Our Picks for the 2021-22 NBA Awards

April 10th, 2022

By NBA Scouting Live

Tonight, the NBA’s 2021-22 regular season came to a close, and it is time that we make our picks for the regular season awards this year.  There will be a lot of competitive, close calls, but after much deliberating, we have made our picks, with our reasoning listed below. The actual NBA award show will not happen until the end of this season, but in the meantime, we have made our picks for the NBA awards this year. Also, we went to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com for research purposes.

Our 2021-22 NBA MVP:

Milwaukee Bucks’ forward, Giannis Antetokounmpo had another terrific season in the NBA this year, and he is our pick to win the MVP award for the 2021-22 season.
(Photo:
Al Bello/Getty Images, via USA Today)

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

2nd: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
3rd: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

This was an extremely close call, and our staff was split on whether to pick Giannis or Nikola Jokic.  Jokic’s case was very convincing, as he was the first player to ever record 2000 points, 1000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a single season, and he also led in PER, Win Shares, Win-Shares per 48, and Box Plus-Minus.  On the downside, while the Denver Nuggets still had a solid season, his team still just finished 6th in the West, also because they dealt with significant injuries.  So, because there’s not enough team success, that sort of hurts Jokic’s MVP case a bit.

Giannis was consistently in the top 2 in PER, Win Shares, Win-Shares per 48, and Box Plus-Minus, and was on a better team, as the 2022 Milwaukee Bucks won more games than the Denver Nuggets did in the regular season.  Giannis is also the best player on the defending champions, who are again one of the best teams in the NBA this year.  He’s also shown that he can outplay anyone in a big game, and the 2022 Milwaukee Bucks could be poised to repeat this year.

Joel Embiid also made an interesting case.  He led the league in scoring, he was in the top 3 in PER, Win Shares, and Box Plus-Minus, and the 76ers managed to win 50 games this year.  However, some wonder if he truly made players better, because the addition of James Harden made the 76ers a substantially more talented team on paper, especially considering some of the three-point percentages of their role players (Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz) suffered, which may hurt his candidacy a little bit.  Also, after the trade, the 76ers struggled in some high profile matchups, and so that hurts Embiid’s case for the MVP award.

After much deliberation, we decided to go with Giannis, but it was a very close call in the MVP race.

Our 2021-22 NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

Boston Celtics’ guard, Marcus Smart has been the best defender on one of the league’s best defensive teams, and he routinely draws tough assignments to allow everyone else to do their jobs more effectively.
(Photo:
Jon Durr/Associated Press, via The New York Times)

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

2nd: Robert Williams, Boston Celtics
3rd: Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns

Marcus Smart has been one of the better on-ball defenders for the last 4 or 5 years, and he takes on every difficult defensive assignment out on the perimeter.  He guards small guards, wing players, and he can guard every one 1 through 4.  It’s hard to capture this kind of effect, because he allows guys like Tatum and Brown to not expend as much energy in order maximize their effect on offense.  He also has helped Boston build a top 5 defense this year, and since the All-Star break, Boston has been a tremendous defensive team.

It was a very close call between Smart and Robert Williams.  Robert Williams had a strong case, as he ranked very well in Defensive Win-Shares, Defensive Box Plus-Minus, and he was on a top 5 defensive team.  But now that Robert Williams is hurt and Boston is still very good defensively, it makes Marcus Smart’s case stronger, because they can still play very effective defense without needing an elite defensive anchor back there. 

Mikal Bridges also takes on a lot of tough defensive assignments, as he guards the difficult opponents out on the perimeter with the Suns, and he helped Phoenix become a top 5 defensive unit this year.  He defended very well, which enabled his other teammates like Chris Paul and Devin Booker save their energy for the offensive end.  Bridges has proven to be immensely valuable to their team.

Draymond Green is a very versatile defender that has a tremendous defensive impact on the floor.  did everything well defensively for Golden State, as he helped get them to reel off a lot of wins early on, and their team effect tapered off when he got hurt.  Green was assigned a lot of tough defensive matchups, and helped Golden State be the number one defensive team in the NBA, but his candidacy for the Defensive Player of the Year award pretty much ended when he got hurt, as he played a shade under 50 games this year.

