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Listen to That’s A Rap #61: Dishing out quarter-season NBA awards

With 20-ish games already in the history book, the boys of That’s A Rap hand out quarter-season awards.

Toronto Raptors HQ Podcast — That’s A Rap #71: Drafting All-Star Starters, Pascal Siakam, Giannis Antetokounmpo Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like only yesterday Scotiabank Arena was abuzz with Championship Banner-raising euphoria. Yet, faster than a Pascal Siakam fastbreak, the NBA season has already hit its quarter-season mark.

With that in mind, we decided to start handing out some awards. The first quarter of the season is a good time to look back on pre-season predictions and make any necessary adjustments. It’s not a surprise that the Bucks and Lakers currently sit atop their respective conferences. But did you think Miami or Dallas were top-5 teams heading into the season? What about Luka Doncic and Trae Young? They’re forever linked as trade pieces for each other. This season they both sit in the top-4 in scoring AND top-3 in assists. After the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, I don’t think that even the most optimistic of Raptor fans would’ve predicted 15 wins over the first 20 games.

We talked about these stories and more for the Sunday edition of That’s A Rap. Listen, enjoy, and don’t forget to comment with your picks below.

On Sunday’s Episode:

Last season, Spicy P took home the franchise’s first Most Improved Player award. As improbable as that accomplishment was for someone who hadn’t played basketball before this decade, Siakam has met and exceeded all expectations as Toronto’s main scorer. If he keeps up his torrid start from the season, and, say, the Raptors finish at their 55-win pace, Spicy P may be the first two-time MIP winner — consecutively, no less! Other candidates in the MIP race include players on new teams and thriving (Malcolm Brogdon), players who are making ‘the jump’ (Brandon Ingram), and players who are making ‘The Leap’ (Luka Doncic).

There wasn’t supposed to be a debate in the Rookie of the Year race. This was Zion Williamson’s award to lose, the second he declared for the draft. If you haven’t noticed, we are well past the 6-8 week period of his injury, yet, he hasn’t even started practicing. While nightmares of Greg Oden dance in Pelicans fans’ heads, the man selected after him, Ja Morant, has been leading the charge in Memphis. Not to be outdone, RJ Barrett — son of Rowan, heir to the (Canadian) throne, and keeper of the (Toronto) realm — is off to a successful start in New York (at least individually).

This is understandably going to seem biased, but who has done a better job at coaching after the first quarter of the season, than Nick Nurse? Losing two of his six best players for half of the quarter-season, defeating the Lakers, Sixers, and Jazz is an outstanding accomplishment. However, Erik Spoelstra, whose Miami Heat handed Toronto its first home loss of the season, has been working wonders in South Beach. You could make a case for several coaches, such as Monty Williams, Brad Stevens, and Rick Carlisle, among others.

The Most Valuable Player award is always a hot topic. The definition of ‘valuable’ can range from “best player on the best team”, to “best player overall”, to “best player on the team that would nosedive without him.” One could argue that Giannis Antetokounmpo fits the first two descriptions. Another could argue that Luka Doncic and, in some degrees, James Harden, is suitable for the third description.

No matter the description, the three of them are each having historic seasons. Antetokounmpo and Doncic, if they finish the season with their current stats, would have the highest PER in NBA history. Harden is a (beard?) hair behind them, but pulling out his own array of awe-inspiring stats. He’s made 13 percent more three-pointers than the next best bomber (Devonte Graham) and 48%(!!) more free throws than second-best (Doncic).

Anyway, who are your top 3 picks?

3:26 - MIP

10:23 - ROY

16:27 - COY

26:18 - MVP