By Zach Jacovini
The 2022-2023 NBA season has officially come to an end, and with it, awards season is upon us. While this season has seen some incredible all-around play, with so many stars casually dropping stellar performances, some players have taken their play to the next level and therefore are deserving of recognition. During the course of the NBA’s 82 game season, the league officially announced that awards would be renamed after iconic NBA legends, with the most valuable player trophy being rebranded to the Michael Jordan Trophy. With some background out of the way, it’s time to meet the projected winners for some of the awards that will be handed out later this summer.
Most Valuable Player (The Michael Jordan Trophy)
Winner: Joel Embiid, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
Simply put, there has not been a more dominant player in the entire NBA across the past two seasons than Sixers superstar Joel Embiid. Despite being seven-feet tall, Embiid has the shooting touch and ball handle of a guard, and because of this he is a matchup nightmare for any other center in the NBA, as exemplified by his league leading 33.1 points-per-game average. If Joel is facing a center who is taller than him, he can size him up and put the ball on the deck. If he’s facing a center who's smaller than him, he can play bully-ball and post up as much as he pleases. There is simply no way to stop a motivated Embiid, and because of this his team has a chance every time he steps onto the hardwood. Embiid became the back-to-back scoring champ, and it is time the award voters give an all-time player like Embiid the credit he has deserved.
Defensive Player of the Year (The Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy)
Winner: Jaren Jackson Jr., Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
Standing at 6’10”, Jackson is an exceptionally athletic forward for the Grizzlies that has put on a block clinic this year. Jackson has sent more than his fair share of players packing on shot-attempts this season, averaging over 3.3 blocks per game this season. Jackson sports unusual mobility for his height and frame, and many guards and forwards simply cannot get their shot off at the rim when Jackson is on his game. Jackson has also been a huge part of a successful team as his Grizzlies finished as the number two seed in the west, despite a season filled with injuries to players like center Stephen Adams and controversies involving guard Ja Morant. Jackson’s defense has been phenomenal this season, and will need to be in the playoffs for the shorthanded Grizzlies to have a chance, and he is a great selection for his first Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
Sixth Man of The Year (The John Havlicek Trophy)
Winner: Immanuel Quickley, Point Guard, New York Knicks
With blazing fast speed, great defensive skills, and a pure jumpshot, Immanuel Quickley has been exactly what can be asked of any great sixth man in a team’s rotation. Quickley has more than provided for his New York Knicks when it comes to scoring, averaging 14.7 points per game off the bench, with over 37% shooting from three. Quickleys rise to stardom has helped a Knicks team that many doubted over the off-season clinch the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks simply would not be in this position without his rise, making him more than deserving of this award.
Rookie of The Year (The Wilt Chamberlain Trophy)
Winner: Paolo Banchero, Forward, Orlando Magic
Despite his team's expected struggles, Banchero has had a phenomenal rookie season and looks to be worthy of the number one pick the Magic used to select him in this past draft. Banchero has had a great statistical season as well, averaging 20 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and 3.7 assists per game. Bancheros steady play has allowed the Magic to quietly increase their level of play this season, as the Magic have been much more competitive as of late and as a result, sport a 10-12 record since the All-Star break. With another high draft pick and the continued development of Banchero, expect the Magic to out-perform expectations as the season comes to an end.
Most Improved Player (The George Mikan Trophy)
Winner: Lauri Markkanen, Forward, Utah Jazz
During his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, Lauri Markkanen became an afterthought. Fans understood that he was a solid three-level scorer but he was known as a role player and not much more. After being traded to the Utah Jazz, most fans expected him to continue to be a solid player, but Markkanen has shattered expectations, and his All-Star selection this year is a testament to his drastic improvement on the court. With a scoring average of 25.6 points per game and a nearly 40% shooting clip from the three point line, Markkanen has shredded the most elite defenses in the league this year and as a result has kept his rebuilding Jazz to a respectable record (37-44).