Kings

Kings' Haliburton among 2021 Rookie of the Year finalists

Kings

The NBA announced its award finalists for six major awards honoring the best performers from the 2020-21 regular season. Award winners will be announced by TNT during coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.

Tyrese Haliburton, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has been named a finalist for the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year award.

Haliburton missed the last eight games of the season due to a left knee injury, but before that, he played beyond his years, averaging 13 points and 5.3 assists in 58 games this season.

Here's a look at the finalists for Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year:

Most Valuable Player

Nikola Jokić is widely considered the favorite for MVP, and rightfully so. The Nuggets center averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists while playing in all 72 games this season. Jokić led the Nuggets to a 47-25 record and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference despite losing his sidekick Jamal Murray to a torn ACL in April.

Joel Embiid was rolling to a likely MVP crown before suffering a hyperextended left knee and missing 10 games for the Sixers. Embiid averaged 28.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 51 games this season as the Sixers finished 49-23, best in the Eastern Conference. If Embiid didn't miss 21 games, he likely would've been right there with Jokić as the MVP favorite.

Steph Curry did it all for the Warriors this year after Klay Thompson tore his Achilles before the season began. Curry led the league in scoring at 32.0 points per game, and he added 5.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 42.1 percent from 3 on 12.7 attempts per game. The Warriors finished 39-33 on the season, eighth in the Western Conference.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert will look to win his third DPOY award in 2021 after taking the crown in 2019 and 2020. The Jazz center averaged a career-high 2.7 blocks per game on the season and had a league-best 5.2 defensive win shares. 

Ben Simmons has quickly earned a reputation as one of the league's most versatile defenders. A 6-foot-11 guard, Simmons routinely guards any opponent on the floor. The 2020 All-Defensive First Teamer averaged 1.6 steals per game this season.

Draymond Green called himself the best defender in NBA history earlier this year. While that might be a stretch, he's certainly padding his resume. The 2017 DPOY averaged 1.7 steals per game this season as he helped get the Warriors back in the playoff picture.

Sixth Man of the Year

Jordan Clarkson was a spark plug off the Utah bench all season long, averaging 18.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 68 games. The Jazz finished with the best record in the NBA at 52-20 as Clarkson stepped up in a huge way when Donovan Mitchell went down with an ankle injury in the final weeks of the season.

Joe Ingles might have to settle for seventh man of the year, as he comes off the Utah bench with Clarkson. Ingles had a great season in his own right, though, averaging 12.1 points, 4.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds while shooting 45.1 percent from deep.

Derrick Rose reinvigorated the Knicks after New York traded for the 2011 MVP back in February. In 50 games with the Knicks and Pistons, Rose averaged 14.7 points and 4.2 assists, shooting a career-best 38.8 percent from 3 as the Knicks returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Most Improved Player

Jerami Grant bet on himself when he signed a lucrative contract with the Pistons last offseason. He had a great role on a contending team with the Nuggets, but he wanted to be the man. Grant proved he was capable, averaging 22.3 points (+10.3 from last season), 4.6 rebounds (+1.1) and 2.8 assists (+1.6).

Julius Randle will likely appear on some MVP ballots this season. Winning MIP might be a nice consolation for the man who was the driving force behind the Knicks' playoff run. The seven-year vet averaged career-highs in points (24.1), rebounds (10.2), assists (6.0) and 3-point percentage (41.1%).

Michael Porter Jr. stepped up after Jamal Murray's injury and became the clear-cut No. 2 option for the Nuggets. In his second season, Porter averaged 19.0 points (+9.7 from last season), 7.3 rebounds (+2.6) and 1.1 assists (+0.3) while playing a career-high 61 games.

 

Rookie of the Year

LaMelo Ball was the runaway favorite for ROY before breaking his wrist. He surprisingly was able to return late in the season and lead the Hornets to a Play-In Tournament berth. The youngest Ball brother averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals across 51 games for Charlotte.

Anthony Edwards played like a No. 1 overall pick once he got comfortable in Minnesota. The guard out of Georgia had two 42-point games over the last two months of the season as the Timberwolves went 9-7 over their final 16 games. He averaged 19.3 points per game, best of any rookie.

Tyrese Haliburton missed the final eight games of the season due to injury, but he was balling before that. The Iowa State product averaged 13.0 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game as he showed a knack for making the right play and being in the right spot.

Coach of the Year

Monty Williams and the Suns planted the seed for this breakout season last year in the bubble when they went 8-0. The momentum carried over to this season as the Suns went 51-21, their most wins since 2009-10.

Tom Thibodeau worked his defensive magic for the Knicks this season, completely transforming the culture and building a hard-nosed team. The Knicks went 41-31 despite being almost universally pegged as a lottery team.

Quin Snyder oversaw the best team in the NBA. The Jazz hadn't won 52 games in a season since 2009-10, and that was with 82 games on the schedule. Utah didn't miss a beat when it lost Donovan Mitchell for the final 16 games of the season.