Utah Jazz’s center, Rudy Gobert and Philadelphia 76ers’ center, Joel Embiid were also in consideration, as both of them have very good rebounding and blocks numbers, but it was found according to the NBA’s team defensive rating, that actually neither one of them are on a top 10 defensive team this year.  This puts their actual level of effect and defensive impact in question, because advanced metrics do not deem their teams to be elite on defense this year.  Because their team’s defenses aren’t as good as they have been in the past, they didn’t receive any votes from our staff this year.

Others Receiving Votes:
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Our 2021-22 NBA Head Coach of the Year:

Memphis Grizzlies’ head coach, Taylor Jenkins had a terrific season, and he helped lead his team to win 56 games in the NBA this year.
(Photo:
Brandon Dill/Associated Press, via localmemphis.com)

Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies

2nd: Ime Udoka, Boston Celtics
3rd: Nick Nurse, Toronto Raptors

There were many strong coaching performances in the NBA this year, and it was hard to pick just one coach for the Coach of the Year award, but we decided to unanimously go with Memphis Grizzlies’ Taylor Jenkins as our pick to win this award.

The Memphis Grizzlies had a tremendous season, as they won more than 55 games, and they had the second best record in all of the NBA.  Taylor Jenkins is our pick to win the 2022 Coach of the Year award, because he helped the Grizzlies get to many wins, and he’s helped mold superstar point guard Ja Morant into an MVP candidate.  The Grizzlies won many more games than expected, and they are now a sleeper pick for the title this year.

Ime Udoka really helped transform the Boston Celtics into being one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, especially in the second half.  His second half coaching job was truly transformational, and the Celtics have had one of the best offenses and defenses since the All-Star break.  The Celtics have been winning a lot of games lately, and the Celtics look to be one of the best teams in the East right now.

Nick Nurse is one of the best coaches in the NBA, and he’s really bounced back to lead the Raptors back to the playoffs after they struggled last year.  He’s guided them to a 5th seed in the East, and he’s turned rookie forward Scottie Barnes into a strong ROY contender for the award this year.  He’s also helped get starting point guard Fred VanVleet his first All-Star berth, and he’s helped make the Raptors a very good team all-around this season, as they’ve won considerably more games than expected.

Chris Finch did a great coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and he’s turned them into a team that has won over half of their games, and into a team that is truly worthy of making the NBA playoffs this year.  He’s helped make his talented team into one cohesive, functioning bunch, and the Timberwolves have been one of the more exciting teams to watch in the West, as they have superstar center Karl-Anthony Towns and budding star guard Anthony Edwards to work with.

Others that coached very well that factored into consideration were Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Phoenix’s Monty Williams, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, and LA Clippers’ Tyronn Lue.  There were a lot of very good seasons from NBA head coaches this year.

J.B. Bickerstaff led Cleveland to win far more games than anyone expected, and the Cavaliers have helped turn their talented, young roster into a cohesive, solid team that is worthy of making the playoffs.  Adding to that, Jarrett Allen and Darius Garland made their first All-Star teams, and the Cavaliers also had to overcome the injuries of Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio this year.  Plus, Evan Mobley has played very well, and he may be the frontrunner to win the ROY award this year.

Steve Kerr helped get Golden State off to a very strong start, which was especially impressive since they didn’t have Klay Thompson for the first 1 ½ months.  The Warriors has battled with injuries, but they ended up getting over 50 wins, which marks for a very good season for them.

Monty Williams and Erik Spoelstra have led their teams to have the best records in their respective conferences, and both of their teams have been very good, and have dominated for stretches of the regular season this year.  Tyronn Lue helped the Clippers get to the play-in tournament, which is actually kind of impressive, especially considering they lost their best player Kawhi Leonard due to injury and they were without him for the entire season, and their other superstar forward Paul George missed considerable time due to injury before returning late in the year.

