NBA Awards: Mid-Season Frontrunners

Orlando Magic guard Paolo Banchero is the mid-season front-runner for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As January comes to a close and February begins, the NBA season starts to really come into form. The All-Star break is approaching fast, and most teams have already played about 50 games. The playoff races are beginning to figure themselves out, as well as many other aspects from around the league. With this in mind, many NBA awards races are beginning to take shape. Let’s take a look at some front-runners for these awards.

MVP: Joel Embiid

This race is very tight. Nikola Jokic won the award last year, and he has been a favorite to win it again for a large portion of this season. However, the 76ers have begun to rise up the standings, and with that, so has the play of Joel Embiid.

Embiid is averaging over 33 points per game, with 9.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists, as well. He’s scored more than eight points more per game than Jokic, is about even in rebounds, and only falls behind Jokic in assists. Jokic has the upper hand in the standings, as the Nuggets are currently first in the West. Philadelphia is third in a very competitive East though, and Embiid’s incredible performance to beat Denver just days ago has vaulted him into the lead in this race.

Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero

For the entire season the No. 1 pick, Paolo Banchero, has led this race. Banchero has simply been fantastic this season, and is proving himself worthy of his draft selection.

Orlando’s star is averaging over 20 points per game, along with 6.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Keegan Murray, Benedict Mathurin and Jalen Williams have all been impressive, but none of them can compare to Banchero, and his candidacy for this NBA awards race.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Despite a Reddit-fueled conspiracy theory regarding Jackson’s insane stat-lines at home, JJJ has largely ran away with this award. That theory claims that the Memphis Grizzlies’ scorekeeper has been inflating stats, like blocks and steals. At first glance, there may have seemed to be some merit to it. Jackson does have a significant amount more blocks or steals in home games than on the road.

Turns out, not even conspiracy theorists can explain Jackson’s incredible performance this season. The NBA has come out and stated there is no merit to these claims, so it’s time to give Jackson the respect he deserves. The 23 year-old has 4.2 combined steals and blocks per game this season, deserving of the award.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jordan Poole

Having Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Jordan Poole on the same roster should be illegal. With Curry and Klay starting in the backcourt, the only role Poole is able to have is to come off the bench. Fortunately for him, and Golden State as a whole, he’s filled this role exceptionally well.

Jordan is averaging 20.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game. His assists and rebounds numbers shouldn’t be expected to be too high, since he’s coming off the bench. His role is to provide scoring for the second unit, and he’s done exactly that.

Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

This race is a tight one. There are a ton of good candidates for this award, but it has developed into a two-headed race. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lauri Markkanen have turned this into a battle between themselves, and each is a worthy choice.

Gilgeous-Alexander should have the edge. Both have been stunning this season. Utah and Oklahoma City were both expected to be bottom-five teams in the league, and yet they’re currently battling it out for a play-in spot. SGA’s 30.9 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists have vaulted him to an All-NBA level, which is easily deserving of this award.

Coach of the Year: Mike Brown

Finally, we have yet another NBA awards race that could go to a variety of coaches. The most note-worthy that isn’t Mike Brown would be Jacque Vaughn from Brooklyn, who has overseen an amazing turnaround.

Still, Brown deserves this award. The Kings haven’t made the playoffs in 16 years, and just last season finished 12th in the Western Conference. At the time of this writing, Sacramento is third in the west at 28-21, and has the highest scoring offense in the league. Talk about a turn-around.

Prospect Draft Profile: Paolo Banchero

With the 2022 NBA draft just mere hours away, there are a ton of things NBA fans should keep an eye on. With rumors swirling all around regarding teams, players, and possible trades, it’s easy to get lost in the rumor-mill. Let’s get back to basics, and examine one of the most exciting players in this class; Paolo Banchero.

Banchero averaged over 17 points per game and nearly eight rebounds in his only season at Duke. Paolo helped lead the Blue Devils to the final four in Coach K’s penultimate season, and he impressed greatly.

Banchero’s trophy case is at max capacity right now. In just one collegiate season, Paolo was named the 2022 ACC Rookie of the Year, First team All-ACC, and the ACC All-Rookie team. On the national level, he was named a second-team All American. Lets begin to Look at Paolo Banchero’s strengths.

Paolo Banchero’s Strenghts

Paolo is considered the consensus top forward in the entire class, and that’s due to his sheer size and athleticism. Standing at 6’10”, Banchero is a big guy who has a ton of finesse for his size. With his tall stature, he shouldn’t see any trouble guarding or scoring against big men in the league, and his athleticism may give him an advantage over many. Watching the clips below, Paolo’s combination of size and athleticism will jump off the screen.

Overall, Paolo Banchero is a great scorer especially around the basket. His finesse gives him a nifty ability to score down low, and in the fast-paced league the NBA currently is, Banchero should thrive. Thanks to his size as well, Banchero is a solid rebounder. Paolo is pretty creative off the dribble as well, especially when it comes to passing and setting up his teammates.

