Especially during down years in a rebuild, it’s fun for fans of teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder to hope their individual players are considered for NBA awards. With that in mind, the record of the team has a significant impact on the players’ ability to win these awards.
Based on recent history, there’s really only a couple of awards that can be won by players on teams that aren’t near the top of their respective conference.
For starters, there’s nobody on the Thunder that really have a shot at MVP this season, but it’s worth noting that it’s an award that absolutely warrants being on one of the best teams in the league. Due to this, it’s clear that OKC likely having one of the worst records in the NBA would disqualify their players from winning something like this.
However, there are a few awards that the Thunder do have at least a betting chance to win in the 2021-22 season.
Which of these could be most impacted by the record of the team? The winners of each over the past five years give pretty good insight.
NBA Coach of the Year
Mark Daigneault (Odds: +8000)
Looking at the past five years, every single coach that has won this award was leading a team with a winning record. With that in mind, it’s highly unlikely that Daigneault is considered, whether he’s deserving or not.
While there’s certainly excellent coaches on losing teams, winning is imperative to win NBA Coach of the Year. Oklahoma City likely won’t have a winning record this season, which is why Daigneault is near the bottom of the list in terms of favorites to win the award.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
Lu Dort (Odds: +10000)
While this award isn’t as directly correlated to winning, it usually ends up going to a player that’s on a playoff team. In fact, each of the last five NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award winners have been on teams with a winning record. This is because in general, the winner of this award leads their team to be great on the defensive side of the floor. Even in the modern NBA where scoring is so important, defense always prevails and results in winning.
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Teams that have the top defenses in the league typically are winning teams at the end of the season. Even if Dort is outstanding this season, it could require the entire team be good defensively under him and it result in winning for him to be truly considered.
NBA Rookie of the Year
Josh Giddey (Odds: +3300)
This award might actually be the easiest to win without having a good record. Each of the last three recipients of this honor were on teams that finished the season with a losing record. Keep in mind, you have to be truly special to win NBA Rookie of the Year, stuffing the stat sheet and showing that you have the ability to be a franchise-altering talent.
Does Giddey have the ability to be that type of rookie? Only time will tell, but usually this award correlates more closely to individual statistics than it does team winning percentage. Giddey is somewhat of a long shot to win, but don’t count him out.
NBA Most Improved Player
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Odds: +1000)
If anyone in Oklahoma City is going to win an award this season, it will likely be Gilgeous-Alexander earning the NBA Most Improved Player Award. In fact, he’s tied as the favorite to win heading into the season amongst all of his peers.
This is another award in which having a bad record doesn’t always discount the ability to win it. While four of the last five recipients played on teams with a winning record, it’s not always the case. Gilgeous-Alexander was already spectacular last season, so staying healthy and making another huge leap would be required if he’s going to continue as the frontrunner. It would also help if the Thunder outperform expectations a bit in terms of their record.
When it comes down to it, it’s extremely hard for NBA players to win these types of prestigious awards without being on a premier team.
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