My midseason NBA awards

MUSINGS MARK RABAGO

2023-01-25T08:00:00.0000000Z

2023-01-25T08:00:00.0000000Z

The Manila Times

https://manilatimes.pressreader.com/article/282153590408112

Sports

IMAGINE how the Miami Heat would be if they kept Bol Bol as their second round draft pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The 7’3” progeny of the late Manute Bol, the tallest player to ever suit up in the NBA, plays for the Orlando Magic and is currently having a breakthrough season. In 42 games in the 2022-2023 season, the former Oregon Duck has averaged 11.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game as a part-time starter for the Magic. The Sudanese-American has also shown efficiency beyond his years as his shooting splits of 58.4 percent on 2-point field goals, 36.1 percent on 3-points attempts and 74 percent clip from the free throw line are quite impressive for a big man. The Magic still suck, but with Bol, franchise cornerstone Franz Wagner, former draft bust Markelle Fultz (it’s not his fault the 76ers traded up to pick him No. 1 instead of getting bonafide transcendent star Jayson Tatum), Wendell Carter, 2022 No. 1 draft pick Paolo Banchero, Mo Bamba, Cole Anthony and the returning Jonathan Isaac, they have the tools to make some noise in the Association in the not so distant future. Why pray tell, am I throwing flowers on Bol? Well, it’s almost the NBA All-Star break and actually more than 41 games into the NBA’s 82-game calendar, so he’s actually my Most Improved Player pick at the midpoint of the season. As for other awards, I’m rolling with the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic as MVP, Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo for Defensive Player of the Year, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Russell Westbrook for Sixth Man of the Year, and Banchero for Rookie of the Year. Let me defend my choices. As much as I hate the Mavs (they beat my beloved Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals), Doncic has just been terrific for them this year while leading Mark Cuban’s team to a 25-23 record so far in the season. The 6’7” Slovenia (he’s now my second favorite Slovenian in the NBA after Goran Dragic) was the NBA’s scoring leader for most of the season before Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid’s strong showing of late gave him the lead. Nonetheless, the 2018 NBA Draft No. 3 overall pick is still averaging a second-best 33.6 points per game on top of 8.9 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game. He’s just the next coming of Larry Bird, period, and I don’t care if he’s uber slow as no defender has really kept him in check. Adebayo, meanwhile, should’ve won the DPOY award multiple times already as the 6’9” center can guard players from 1-5 and anchors the NBA’s Top 10 defense this year. For the season, the six-year player from Kentucky has been averaging 10 rebounds and close to a block a game for the 26-22 Heat. That’s on top of a career-high 21 points and 3 assists per outing. As for Westbrook, Brodie has acclimated well to his reserve role for coach Darvin Ham and the Lakeshow. He may not actually like it, but his stats show otherwise — 15.9 points, 6.6 boards and 7.6 assists on 42.3 percent shooting from the field. While it’s still far from his OKC walking triple double days, the 2016 MVP and member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team is a key cog in Purple and Gold’s push for a playoff spot (if he’s not traded or released first). The Lakers are currently in the thick of the play-in spot at 22-25. Like his teammate Bol, Banchero has slowly quieted critics that he’s not deserving of the No. 1 pick in last summer’s NBA Draft. The 6’9” power forward, a cousin of Meralco’s Chris Banchero, has put up solid numbers for the 18-29 Magic with averages of 20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1 steal and 0.5 blocks in close to 34 minutes per ballgame. As for NBA Coach of the Year, like Adebayo our kababayan Erick Spoelstra should’ve won at least one already. He’s the second-longest tenured coach in the NBA (after Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs) and he has proven time and again to be the best in the business by leading his ragtag Miami team made up mostly of undrafted players to the playoffs and the NBA Finals in the 2020 bubble.

en-ph