On April 14, the NBA announced the finalists for the 2022-23 Kia NBA Awards. The winners of each award – nine total – were announced one-by-one between April 17 and May 2, as teams were playing through the first round of the playoffs. Some of the winners were expected, but others came as a surprise.
The NBA awards include the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Most Improved Player, Clutch Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Hustle Award, Sixth Man of the Year, and Executive of the Year. There are usually three finalists per award, but only one player can walk away the winner.
While winning a championship is the one award every player hopes to win each year, the NBA Awards often come in a close second as they’re only given to the best of the best for that season. Whether it be a player, coach, or executive, the NBA awards act as validation that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed.
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Recapping the Winners of the 2022-23 Kia NBA Awards
The NBA Awards are an annual tradition that many fans and players look forward to every year. They’re fun to bet on, even more entertaining to debate on, and go down in the history books to never be forgotten. Before we dive into the 2022-23 winners, here’s a brief recap of what happened in 2021-22:
- MVP – Nikola Jokic / Denver Nuggets
- Rookie of the Year – Scottie Barnes / Toronto Raptors
- Coach of the Year – Monty Williams / Phoenix Suns
- Most Improved Player – Ja Morant / Memphis Grizzlies
- Sixth Man of the Year – Tyler Herro / Miami Heat
- Defensive Player of the Year – Marcus Smart / Boston Celtics
- Hustle Award – Marcus Smart / Boston Celtics
- Executive of the Year – Zach Kleiman / Memphis Grizzlies
The winners of this year’s Kia NBA Awards are all deserving of their honors – while some debate can be made in some areas, they can often go either way. While we wait to see which teams advance to the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, let’s recap the winners of the 2022-23 Kia NBA Awards.
1. Hustle Award
Finalists: Draymond Green, Marcus Smart, Aaron Nesmith, Mitchell Robinson and Herbert Jones
Winner: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
This year’s winner of the NBA Hustle Award is Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics. He’s the first player to ever win the award back-to-back – having won it last year – and has won it three times in the past five years. He embodies every aspect of what the award stands for and has earned the title of Mr. Hustle.
The Hustle Award is given to players that ‘best utilize hustle to help their teams win on a nightly basis’ and takes into account a number of ‘hustle stats’ – which include ‘deflections, loose balls recovered, charges drawn, screen assists, contested shots, and box-outs.’ These stats have been tracked since 2016-17.
Smart ranked 10th in the NBA in charges drawn, 14th in loose balls recovered, and 16th in deflections. Despite being a 6-foot-3 guard, he also ranked 31st in box-outs and 37th in screen assists – while finishing in the top-100 for contested shots. He does all the small things that don’t show up in a stat sheet.
The Hustle Award has been given out annually since the 2016-17 season. Other winners of the award are Patrick Beverley (2016-17), Amir Johnson (2017-18), Montrezl Harrell (2019-20), and Thaddeus Young (2020-21). In addition to this season, Smart won it during the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons.
2. Clutch Player of the Year
Finalists: Jimmy Butler, De’Aaron Fox, DeMar DeRozan
Winner: De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
This year’s winner of the NBA Clutch Player of the Year Award is De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings – he’s the inaugural winner of the award with this being the first year of its creation. The winner is handed the Jerry West Trophy and is given to the player that ‘best comes through for his teammates in the clutch.’
“You can’t be afraid to fail. Obviously, you’re not going to make every shot, but my teammates, my coaches, they put me in position to succeed. So the least I can do is have confidence in myself to take good shots,” Fox said upon accepting it. “My teammates and my team put me in position to succeed.”
De’Aaron Fox led the league in clutch points with 194 in 39 such games – shooting 53% from the field in those situations, which was actually better than his overall shooting percentage of 51%. He was a runaway for the award, receiving 91 of a possible 100 first-place votes and 460 of a possible 500 votes.
No one else really came close to Fox in the Clutch Player of the Year voting. Jimmy Butler placed a distant second with 104 total points (24 second-place votes and 27 third-place votes), while DeMar DeRozan placed third and finished with 80 points (20 second-place votes and 20 third-place votes.
