The first month of the NBA season has passed. Our writers make picks for MVP, Rookie of the Year and more.
MVP of the First Month is …
Howard Beck: Steph Curry, easily. He leads the league in scoring (28.7 points per game) and three-pointers (5.4) and has staked the Warriors to the NBA’s best record (13–2), with a patchwork rotation around him. Oh, and his team just smoked the Nets (11–5), the team of his closest MVP rival.
Ashley Nicole Moss: Steph Curry. A very popular and predictable pick, but the man is playing on a different level! His work ethic is always celebrated and it’s easy to see those results in every game. NINE threes in back-to-back games vs. Brooklyn and Cleveland?! He’s incredibly unreal. And if you think the Warriors look sensational now, just wait until Klay gets back!
Rohan Nadkarni: Nikola Jokić. His efficiency has been off the charts, and, most importantly, he’s carrying the biggest burden of the three. The Nuggets have an awful bench, Jamal Murray hasn’t played and Michael Porter Jr. is dealing with back issues. No great player on a good team has been dealt a worse hand than Jokić, who has taken a step up from his MVP campaign in 2021.
Michael Pina: Steph Curry. The Warriors are the best team in the NBA and their offensive renaissance is almost entirely thanks to Curry’s unprecedented shooting, off-ball movement and selflessness. When he’s on the court, the Warriors are +195. When he sits, they’re -5. That’s not a coincidence.
Jeremy Woo: Kevin Durant. He's keeping the Nets afloat and having one of his best years, which is saying a lot. I personally think he might be the most talented player ever. And it’s not as hot a take as you think!
Rookie of the First Month is …
Woo: Evan Mobley. If (and when) the shockingly decent Cavs struggle with Mobley out the next few weeks with an elbow injury, this will be even more obvious. Respect to Scottie Barnes, but no rookie has been more impactful than Mobley.
Pina: Evan Mobley. Sprained elbow be damned, Mobley has been the best rookie by almost every advanced metric and is the most important player on a surprising Cavaliers team that may make the playoffs. Skilled, two-way forces who stand seven feet tall don’t come around very often. Mobley is that.
Moss: Scottie Barnes. Listen, this kid has been putting the rest of the rookies on notice. A versatile 6' 7" wing averaging 16 ppg and shooting more than 50% from the field—it looks like the Raptors have found the foundation for their future and so far, it’s looking bright.
Beck: Evan Mobley. It’s no small task to revive the moribund Cavaliers, but Mobley’s done it with his enviable combination of size, skill and versatility. He leads all rookies in blocks (1.6 per game), is second in scoring (14.6) and rebounding (8.0) and has helped the Cavs become a top-six defense. That said, Scottie Barnes is just as worthy and will surge to the lead while Mobley misses time with a strained elbow.
Nadkarni: Evan Mobley. He hasn’t only made the Cavs a decent team, he’s made them fun to watch, two things they haven’t been in years. Scottie Barnes will likely catch up (or remain in front depending on your opinion) with Mobley injured. But I don’t want that to take away from how special Mobley has been, particularly defensively, to start the season.
Coach of the First Month is …
Pina: Wes Unseld Jr. The Wizards had a great offseason, shedding Russell Westbrook’s contract in exchange for several above-competent veterans who complement Bradley Beal without relying too much on his scoring prowess. But nobody expected this team to have one of the league’s best records one month in. Kudos to Unseld Jr. Two years ago, Washington had the second-worst defense in the NBA. Before last night’s loss in Miami, only three teams were stingier. And in crunchtime, where they’re 7-0, Washington is only allowing 71 points per 100 possessions, good for second best in the league.
Nadkarni: Erik Spoelstra. The conventional wisdom for the Heat was they would be a better playoff team than regular-season one. So of course they’ve started the season with the third-best net rating in the league. And Miami has done this despite some recent injuries. Spo deserves a lot of credit for somehow having this team top 10 in offense despite their struggles to score in the half court.
Woo: Billy Donovan. The Bulls are persevering without Patrick Williams and Nikola Vučević right now. I'd be lying if I said I expected that. Chicago has figured out how to make the pieces work and have gotten a lot out of a bench that looked thin on paper.
