As the NBA season is just days away from the all-star break, many fans look at this time as an opportunity to reflect on what has already occurred throughout the year and what to look forward to throughout its remainder.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what awards some Hawks players would earn for their performances so far this season.
6th Man of the Year
Winner: Jeremy Lin
Jeremy Lin has quietly been one of the better backup point guards in the NBA this season, averaging 11 points and nearly four assists off the Hawks’ bench. He has displayed his veteran savvy and natural craftiness whenever he’s been on the court, and has also played a large role in the maturation process for starter Trae Young.
Perhaps for these reasons, Lin is rumored to have garnered interest from multiple contending teams in the trade market looking for a point guard who can settle the offense, get his teammates involved, and score when he needs to. He’s certainly filled these voids for the Hawks so far this season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Dewayne Dedmon
While there is not a truly elite defender on a Hawks roster that ranks 26th in defensive rating league-wide, Dewayne Dedmon is the closest resemblance Atlanta has to a rim protector, and he has the highest defensive rating on the team at 108.9.
Dedmon too is a player that will be on the trading block in the coming days, and if he does hit the road for a new city, well, good luck to the rest of the Hawks to try to keep the defense from slipping to last place.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Kevin Huerter
Look, I know Kevin Huerter is a rookie, and it wouldn’t theoretically make sense to give a first-year player the most-improved award. However, the growth Huerter has shown from where he was at the beginning of the season up to now has been nothing short of remarkable.
After looking noticeably timid throughout his first month in the association, Huerter has since become one of the key contributors on this promising Hawks young core, launching and making threes with no hesitation and also using his length to get rebounds and cause deflections.
Just look at the confidence Huerter displays in some of the shots he took in a recent game against the Wizards:
If Huerter continues to come up with this kind of production consistently, comparisons to Klay Thompson may not seem as crazy as they once were.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Trae Young
While Huerter has shown real potential in recent weeks, the obvious choice for rookie of the year is Trae Young. Since the day Atlanta traded the rights to Luka Doncic in exchange for the pick that ultimately became Young and a 2019 first round pick, the point guard has been highly scrutinized by some and lauded by others, but one thing’s for certain: everyone has an opinion.
It is true that Young had a rough start out of the gates this season. Someone must have forgotten to tell him that just because he’s not at Oklahoma anymore doesn’t mean teams won’t stop defending him like he’s Steph Curry. However, since a dreadful November where he shot less than 20% from outside the arc, Young has recovered and become more efficient with experience.
During Atlanta’s recent west coast swing, Young had a 5-game stretch where he scored at least 23 points and dished out 8 assists in every contest. The last rookie with a stretch like that was Oscar Robertson.
Young now averages 17 points and 7 and a half assists per game, and if it weren’t for a certain Slovenian tearing up the league in Dallas, he would be the clear front-runner for rookie of the year.
Winner: John Collins
Was there any doubt about who would receive this honor? Since his sophomore debut in November, Collins has established himself as one of the breakout stars of the 2018-19 season, and should be a candidate for Most Improved Player come June.
The power forward is averaging 19.6 points and 10 rebounds and puts his freakish athleticism on display on a nightly basis. Just by being on the court, the Wake Forest product is a walking double-double, and he’s also shown an ability to knock down three pointers at a respectable 36% clip.
John Collins is the type of player that gives fans something to be excited about in the midst of the rebuilding years. He and Trae Young have proven to be a lethal pick and roll combination, and the addition of another young star or two in this year’s draft will only further expand his horizon as defenders won’t be able to pay him as much attention.
His utter dominance for Atlanta so far this season has earned him the MVP award.
(Also, don’t forget to watch him in the Slam Dunk Contest on February 17th)!
Jackson Stone – @tdjs_network