3. Executive of the Year
Winner: Monte McNair, Sacramento Kings
This year’s winner of the NBA Executive of the Year Award is Monte McNair of the Sacramento Kings. He joined the team in September 2020 – just a few months before the start of the 2020-21 season. After going 31-41 in 2020-21 and 30-52 in 2021-22, the Kings took a major step forward at 48-34 in 2022-23.
He helped facilitate the trades that landed them Domantas Sabonis and Kevin Huerter, while also signing Malik Monk and drafting Keegan Murray – finally giving De’Aaron Fox help. He also hired Mike Brown to be the team’s coach, which proved to be the right hire as he went on to win Coach of the Year.
His additions to the team last offseason helped lead the Kings to their first playoff berth since the 2005-06 season – ending a 16-year playoff drought, which was the longest active playoff drought of any major US pro sports team (MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL included). It was the type of season they’ve been waiting for.
He joins a long list of legendary executives to win the award – one that Jerry Colangelo won four times with the Phoenix Suns between 1976 and 1993. He’s now the third Kings’ executive to win the award, joining Joe Axelson (1972-73) and Geoff Petrie, who won the award twice – 1998-99 and 2000-01.
4. Coach of the Year
Finalists: Mike Brown, Joe Mazzulla, Mark Daigneault
Winner: Mike Brown, Sacramento Kings
This year’s winner of the NBA Coach of the Year Award is Mike Brown of the Sacramento Kings – the third award for the Kings’ organization this season, joining general manager Monte McNair and point guard De’Aaron Fox. Brown helped turn this team around and led them to an impressive 48-34 record.
Brown, who spent the past six seasons as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, has now won Coach of the Year twice in his career – doing so with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2008-09 season. It was his first year as head coach of the Kings and his first head coaching gig since 2013-14.
He became just the 11th head coach in NBA history to win the award multiple times and fourth active head coach to win it more than once – including Gregg Popovich (3-time winner), Tom Thibodeau (2-time winner), and Mike Budenholzer (2-time winner) – putting him on a shortlist of coaching legends.
The two other head coaches considered for the award were Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics and Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mazzulla led Boston to an impressive 57-25 record in his first year with the team, while Daigneault led the Thunder to a 40-42 record in his third season with the team.
5. Sixth Man of the Year
Finalists: Malcolm Brogdon, Bobby Portis, Immanuel Quickley
Winner: Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics
This year’s winner of the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award is Malcolm Brogdon of the Boston Celtics. He has been a full-time starter for the past four seasons – three of which with the Indiana Pacers – before joining the Celtics last offseason. He didn’t start a single game this season, but was electric off the bench.
“This is such an honor. It has definitely been a transition for me, coming from Indiana to Boston,” he said of winning the award. “My last two seasons, they weren’t super successful, so for me that was another gut check for me in understanding that maybe I’m not a No. 1 guy but I can be a great No. 2, 3 or 4.”
Brogdon finished the 2022-23 season with 14.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 0.7 steals in 26.0 minutes per game (67 games played). Of course, it’s not the first major award Brogdon has won in his short career thus far – he was named Rookie of the Year with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2016-17.
The voting was heavily in his favor – he had 60 first-place votes and 35 second-place votes for a total of 408 points. He beat out Immanuel Quickley of the New York Knicks, who had 34 first-place votes and 49 second-place votes for a total of 326 points – 82 points behind Brogdon. Bobby Portis had just 97 points.
6. Most Improved Player
Finalists: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Brunson, Lauri Markkanen
Winner: Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz
This year’s winner of the NBA Most Improved Player Award is Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz. He was involved in a trade that sent Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where Markkanen spent one season after playing four years with the Chicago Bulls. Utah was the change of scenery he needed.
Entering the season, Markkanen’s career-high was 18.7 points per game – which he averaged during the 2018-19 season with the Bulls. He blew that career-high out of the water this season, putting up 25.7 points per game in 66 games (all of which were starts). He was also named an All-Star for the first time.
All in all, Markkanen averaged 25.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists (career-high), 0.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks in 34.4 minutes (career-high) per game. He has always been a good player, but he emerged as a No. 1 option for the Jazz this year at just 25 years old – leading the team in both points and rebounds.