Moss: Erik Spoelstra. As someone who spent all of her 20s in Miami and covered the Heat at one point, I’ve always been a big fan of coach Spo. This season, so far, Miami looks once again like the team no one wants to face and a big chunk of that has to do with how well they’re coached. This team respects coach Spo and it shows. On the other side of that, outside of the constant adjustments and smart schemes, Spo is able to bring the best of his guys individually and collectively.
Beck: Steve Kerr. Yes, it’s easy to coach Steph Curry, but look at what the Warriors are getting out of Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Gary Payton II, Damion Lee, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr. Kerr has even found meaningful minutes for rookie Jonathan Kuminga while steering the Warriors to the league’s best record. Honorable mention to Billy Donovan and Wes Unseld Jr.
Name another awards candidate (Sixth Man, DPOY, MIP, Executive) who deserves more attention.
Pina: Buddy Hield, Sixth man. After starting all 71 games he appeared in last season, Hield has been a critical weapon off Sacramento’s bench. Among sixth men, he’s second to only Tyler Herro in scoring (17.6 points per game), hoisting and making more threes than everyone except Steph Curry and sporting a positive net rating for the very first time in his six-year career.
Moss: Tyler Herro. Sixth Man. Look, Miami flies under a lot of people’s radar for some reason, but if you’ve been paying attention … Tyler Herro is having a moment! In the first seven games of the season he’s had 157 points, the most by a reserve in NBA history. Herro’s been trying to find his groove and his role on this squad since the jump—it’s starting to look like he’s found it … consistently.
Beck: Tommy Sheppard, who was just promoted to president and given an extension with the Wizards. So I guess he’s getting all the credit he deserves. But let’s review, anyway. He flipped Russell Westbrook—overpaid and in decline—in a multiteam deal that brought back Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, completely replenishing the Wizards’ rotation and vaulting them to the upper tier of the Eastern Conference. He also hired Wes Unseld Jr., who’s done a fine job of fusing the new group together.
Nadkarni: Tommy Sheppard and Artūras Karnišovas both deserve some love for Executive of the Year. Can they share the award? Sheppard fleeced the Lakers in the Russell Westbrook trade and he’s built a team that Bradley Beal can believe in. Karnišovas landed Lonzo Ball and then stunted on analytics lovers by signing DeMar DeRozan, who went from maligned contract to MVP candidate.
Woo: Can I toss out Tyrese Maxey as a sneaky most improved candidate? He's been rock-solid for the Sixers, who have been without Ben Simmons (obviously), Tobias Harris and others for most of the month. He won’t win it, but he is … most improved.
Make one bold All-Star prediction...
Nadkarni: Tyler Herro will be an All-Star this season. He is top 20 in scoring and averaging 22/5/4 for one of the top teams in the East. He has been a huge driver of Miami’s success and is arguably the Heat’s best scorer in the half court. Finally taking part in his first relatively normal NBA season, Herro is the best he’s ever been.
Pina: In NBA history, only 42 players have ever made the All-Star team while averaging fewer than 29 minutes per game. If Montrezl Harrell can sustain his energy for the next couple of months, he deserves to make it 43. Pound for pound, this might be the most efficient player in basketball. Harrell ranks fourth in PER, third in true shooting percentage, sixth on Basketball-Reference’s MVP Award Tracker, and the Wizards are significantly better when he’s on the court than off. You wanted bold; here you go!
Moss: The East wins the All-Star Game this year (if they return to the traditional format). Look, this isn’t the Eastern Conference of the past anymore, there’s some serious competition for the West. The reigning champion in Giannis, the best player in the league in Durant, the red-hot young guys in Chicago and New York—whatever the team looks like, it’s not going to be a cakewalk for the west side.
Beck: DeMar DeRozan will make the East roster, for his first All-Star appearance since 2018. Zach LaVine is also a lock, which will give the Bulls two All-Stars for the first time since ’16 (Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol).
Woo: Kyrie Irving gets voted in by the fans. (I hope I didn't just speak that into existence.)
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