The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching as rumors start to heat up, and All-Star weekend will be here before we know it. Players around the league continue to make their case for end-of-season awards, with some new names entering the mix.
The Crossover will be checking in on the leaders in the top six award categories throughout the NBA season. This is where we see the races currently standing.
Most Valuable Player
1. Nikola Jokić, Nuggets
The Nuggets have been locked in, winning eight of their last 10 games and holding a 2.5-game lead atop the West. Jokić has been at the head of their success, averaging 25.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.9 assists. His impressive performance and Denver’s success have only strengthened Jokić’s MVP case.
2. Luka Dončić, Mavericks: The Mavericks have cooled off as of late, losing seven out of their last 10 games. Still, Dončić has helped Dallas stay tied for the sixth seed in the West while he’s averaged league-high 33.8 points, along with 9.1 rebounds and 8.6 assists.
3. Jayson Tatum, Celtics: The Celtics have expanded their lead atop the East (3.0 games) while posting the best net rating in the league (+5.7). Tatum’s impact can’t be denied, as he’s averaging 31.0 points and 8.6 rebounds on 46.8% shooting.
4. Joel Embiid, 76ers: The 76ers have quietly improved their standing in the East, winning eight of their last 10 games. Though he has missed time due to left foot soreness, Embiid has been stellar when he’s on the court, averaging 33.4 points on 53.2% shooting.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: Antetokounmpo made his return for the Bucks on Monday night after missing five games with a sore left knee. He picked up where he left off, putting up 29 points and 12 rebounds in a win. He’ll need to continue that production and stay healthy to make the MVP race more interesting.
Rookie of the Year
1. Paolo Banchero, Magic
The Rookie of the Year race continues to stay status quo, with Banchero leading the pack. He’s been reliable and consistent for the Magic, averaging 20.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
2. Bennedict Mathurin, Indiana Pacers: Mathurin is not letting Banchero run away with the award just yet. Averaging 17.6 points off the bench for the Pacers, Mathurin is also keeping himself in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.
3. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons: Ivey has done a bit of everything for the Pistons, averaging 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists. It hasn’t been a standout season for Detroit, but Ivey is making the most of his opportunity.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies
Jackson Jr. has continued to change the scope of the Grizzlies' defense. Memphis now holds the best defensive rating in the league (110.1), quite the turnaround after standing in the middle of the pack while Jackson Jr. missed the first month of the season. He is also averaging 3.2 blocks per game, which is good enough to lead the league once he plays enough games to qualify.
2. Brook Lopez, Bucks: Lopez remains a heavy contender for DPOY after being the frontrunner through the first half of the season. The Bucks have maintained the fourth-best defensive rating in the league (111.1) thanks in part to Lopez’s 2.5 blocks per game, but he now has competition for the award beyond his own teammate in Antetokounmpo.
3. Nic Claxton, Nets: It’s time that Claxton be recognized as a legitimate contender for DPOY. He overtook Lopez as the league leader in blocks per game (2.7) and is a big reason why the Nets are the NBA’s best clutch team (18–6 in clutch situations), providing a lockdown presence on the interior. Claxton is also posting the best field goal percentage in the league (73.9%) while averaging 12.9 points and 8.7 rebounds.
Sixth Man of the Year
1. Russell Westbrook, Lakers
Westbrook still stands as the frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 15.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists off the bench. Time will tell if the Lakers can turn a corner following their trade for Rui Hachimura.
2. Malcolm Brogdon, Celtics: Brogdon has missed recent time due to personal reasons, but continues to play a big part in the Celtics’ offense off the bench. He is averaging 14.3 points on 48.0% shooting and will remain a contender for Sixth Man of the Year if he can maintain his availability.
3. Jordan Poole, Warriors: Poole has continued his production while moving back to the bench following Stephen Curry’s return to the lineup. Poole, averaging a career-high 21.2 points, will have to keep up his pace if the Warriors hope to rise in the standings.
Most Improved Player
1. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder
Gilgeous-Alexander is leading the Thunder on their recent stretch, dropping game-winners while OKC has won seven of its last 10 games. SGA is averaging 30.8 points per game on 51.1% shooting as OKC makes a case for a play-in spot.
2. Lauri Markkanen, Jazz: SGA has held the lead for MIP this season, but Markkanen is going to provide some tough competition by season’s end. Markkanen has improved his points per game average by 10 over the past season to 24.8 on 51.9% shooting while adding 8.7 rebounds.
3. Jalen Brunson, Knicks: Brunson has earned his contract and then some in his first season in New York, averaging 22.3 points and 6.2 assists—both improvements on his time in Dallas. The Knicks’ poor home record, though, leaves New York at seventh in the East.
Coach of the Year
1. Joe Mazzulla, Celtics: As long as the Celtics hold the best record in the league—though the Nuggets are coming close in the West—Mazzulla will be a top favorite for Coach of the Year. Other coaches on surprise teams will challenge him for the award, though.
2. Jacque Vaughn, Nets: The Nets have had an adjustment period without Kevin Durant, but Vaughn is keeping Brooklyn competitive. Vaughn’s case for Coach of the Year may grow even stronger if the Nets can stay in the top four in the East while without Durant.
3. Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies: Though the Grizzlies are currently on a four-game losing streak, they still have kept a hold on the second-place spot in the West. Jenkins has the Grizzlies, who currently hold the second-best net rating (+4.4) in the league, looking like title contenders.