Paolo Banchero’s Weaknesses

For all of his agility, one thing Banchero must improve on at the NBA level is his perimeter defense. Paolo is a bit slow moving laterally, which isn’t surprising for somebody of his size. His wingspan gives him a chance to still block shots after getting beat on the dribble. However, in the NBA players are much better at finishing near the basket so he won’t be able to have that crutch anymore. Paolo could also do better at reading the offense as well, but both of these issues can certainly be improved in the NBA.

Paolo is a confident shooter, and he’s not a bad one. Still, his shot selection will need to improve. As the best player on a championship contending team, it is possible that Banchero felt the need to force some shots. With NBA-caliber teamates, that likely won’t be as much of an issue.

Paolo Banchero’s NBA Outlook

Paolo is one of the safest picks in the draft, and will more than likely go in the top three. He has hardly any holes in his game, and his size and athleticism leave a ton of potential still untapped.

Paolo has an ability to score at all three levels, and that will instantly translate to the pro game. His defense and shot selection still need some work, but Banchero is still only 19 years old, so he’ll have plenty of time to improve. Paolo Banchero has a long road ahead of him, and it will be very exciting to watch his career play out.

2022 NBA Draft: Fits for Top 3 Teams

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As the NBA draft lottery came to a close, the Orlando Magic struck gold and were awarded the first overall selection in the 2022 draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder pick second and the Houston Rockets pick third. Having first-round draft picks for rebuilding teams is a dream come true, as these prospects may be the help your franchise has needed. Today, we take a look at the best fits for the top three teams in the 2022 NBA draft.

Orlando Magic-Chet Holmgren

When you look at the Orlando Magic’s roster, you’ll notice that they’ve filled many of the gaps where they need the greatest support. Last year, they upgraded their guard and forward positions by picking Gonzaga shooting guard, Jalen Suggs, and Michigan small forward, Franz Wagner.

The year before, they drafted North Carolina point guard Cole Anthony. The biggest thing they are lacking is a rim protector to pair with Wendell Carter Jr. That is where Gonzaga center, Chet Holmgren. The former Bulldog averaged nearly four blocks per game and can also hit a jumper when necessary.

Prepare for excitement at the Amway Center when you reunite him with his former AAU teammate Suggs. Orlando has a great history when it comes to drafting big men number one overall, and Holmgren could be the next player on that list.

Oklahoma City Thunder- Paolo Banchero

If you look at the Thunder roster; it’s overflowing with young, hungry talent, such as Shai Gilgeous Alexander and Josh Giddey. The two form a young, skilled backcourt combo for Oklahoma City. Because they want a fast-space offensive style, Paolo Banchero, who is speedy, should be a player to watch at second overall. When combined with their young core, the former Blue Devil will generate highlight reel-level offense.

He would quickly fit in with the youthful nucleus, forming a starting five capable of developing into one of the top teams in the league. Banchero could demonstrate his full versatility on a team like the Thunder.

Houston Rockets- Jabari Smith

When it comes to acquiring talent, the Houston Rockets have hit gold. They acquired the uber-talented Kevin Porter Jr. through trade, drafted shooting guard Jalen Green, and signed Christian Wood two years ago. While their team is nearly complete, they are missing one piece to complete the full rebuild.

The primary concern with their roster is the power forward position. Auburn’s Jabari Smith is the solution to those issues, bringing size, scoring, and rebounding skills.

Combining him with Woods will open up the offense and offer a variety of opportunities. Not only can he stretch the floor, but he can also drive to the hoop for a layup or a posterizing dunk. Fans will be jumping out of their seats in the Toyota Center if he is picked in June.

Paolo Banchero is Here to Save Your Franchise

Potential #1 pick in the NBA Draft, Duke forward Paolo Banchero
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

While the NBA draft approaches and organizations prepare for the lottery and subsequent workouts with prospects, a particular Blue Devil, Paolo Banchero, screams franchise changer.

Paolo Banchero is Flat-Out Special

During his first year of college basketball, the former Duke freshman excelled by all standards. He took home multiple honors including ACC Rookie of the Year and All-ACC. Paolo averaged 17 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Banchero was a driving force on offense, propelling them to a Final Four appearance before falling to eventual runner-up North Carolina. 

He held his own this season against another future lottery pick, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, outscoring him with 21 points, 1 steal, and 5 rebounds. Following this game, it was clear who was the superior player and should have been picked first.

Paolo is sure to send his next franchise to new heights

There is no doubt about the fact that Paolo Banchero should be the top pick in the NBA draft. His talent is something you can’t afford to pass on, regardless of who picks first. A 6’10 prospect weighing 250 pounds who can shoot, rebound, and dish out assists. With Paolo set to join the league, prepare to see explosions when you plug him in at power forward or center position.

The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, and Oklahoma City Thunder are the top four teams with the potential to draft first and win his services. He fits perfectly with any of these young, up-and-coming rosters.

When you look at the Rockets, for example, you have a group that already has rising stars in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Adding Paolo to the mix could create something amazing right in front of your eyes.

Paolo would also fit in nicely in Oklahoma City where he would partner with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddy, and Lou Dort, forming a group similar to Oklahoma’s inaugural big four.

Whoever gets the privilege to draft Banchero this summer will be staring down the next face of their organization with the number one overall pick.