2022 NBA Awards: Where the NBA MVP Race and All Other Major Awards Stand in December

While the NFL season and the 2022 FIFA World Cup have been stealing most of the sports spotlight, we’re roughly 25 games into the 2022-23 NBA season. That might not seem too significant — we haven’t even hit Christmas, and there’s still plenty of time for things to change — but some storylines have emerged. Take, for example, Paolo Banchero’s march to the Rookie of the Year title and the lack of a clear consensus in the NBA MVP race.

In the second edition of Sportscasting’s Full Court Facts, our basketball brain trust cast our second ballots for the 2022 NBA Awards. Let’s look at the votes.

A graphic showing Sportscasting's picks for the 2022 NBA Awards, including our take on the NBA MVP race.
Sportscasting’s second ballot for the 2022 NBA Awards. | Mike Calendrillo/Sportscasting

Luka Doncic leads the 2022 NBA MVP race

Adam Fromal: Luka Doncic

Recent seasons have proved the NBA MVP doesn’t necessarily have to go to a player from one of the top teams in the conference, and the trend should continue with the Dallas Mavericks’ do-everything superstar. It’s not his fault his teammates are either struggling or not talented enough to match his pace. He’s controlling what he can control to the tune of a sensational per-game output backed by jaw-dropping efficiency metrics. 

Jack Dougherty: Luka Doncic

I went with Joel Embiid as my preseason MVP selection, and although he’s putting up career-best numbers, he hasn’t been on the court enough, and the Sixers haven’t won enough games to warrant me doubling down here. You could argue the Mavericks, who sit at 13-11 through 24 games, haven’t been impressive, either, but Luka Doncic is the only reason why they’re staying afloat in the Western Conference. The 23-year-old is leading the NBA in scoring and averaging close to a triple-double, so I’ll go with him for now.

Joe Kozlowski: Luka Doncic

While the Dallas Mavericks might not be lighting the league on fire, think of where they would be without Luka Doncic. The Slovenian star just keeps getting better, and at this point, I can’t argue with 33.4 points, 8.5 assists, and 8.5 rebounds per outing. Can things change by the end of the season? Of course, but Doncic gets the nod as of now.

Mike Thomas: Jayson Tatum

Tatum is doing it all for the team with the best record in the NBA. Luka Doncic might have the better numbers, but the Dallas Mavericks are hovering around the .500 mark. Giannis Antetokounmpo is always a threat, but I believe the Celtics are the most well-rounded team in the NBA, and that’s the tiebreaker.

Ben Simmons has the best shot at the Least Valuable Player title

Adam: Kendrick Nunn

The Los Angeles Lakers were supposed to have some depth to speak of, but that hasn’t been the case. Their respectability is tied almost solely to the Herculean efforts of Anthony Davis, whereas Kendrick Nunn — one of the players tasked with turning around the second unit — has been an actively negative presence. With as many turnovers as assists and a vomit-inducing 35.7/28.1/88.9 shooting slash, Nunn’s best contribution might be the fact he’s only played in 19 games. 

Jack: Ben Simmons

I mean, duh. Ben Simmons has played in just 17 of the Nets’ 25 games so far this season, and he’s putting up career-worst marks in points (8.4), rebounds (6.6), assists (5.8), and steals (1.2). But at least his defense has been good, right? Wrong. Simmons’ 108 defensive rating is also tied for the work mark of his career. 

Joe: Kawhi Leonard

In complete fairness, I wanted to say Ben Simmons but tried to avoid triple-dipping. Leonard has admittedly returned to the lineup, but this ranking was supposed to be based on what happened prior to the start of December. During that time, he only played five games and failed to score more than 15 points in any of those outings. Even if injuries are a mitigating factor, that’s not what you need from the man who’s arguably the face of the franchise.

Mike: Ben Simmons

Simmons has shown some flashes this year, but the Nets are still a pretty solid disappointment with their talented core. It’s only a matter of time before Simmons gets bored with basketball again and takes some more time off.

