With the 2018-19 NBA season at its halfway point, The McGill Tribune presents its midseason awards, recognizing individual players and overall team performance.
Biggest Individual Surprise: Derrick Rose (Minnesota Timberwolves)
The 30-year-old guard has suffered multiple serious injuries throughout his career, including a torn ACL in 2012 and a torn meniscus in 2013. Rose’s performance since then has declined, but, this season, he has bounced back, playing like he did in his prime. His numbers across the board have improved immensely: He’s coming off the bench to average 18.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. Rose has played well enough to enter the conversation for the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Biggest Individual Disappointment: Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)
Raking in $31 million this season, the 28-year-old forward Gordon Hayward ranks as the sixth highest-paid player in the NBA. Hayward suffered a dislocated ankle and fractured tibia five minutes into his debut with the Boston Celtics last season, and the team was expected to be even more successful with his return this year. Playing alongside five-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, Hayward has yet to meet these expectations. He is averaging just 11.1 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game, and the Celtics will need more offensive output from him if they plan to be championship contenders.
Biggest Team Surprise: Denver Nuggets
With a 29-13 record, the Nuggets currently sit atop the Western Conference, an incredible feat given the conference’s strength and their history of unsuccessful playoff runs. This season, however, could be their first playoff appearance since the 2012-13 season. Nuggets centre Nikola Jokić has played a key role in his team’s success, leading the team in points (19.7), rebounds (10.2), and assists (7.5) per game. Other key players, such as guard Jamal Murray and shooting guard Will Barton, have made similar contributions, averaging 18.5 and 11.5 points per game, respectively. The Nuggets have established themselves as a dominant team in the league and as clear competitors for the 2018-19 finals.
Biggest Team Disappointment: Washington Wizards
With two straight playoff appearances and the acquisition of Dwight Howard, the Washington Wizards were easy picks to qualify for the playoffs this year. However, the Wizards have struggled throughout the first half of the season with an 18-26 record—11th in the Eastern Conference—due to poor defence and tension among players and the coaching staff. Wizards stars John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter have also shown little-to-no improvement since the past season. With Wall undergoing surgery on his heel this past Tuesday, thus putting an early end to his season, the Wizards’ chance at clawing their way back to qualify for the 2018-19 playoffs is slim.
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
Nicknamed the ‘Greek Freak’ for his incredible size and athleticism, Giannis Antetokounmpo has cemented his status as a dominating force in the league. His aggressive style of play and ability to manoeuvre gracefully on the court has lifted the Milwaukee Bucks to second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-12 record. The 6’11” power forward bullies his way into the paint, scoring at will and creating opportunities for his teammates. He leads his team in points (26.7), rebounds (12.6), and assists (5.9) per game and has established himself as a superstar with the potential to carry his team to the finals.