Others Receiving Votes:
Chris Finch, Minnesota Timberwolves

Our Picks for the 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year:

Our pick for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year goes to Scottie Barnes, as he had a strong all-around season, and helped lead the Toronto Raptors to a playoff berth in the East this year.
(Photo:
John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports, via Fansided’s Tip of the Tower)

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

2nd: Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
3rd: Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

This was a very close race, and we had it between Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley, but we decided to go with Scottie Barnes to win the Rookies of the Year award.

Scottie Barnes had a very good season, and the versatile forward helped lead the Toronto Raptors to a playoff berth in the East.  He led in a lot of the advanced metrics, and he also led in minutes played, and was in the top 4 in points, rebounds, and assists amongst rookies that played 1500 minutes or more this year.

Evan Mobley also played very well, and he was a strong contender throughout the season.  He placed in the top 3 in a lot of the advanced metrics, he also led in rebounds, and he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers win a lot more games than expected.  He got hurt late in the year, so that hurt his push for the ROY award a bit here.

Cade Cunningham had a very strong second half, and he put up very good numbers down the stretch.  He took on a heavy role, and he showed his versatility, as he was able to overcome adversity, injuries, and struggles that he faced in the first half.

Josh Giddey also put up solid numbers, as he was a consistent triple-double threat in games.  He wasn’t on a very good team this year, but he was one of the best players on a young Oklahoma City Thunder team.

Also, others that were deserving of consideration were Orlando Magic’s Franz Wagner, Chicago Bulls’ Ayo Dosunmu, New Orleans Pelicans’ Herb Jones, and Houston Rockets’ Jalen Green.

Franz Wagner was a solid all-around player for the Magic this year, and Ayo Dosunmu thrived in a bench role on a good Chicago Bulls team.  Herb Jones played good defense and he played much better than expected this year.  Jalen Green turned in a strong second half, and the vastly athletic rookie guard showed that he can take over games with his ability to shoot and score the basketball.

Others Receiving Votes:
Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Our NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award:

Miami Heat guard, Tyler Herro had a terrific season off the bench, and he is our pick to win the Sixth Man of the Year award this year.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images, via The Rookie Wire – USA Today)

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

2nd: Cameron Johnson, Phoenix Suns
3rd: Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies

Tyler Herro had a superb season, and he averaged over 20 points, as well as 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game while making 40% of his threes on the first-seeded Miami Heat team this season.  He helped get them the first seed in the East, and his tremendous play off the bench makes him a frontrunner to win this award.

Cameron Johnson has been a very good player on the best team in the league, and the Phoenix Suns had the most wins in the regular season.  He shot the ball really well, and he thrived in a sixth man role for his team this year.

Brandon Clarke was tremendously efficient on a very good Memphis Grizzlies’ team, and he was instrumental in helping his team get many wins this year. 

Kevin Love had a terrific bounce back season, and he really excelled at making plays consistently throughout the year to help get Cleveland far more wins than expected.  In addition, Charlotte Hornets’ Montrezl Harrell and Miami Heat’s Max Strus were others that were worthy of consideration, as Harrell was a very efficient big man this year, and Strus thrived in a 3 and D role off the bench for the Heat.

Others Receiving Votes:
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Our NBA Most Improved Player Award:

Memphis Grizzlies’ superstar point guard, Ja Morant went from being a very good NBA player to one of the best players in the league, and he had a transformational year that resulted in him reaching superstardom this season in the NBA.
(Photo:
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images, via SB Nation’s Grizzly Bear Blues)

Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

2nd: Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
3rd: Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

Ja Morant was already one of the best point guards in the NBA, but he entered the next stratosphere and truly became an elite player by dominating across the league, and he has entered superstardom in this league.

He showed tremendous, marked improvement in points and rebounds per game, as well as in advanced metrics across the board.  He helped lead the Memphis Grizzlies to win 56 games, which would have been good enough to get them the 1 seed in the East if they were in the Eastern Conference. 

Darius Garland also had a really good season this year.  He went from being a decent starter on a low-tier Eastern Conference team to being an All-Star guard on a playoff-worthy Eastern Conference team.  He has been leaps and bounds better than how he’s performed in years past, and it shows in his statistics and advanced metrics.  Now, he is one of the best players on Cleveland’s team, and kudos to the Cavaliers’ management for holding on to him and developing him, and their patience has paid off for them.

