MVP race wide open in Post’s NBA All-Star break awards



The Post’s NBA writers — Knicks beat writer Marc Berman, Nets beat writer Brian Lewis and columnist Mike Vaccaro — make their picks at the All-Star break for the NBA’s awards so far. The best derby? The MVP.

Here’s a look.


Berman: LeBron James, Lakers

This is partly a spillover from winning his fourth title last October and starting a new season seven weeks later. It’s partly a nod to James not having won the MVP Award since 2012-13. The numbers aren’t as lofty as some others (Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo), but James is the NBA’s most impactful two-way player. Oh, and he’s also averaging 25.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.8 assists while shooting 50 percent — 36 percent from 3-point range.

Lewis: Joel Embiid, 76ers

LeBron James could win this every year, and James Harden is deserving. But a healthy, fit and driven Embiid has been an unstoppable force that has the 76ers atop the East.

Vaccaro: James Harden, Nets

He arrived with much skepticism and many eyes upon him, and he has delivered night after night regardless of who’s playing alongside him.

LeBron James
Getty Images

Defensive Player of the Year

Berman: Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Some think Utah’s center should be in the discussion for MVP, but let’s give the French 7-foot rim protector his third DPOY. He won in 2018 and 2019 before the “Greek Freak” stole it last year. Gobert is averaging 13 rebounds and 2.7 blocks for the mighty Jazz.

Lewis: Ben Simmons, 76ers

Rudy Gobert is always a good call. But Ben Simmons guards more stars, covers more positions and is the most versatile defender. And his teammate Embiid just gave Gobert 40.

Vaccaro: Ben Simmons, 76ers

Doc Rivers, who knows a thing or two about coaching defense, marvels nightly at what Simmons does every game on that end of the floor. That’s good enough for me. But the eye test confirms.

Rookie of the Year

Berman: LaMelo Ball, Hornets

Though Garden inhabitants might shout Immanuel Quickley, it’s not going to happen. Ball, third pick of the draft, has showed he should have been No. 1. He erased concerns he can’t make a 3-pointer. The tall playmaker extraordinaire is averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists for Charlotte, and Lavar Ball hasn’t said a peep.

Lewis: LaMelo Ball, Hornets

Tyrese Haliburton is the steal of the draft, but this goes to the new ’Melo, averaging 20.7 ppg since entering James Borrego’s lineup.

Vaccaro: LaMelo Ball, Hornets

It would have been impressive enough if he would have lived up to the hype, but he has surpassed it. Some nights he’s the best show in the league.

Coach of the Year

Berman: Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

I wrote my treatise in Tuesday’s Post, anointing Thibodeau over Utah’s Quin Snyder. Thibs has dramatically changed the culture of a lost franchise. He’s got 19 wins at the break — three fewer than Las Vegas set as the Over/Under for the season.

Lewis: Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

Unlock Julius Randle’s All-Star potential? Build last year’s sieve-like defense into a stout team identity? Done. Have the Knicks fifth in the East at the break? Somehow, mission accomplished.

Vaccaro: Quin Snyder, Jazz

The classic example of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts, the Jazz are a joy to watch, a symphony of shooters and selfless play.

Sixth Man of the Year

Berman: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz

Snyder has a lot of pieces, including the surprising wing Clarkson, who is averaging 17.9 points in 26 minutes for the team with the NBA’s best record. Sit down for this. The 28-year-old ex-Laker was drafted 46th in 2014 — after Phil Jackson had selected Cleanthony Early.

Lewis: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz

Bobby Portis, Terrence Ross and Thad Young are good, but Clarkson is a fit for a Jazz team that needed punch off the bench and another scorer behind Donovan Mitchell.

Vaccaro: Jordan Clarkson, Jazz

On a dynamic team, he puts the dynamite in a deep bench, and makes the Jazz’s terrific second unit tick.

Most Improved Player

Berman: Julius Randle, Knicks

After six straight seasons on a losing team, Randle has carried the Knicks on his back to a 19-18 record with big numbers, big clutch plays and big leadership. Prior to this season, the lefty freight train only had big numbers. He also hasn’t missed a game and no longer is trade bait.

Lewis: Jerami Grant, Pistons

It’s tough to snub Randle, Darius Garland, Christian Wood and Jaylen “Underappreciated” Brown, but the nod goes to Grant, his 23.4 ppg topping his career-best of 13.6.

Vaccaro: Julius Randle, Knicks

He recommitted himself over the summer to be in better shape, a better passer, a more consistent scorer, and he has been tremendous at every aspect.


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