As usual, the Western Conference is flexing it’s powerful muscles and making the Eastern Conference look like the little sisters of the poor (minus Atlanta of course). In what is shaping up as a grueling race with 10 teams fighting for eight spots in the Western Conference playoffs, it’s been status quo for the conference one again.
What follows is a recap of the best teams, players, rookies, coaches, etc., along with some other imaginary hardware. So let’s asses the fist half with some All-Star break accolades.
Best Team: Golden State Warriors
This is the easy call of course (after all, they have the best overall record at 42-9), but you have to really give Steve Kerr and the Warriors a ton of credit. Behind arguably the game’s best backcourt, the Warriors have been a model of consistency and greatness all season. They are playing the game the right way, doing nothing wrong and have the look of a team that will be the last team standing.
Biggest Surprise Team: Phoenix Suns
With an unconventional three point-guard lineup and an uptempo system that utilizes athletic big men, the Suns are thriving. They are currently holding down the eight-spot in the Western Conference playoff race. Phoenix is an extremely fun team to watch and here’s hoping they can put on a show in the playoffs.
First-Half MVP: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
The quest to be named MVP will ultimately come down to two players: Stephen Curry and James Harden. In what will be a tight race until the bitter end, Curry gets the edge for now for the way the Warriors have jumped from a middle-of-a-pack playoff team to looking like world beaters. Not just that, but Curry has eye-popping numbers to back up his candidacy. It’s all come together quite nicely for Curry this season.
First-Half Rookie of the Year: Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
In what was a tight contest with Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic, Wiggins wins out with the way he has upped his game in the last few weeks. After a slow start, Wiggins is starting to find his groove and for the year he is averaging 15.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. He is also coming off being named MVP in the Rising Stars Challenge after scoring 22 points (on 8-11 shooting) and contributing six rebounds and four assists.
First-Half Most Improved Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
While Curry and fellow “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson get all the love, it is the dirty work of Green that has been at the backbone of the Warriors success this season. I wrote more about his outstanding season here and, simply put, he has taken his game to a whole new level.
First-Half Breakout Star of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Granted this award could also go to Green, but as improved as he has been from last year to this year, he was at least a known commodity, as were other candidates like Markieff Morris and Enes Kanter. With that said, this award has to go to Kanter’s teammate Rudy Gobert. He has let the NBA know he will be a force in the paint for years to come. His defensive presence in the post will prove to be immeasurable. While still getting somewhat-limited minutes playing behind Kanter, Gobert is averaging 6.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and a team-leading 2.2 blocks per game (which also ranks fourth in the NBA).
First-Half Sixth Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers
As the winner of this award last season, Crawford is at it once again as he is scoring in bunches off the bench for the Clippers. It’s a role he relishes and thrives in. For the year, Crawford is averaging 16 points per game on .391 shooting, including .328 from three-point territory. With Blake Griffin currently injured at the moment, Crawford will have to be on top of his game to keep his Clippers on pace with the rest of the Western Conference.
First-Half Coach of the Year: Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
For his first year with the Warriors, it seems every button Kerr pushes seems to work. Granted, he was handed a great team from Mark Jackson, still, the Warriors never won more than 51 games nor advanced past the Western Conference semi-finals, a mark the Warriors look like they will surpass this season. Of course that’s not a given, but the way Kerr has transformed the Warriors into title contenders in his first year with the club has to be recognized. Memphis’ David Joerger also deserves the utmost respect for the job he’s been doing. It’s just Kerr has been a little better.