists per contest and a career-high 20.9 percent assist rate.

His defense remains a work in progress to put it lightly and the analytics don’t love him (the former Kentucky standout is 78th in VORP and 76th in BPM) but his value to the Heat as a scorer is massive, as with him on the floor, Miami puts up 115.5 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball-Reference, which would be the third-highest mark in the league if prorated for the season. When he sits, that number falls to 112.7, which would be the No. 15 mark in the NBA.

Kevin Love, who finished second in our ballot, deserves a ton of credit for what he’s doing as a reserve for the Cavaliers (the analytics actually favor him for the award), producing 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds nightly, but there’s little doubt this award is going to go to Herro this year, which our voters agree with.

Below, check out our final ballot for Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year: Monty Williams

There were two clear candidates for this one, with Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns and Taylor Jenkins of the Memphis Grizzlies the most deserving candidates.

A strong case could be made for Jenkins, who leads one of the youngest teams in the league and, despite that, has the Grizzlies fourth league-wide in net rating (+5.8) and sitting second in the West with a 56-25 record, even with Morant missing a lot of time due to injury this campaign.

Still, it’s hard to argue against Williams, whose Suns have been far and away the most impressive team in the league this year, with a 64-17 record, the best record in club history, and No. 1 in net rating at +7.6.

Ime Udoka also deserves some consideration, as the Celtics have been one of the most teams in the league, especially over the second half of the season. Perhaps if they kept that rate from the jump of 2021-22, Udoka might have been our Coach of the Year.

Still, a ton of credit is owed to first-year coach Udoka for how he has Boston looking heading into the postseason.

Executive of the Year: Zach Kleiman

Most of the moves the Grizzlies made to have the season they just had were made prior to this offseason, but even so, our voters went with Zach Kleiman as Executive of the Year for putting together such a strong roster so quickly, one that looks capable of a deep run in the West despite being led by such young pieces.

In particular, landing Bane at No. 30 and Dillon Brooks 45th overall were particularly impressive maneuvers by Kleiman. Trading for Steven Adams and landing a first-round pick in the process was also a noteworthy move by Memphis.

Arturas Karnisovas of the Chicago Bulls also got heavy consideration and he might have won it if not for how the team has fallen apart in the absence of Lonzo Ball late in the season. Still, landing Ball and DeMar DeRozan this offseason after trading for Nikola Vucevic last year were impressive feats by Karnisovas.

All-NBA Teams

1st Team All-NBA:

  • Luka Doncic
  • Devin Booker
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Joel Embiid
  • Nikola Jokic

2nd Team All-NBA:

  • Trae Young
  • Ja Morant
  • Kevin Durant
  • Jayson Tatum
  • Karl-Anthony Towns

3rd Team All-NBA:

  • Chris Paul
  • Stephen Curry
  • LeBron James
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Rudy Gobert

Others receiving votes:

  • Jimmy Butler
  • Bam Adebayo

All-Defensive Teams

1st Team All-Defense:

  • Marcus Smart
  • Matisse Thybulle
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Mikal Bridges
  • Rudy Gobert

2nd Team All-Defense:

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Draymond Green
  • Jaren Jackson Jr.
  • Bam Adebayo

Others receiving votes:

  • Dejounte Murray
  • Herb Jones
  • Robert Williams
  • Alex Caruso
  • Fred VanVleet
  • Evan Mobley
  • Gary Payton II

All-Rookie Teams

1st Team All-Rookie:

  • Cade Cunningham
  • Evan Mobley
  • Scottie Barnes
  • Franz Wagner
  • Josh Giddey

2nd Team All-Rookie:

  • Herb Jones
  • Alperen Sengun
  • Jalen Green
  • Ayo Dosunmu
  • Bones Hyland

Others receiving votes:

  • Chris Duarte
  • Jonathan Kuminga

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