He became the first Jazz player to ever win the award and the 38th player to win the award since it was first introduced during the 1985-86 season. The past five winners of the award were Ja Morant (2022), Julius Randle (2021), Brandon Ingram (2020), Pascal Siakam (2019), and Victor Oladipo (2018).
7. Rookie of the Year
Finalists: Walker Kessler, Jalen Williams, Paolo Banchero
Winner: Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
This year’s winner of the NBA Rookie of the Year Award is Paolo Banchero of the Orlando Magic. He was favored to win the award all season long – ever since he was drafted by the team with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He played just one season with the Duke Blue Devils in 2021-22.
“He looked at me and he asked me if I was going to be rookie of the year,” Banchero said, recalling a conversation he had with his agent, Mike Miller, on draft night. “I confidently said yes. It was just a goal I’ve always had, something I had my eye on from the second I got drafted. I’m glad I was able to do it.”
Banchero finished the 2022-23 season with 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 33.8 minutes per game (72 games played). He shot 43% from the field, 30% from long range, and 74% from the charity stripe – leading the Magic to their best win total since the 2018-19 season.
He joins Mike Miller (his agent) and Shaquille O’Neal as the only Magic players to ever win the award – Miller won the award in 2001 and O’Neal won it in 1993. He also became the fourth player from Duke University to win the award – joining Grant Hill (1994), Elton Brand (1999), and Kyrie Irving (2011).
8. Defensive Player of the Year
Finalists: Jaren Jackson, Evan Mobley, Brook Lopez
Winner: Jaren Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies
This year’s winner of the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award is Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies. It comes after a career year that saw him set career-highs in most statistical categories – he also earned his first All-Star appearance and led the NBA in blocks per game for the second straight year.
“Team defense really helps us. It goes a long way,” Jackson Jr. said upon accepting the award during a live TNT broadcast – the first major award of his young career. “They’ve instilled the confidence in me to be aggressive offensively — but really unleash me defensively to go out there and do whatever.”
He finished the season with 1.0 steals and 3.0 blocks per game – while also setting career-highs in points per game (18.6) and rebounds per game (6.8). His impressive play on both sides of the ball have helped turn the Grizzlies into a contender in the Western Conference, finishing the season with a 51-31 record.
He became the second Grizzlies’ player to ever win the award, joining Marc Gasol – who won the award at the end of the 2012-13 season. He’s also the fourth power forward in NBA history to win the award – joining Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019-20), Draymond Green (2016-17), and Kevin Garnett (2007-08).
9. Most Valuable Player
Finalists: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid
Winner: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
This year’s winner of the NBA Most Valuable Player Award is Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. He has been in the running for the award for several years now, but finally gets to hoist the Michael Jordan Trophy for the first time in his career – marking the third consecutive year a center has won the award.
Embiid finished the regular season with a league-leading 33.1 points per game – he also led the league in scoring last season. He added 10.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game this year – marking his sixth-straight year of averaging a double-double. He shot a career-best 55% from the floor.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Embiid said during a special live TNT broadcast of him talking about his recent MVP win. “A lot of hard work. I’ve been through a lot. I’m not just talking about basketball. I’m talking about my life. My story. Where I come from. How I got here and what it took for me to be here.”
He beat out Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo – both of whom won it back-to-back over the past four seasons. Giannis won it after the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, while Jokic won it after the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. The question now is whether or not Joel Embiid can do it back-to-back.
Predicting Next Year’s NBA Awards’ Winners
The winners of this year’s NBA awards are more than deserving of the honor, but what does next year have in store for us? While it’s nearly impossible to predict next year’s winners – especially considering we haven’t even finished the 2022-23 season yet – we’re going to have a little fun and give it a try.
For starters, my MVP for next season is Luka Doncic and my Defensive Player of the Year is Anthony Edwards, and my Rookie of the Year is Victor Wembanyama. I’m giving the Most Improved Player to Keegan Murray and the Sixth Man of the Year to Immanuel Quickley (unless he becomes a starter).
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Moving on, my Coach of the Year is Ime Udoka (I think he’ll help turn the Houston Rockets’ franchise around) and my Executive of the Year will go to John Hammond of the Orlando Magic. Lastly, I’m giving Jimmy Butler both the Clutch Player of the Year award and the Hustle Award because he deserves it.
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