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NBA midseason awards: How many do the Utah Jazz deserve?

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) shoots during the game against the Detroit Pistons at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.
Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) shoots during an NBA game against the Detroit Pistons at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

With the NBA All-Star Game having come and gone, the second half of the season has arrived.

The Utah Jazz, of course, have the league’s best record at the midway point, as they’re up 2.5 games on a surprising Phoenix Suns squad (the Jazz don’t play again until Friday against the Houston Rockets).

Just as Utah got three All-Stars and head coach Quin Snyder and his staff led Team LeBron in the midseason classic, winning generally brings about contention for postseason awards. Yes, there’s still another half of the season to go, but already conversation is in pretty full force concerning who will be in the running for awards in a few months, and the Jazz are very much a part of those talks.

Here’s a look at the players and coaches whom leading national outlets are discussing for midseason awards, and where those with Jazz ties stand in those races.

MVP

At this point, the race for the NBA’s top individual honor is still very much open, although Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is seen as the front-runner.

  • In a panel by CBS Sports, Embiid received 7 of 10 votes, with the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic getting two votes and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo getting one.
  • In a vote between USA Today’s Mark Medina and Jeff Zillgitt, Medina’s vote went to the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry, while Zillgitt voted for Embiid.
  • On a recent episode of “The Jump” on ESPN, former NBA star Paul Pierce also cast his vote for Embiid, while Richard Jefferson went with the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, although he said Embiid is second.
  • On NBA.com’s MVP ladder, Embiid tops the list, with Jokic second, James third, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard fourth and the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic fifth.
  • In a slight departure, James received 13 of 27 votes from a panel by The Athletic, while Embiid got 12. Jokic got two and Lillard got one.

Rookie of the Year

At this point, it’s literally unanimous among the above listed publications that the Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball is the runaway leader for the award. He got all the votes from the CBS panel, both of USA Today’s votes, both from Pierce and Jefferson, all from NBA.com and all from The Athletic’s panel.

That’s pretty clear-cut.

Defensive Player of the Year

This is the first one in which a Jazz player is definitely in the hunt, and of course that’s center Rudy Gobert.

That said, it appears to be a close race between Gobert and Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, with Antetokounmpo and the Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner perhaps in the running.

In CBS’ panel, Simmons got 7 of 10 votes, with Gobert getting the other three. Gobert, meanwhile, got both votes from USA Today and both from Jefferson and Pierce. In a panel on NBA.com, Gobert got 3 out of 4 votes, while Antetokounmpo got the other. In The Athletic’s panel, Gobert got 21 of 28 votes, while Simmons got five and Turner two.

Sixth Man of the Year

This one is almost unanimous, and it’s in favor of Jazzman Jordan Clarkson.

He got all 10 votes from CBS and both from USA Today and 26 of 28 votes from The Athletic’s panel, with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell getting the other two.

The Jump and NBA.com didn’t “cast ballots” for the award.

Most Improved Player

This award is generally the hardest to peg, as different voters use different criteria to make their selections.

That said, the New York Knicks’ Julius Randle, the Detroit Pistons’ Jerami Grant, the Chicago Bulls’ Zach LaVine, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ DeAndre Hunter and the Toronto Raptors’ Chris Boucher are players who received most consideration in various panels.

Randle and Grant should probably be considered the front-runners based on voting in the various panels.

Coach of the Year

Once again, the Jazz taking home the hardware is definitely in play here.

CBS and The Jump didn’t vote on this one, but Snyder got both votes from USA Today, 3 of 4 votes from NBA.com’s panel and 19 of 28 votes from The Athletic’s panel.

The Phoenix Suns’ Monty Williams got the fourth vote from NBA.com, while the New York Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau came in second in The Athletic’s panel with five votes, with Williams just behind him with four.

  • The Athletic also voted on Executive of the Year, and Utah’s Dennis Lindsey received one vote. The Brooklyn Nets’ Sean Marks was the runaway winner, garnering 15 of 28 votes. The Suns’ James Jones, Lakers’ Rob Pelinka, 76ers’ Daryl Morey, Bucks’ Jon Horst and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Sam Presti all received at least one vote.