Desmond Bane made a tremendous improvement from year 1 to year 2, and he was already a rookie sharpshooter last year.  Now, he’s a bonafide scorer on one of the best teams in the league, and he’s shown that he is one of the best shooters and 3 and D players in the NBA.  He went from being a solid role player to being one of the best players on a very good team, and he’s quietly entered the conversation among who the best player is in the 2020 draft.

Dejounte Murray also played very well, and he made his first All-Star team this year.  He has been San Antonio’s go-to scorer, and he’s been a triple-double threat on a daily basis.  He was a solid player last year, and he’s emerged to be one of the best guards in the Western Conference this season.

Charlotte Hornets’ Miles Bridges has emerged from being a super efficient, 3 and D role player to also being a very good scorer on a very competitive, playoff-worthy team in the East.  While his NBA transformation might not seem to be quite as remarkable as the others, Miles Bridges still turned in a tremendous season nonetheless, and he certainly surpassed our expectations this year.

Others Receiving Votes:
Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

Our Pick for the NBA’s Executive of the Year Award:

Boston Celtics’ new President of Basketball Operations, Brad Stevens made terrific moves, especially at the trade deadline to make his team a legitimate contender to win the East this year.
(Photo:
Darren McCollester/Getty Images, via Fansided’s Chowder and Champions)

Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

2nd: Pat Riley, Miami Heat
3rd: Koby Altman, Cleveland Cavaliers

The three executives we picked made changes to their team both in the offseason and during the regular season to improve from last season, and they were able to see noticeable improvements this year.

The Boston Celtics made a lot of key acquisitions at the trade deadline to improve and turnaround their team, and they have had the best win percentage of NBA teams after the All-Star break this year.  They traded Kemba in the offseason and dumped out of some of the moves to make their team better.  The Boston Celtics bet big on their ability to make personnel moves, and it’s helped them considerably towards the season’s end.

The Miami Heat now have the 1st seed in the East, and they are among the contenders to come out of the Eastern Conference.  They have made good signings and acquisitions, and they have been one of the best teams in the NBA this year.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a lot of solid moves in the draft, trades, and in free agency to make their team very competitive and worthy of making the playoffs in the East this year.

Golden State Warriors’ forward, Draymond Green and Boston Celtics’ guard, Marcus Smart were terrific on the defense this year, and they made our 2022 NBA All-Defensive first team.
(Photo:
Mary Schwalm/Associated Press, via MassLive.com)

Our 2022 NBA All-Defensive 1st Team:

C Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
F Robert Williams, Boston Celtics
F Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
G Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
G Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Our 2022 NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team:

C Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
G Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors
G Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Others Receiving Votes:
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz, Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers, Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns

Both Cleveland Cavaliers’ big man, Evan Mobley and Toronto Raptors’ forward, Scottie Barnes made our 2022 NBA All-Rookie 1st team.
(Photo:
Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Our 2022 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team:

C Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers
F Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors
F Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic
G Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls
G Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Our 2022 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team:

C Omer Yurtseven, Miami Heat
F Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans
F Jonathan Kuminga, Golden State Warriors
G Jalen Green, Houston Rockets
G Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

Also, here are our picks for the All-NBA Teams for the 2021-22 season:

Both Giannis and Nikola Jokic made our 2022 All-NBA 1st Team as they had tremendous seasons in the NBA this year.
(Photo:
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Our 2022 All-NBA 1st Team:

C Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
G Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
G Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Our 2022 All-NBA 2nd Team:

C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
F Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
F Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
G Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
G Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

Our 2022 All-NBA 3rd Team:

C Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
F DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
G Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
G Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Others Receiving Votes:
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

So there you have it, our award picks for the 2021-22 NBA season.  Hope you enjoyed reading this.  Meanwhile, the NBA play-in tournament begins Tuesday, and it will be exciting to see which team will make it through the NBA playoffs to win the title this year.  Thanks for reading.

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