Coach of the Year: Monty Williams
Last year, which was only like a few months ago, the Suns were undefeated in the bubble. This could have been an outlier or a fluke but many fans and analysts suspected otherwise. This time the Suns were actually doing things the right way. Their play in the bubble was built on sustainable basketball, and good chemistry.
The suns are really coming together. Deandre Ayton is proving to be a great fit. Giving Devin Booker a proper facilitator was a necessity but upgrading the point guard position to Chris Paul gives them serious playoff consideration.
None of that works, none of that happens, without good coaching. Monty Williams is a prime subject and potential favorite for coach of the year. His bubble performance technically won’t count for consideration but it will be fresh on voters minds. Chris Paul will no doubt play a huge part of their success of the season, but that is equally the coaches success as well. Monty generating culture as well as efficient play will land him into the top of the discussion. A Phoenix playoff appearance makes Monty a good bet for coach of the year.
Most Valuable Player: Luka Doncic
The NBA MVP is usually always based on narrative as much as it is performance. Team wins and individual performance are what drives media votes and Luka Doncic was the pick of many when the season started. Luka is already generating MVP stats himself and would need to finish near the top of the west to check the performance boxes needed. The narrative would be that he is the youngest to ever win the award and is the clear face of the league going forward. His defense needs some improvement but it’s not horrible. Luka is starting off slow but on his bad nights he still manages 27 points and 7 assists. If the Mavs can get to a top 3 seed Luka is a lock for MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart
Defensive player of the year is less of a narrative and its harder to judge because it less statistics to go off of. Impact on defense can usually be judged by rim protection. Baskets at the rim are the most efficient way to score and is therefore the most valuable defensive. This is why guards don’t win the award, but defense also has a lot of intangibles. Cohesiveness, rotations, and drive don’t show up in a box score.
These are all categories that Marcus Smart excels in, and why he could be the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton. As a team the Celtics have ranked in the top 6 or better the last 3 years. Smart has been a first team all defense for 2 straight years and can guard any position on the court. Last year he was is in the top 25% of the league in blocks and steals for his position according to cleaningtheglass.com. Defensive player of the year is not a narrative driven award but a small guy winning could provide a change of pace that may affect voting. If Boston can stay in the top of the league in defensive rating Marcus Smart may be a dark horse favorite to win the award this year.
(Photo: Mark J Terrill/Associated Press)