By Jalon Dixon, Sports Columnist
With half the season behind us and both the trade deadline and All Star weekend coming up, there has been more than enough basketball to make a few predictions. Talking about trades and big names in this summer’s free agency is nice and all, but how players are performing right now should not be overlooked considering that how teams start the season helps in determining who are contenders and pretenders. With that being said, here are a few midseason awards for the players/coaches that have been balling out so far this season.
NBA Most Valuable Player – James Harden, Houston Rockets
Earlier in the season, this award practically had a consensus for first and second in the standings. Basically it was between Lebron James leading the Los Angeles Lakers in his 16th season or Giannis Antetokounmpo of the top seeded Milwaukee Bucks to be the front runners for the award. That was until James Harden happened. Unfortunately for James and Antetokounmpo, the reigning league MVP has something to say about not being included in the conversation for best player in the league this season. After a rough start to the season, the Houston Rockets have launched themselves up from out of the playoff picture to a top five team in the Western Conference. Averaging 35.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 8.5 assists per game, Harden has single handedly led the Rockets to victory despite the injury to their all-star guard Chris Paul. Honestly, at this point everyone else is playing for second place.
NBA Rookie of the Year – Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Despite No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns averaging 16.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game on nearly 60 percent shooting, Doncic is still the Rookie of the Year and here is why. So far Doncic has been a savvy perimeter player and primary ball handler for the rebuilding Dallas Mavericks. Unlike Ayton, who is competing with Devin Booker for best player on the Suns, Doncic has come in and asserted himself as the lead guard and primary scoring option on his team. Averaging 20 points, 5.1 assists and 6.7 rebounds, he had the Mavericks already looking to shop guard Dennis Smith Jr., who they just spent a top ten lottery pick on last year. If that is not instant impact, then I do not know what is.
NBA Most Improved Player – De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
De’Aaron Fox is easily my favorite player to watch this season from the 2018 draft class. Unlike Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who exploded on the scene last season and have slightly regressed so far this year, Fox has done the complete opposite. Coming off an underwhelming season only averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists on 41 percent shooting from the field, Fox has improved in every major statistical category (points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentage). Having a full offseason to work strictly on his game along with a noticeable increase in his offensive aggression, Fox is finally starting to live up to being picked fifth overall in last year’s draft. Did I mention that he has the Kings only a few games out of the last playoff spot in the West? This man really is having a special season after a slow start to his NBA career.
Coach of the Year – Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
This is probably one of the hardest awards to contend for this season. With coaches like Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers, Nick Nurse of the Toronto Raptors and Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets all coaching their tails off this season, this award could easily go to any of them. But, as far as I am concerned, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer is my Coach of the Year so far. He has been able to take this Bucks team from maybe the fourth or fifth best team in the Eastern Conference to the top team in the conference with a record of 33 – 12. Budenholzer has come in and provided this team with a system of ball movement and a consistent amount of three pointers taken per game, making this team a legitimate title contender. The Bucks are finally looking like a real threat in the East and the combination of Budenholzer and Antetokounmpo has a lot to do with that.