The 2022 NBA Awards won’t have a question about Rookie of the Year

Adam: Paolo Banchero

Impressive as Bennedict Mathurin has been for the Indiana Pacers, this should be a clean sweep for Paolo Banchero. The numbers are impressive enough, but he also passes the eye test with aplomb. Banchero just looks and feels like he’s entirely in control of the proceedings, manipulating timing and spacing like an NBA veteran. Many All-Star invitations are in his future. 

Jack: Paolo Banchero

The 2022 rookie class hasn’t been all that impressive as a whole, but Paolo Banchero has proven early on that he was the correct pick for the Magic at No. 1 overall. The Duke product is a -440 favorite to win ROY, which makes him the most likely winner across the NBA awards market.

Joe: Paolo Banchero

I picked Banchero before the season began, and I’ve seen nothing to warrant changing that. Entering the league as the first overall pick can be a burden, but the Magic man hasn’t missed a beat. He’s got the stat line, but even more impressively, he just looks like a legitimate pro.

Mike: Paolo Banchero

Hard to go against a first-year player averaging 22.6 points and 6.7 rebounds. He’s shown why he was the top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. While the record doesn’t show it, the Magic have a lot of young talent and will eventually get things headed in the right direction, led by Banchero.

Could Brook Lopez really take home the 2022 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award?

Adam: Brook Lopez

The Milwaukee Bucks have emerged as the best defensive team in basketball, and they have two legitimate candidates for Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo (versatility and schematic nightmare-dom) and Brook Lopez (anchoring interior presence). Either is a valid selection, but I’m going with the player who’s improving the team’s defensive rating by 5.5 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor— superior to Antetokounmpo’s on-off swing of 2.3, per Basketball Reference.

Jack: Evan Mobley

I have to stick with one of my preseason selections, so I’ll go with Evan Mobley here. The forward’s defense presence is a huge reason why the Cleveland Cavaliers are 16-9 and in third place in the Eastern Conference. I’ve been impressed with his ability to alter shots in the paint, even when he’s not blocking them, and his quickness and length when guarding on the perimeter. 

Joe: Brook Lopez

To win an all-league award, you need to have a narrative. Brook Lopez has that part of the equation on lock. The big man is still capable of contributing on the offensive end, but he’s now shining as a true defensive stopper at the center of Milwaukee’s defense. That evolution, combined with the fact that he’s no longer a young man, could give him something of a “lifetime achievement” edge.

Mike: Bam Adebayo

Adebayo has been putting up offensive numbers that may overshadow some of his defensive prowess. He’s averaging 21.0 points, but much of that is a result of Jimmy Butler being out of action. He’s still an inside force on defense, averaging 9.1 rebounds. Butler is back now, and Adebayo’s focus will shift from scoring to stopping others from doing so.

The 2022 NBA Awards lack a clear Most Improved Player as of December

Adam: Tyrese Haliburton

From a statistical standpoint, Tyrese Haliburton might not immediately seem to have a convincing case for Most Improved Player. Winners of this award typically improve their scoring average by more than 3.8 points per game (15.3 to 19.1). But Haliburton has put a significantly more aggressive scoring package on display while making major strides as a distributor. He’s averaging a league-best 10.9 assists, coupled with only 2.6 turnovers per contest. He’s an offensive machine, as well as the driving force behind the Indiana Pacers’ surprising success. 

Jack: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Who saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander becoming an instant superstar after going his first four seasons without a single All-Star nod? The Oklahoma City Thunder guard is currently third in the NBA in scoring (30.6 PPG), and he’s doing it while shooting a better percentage than Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, and Jayson Tatum. 

Joe: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SGA was already a legitimate talent, but he’s taken it to another level this year. Not only has his scoring average risen by almost seven points, but he’s also stepped up on the defensive end of the floor. If the Thunder can hang around in the Western Conference and make it into a play-in spot, that could be the narrative cherry on top for the Toronto native.

Mike: Lauri Markkanen

The Jazz have been one of the NBA’s biggest surprises. They unloaded two stars for tons of draft choices, and many expected a serious tank job in Utah. In his first season with the Jazz, Markkanen is putting up a career-high 22.3 points and adding 8.6 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting a career-best 53.1% from the floor.