Thunder Journal: 2021 Thunder Awards
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The 2020-2021 NBA regular season is officially in the books, and the finalists for all the major award categories have been released.
The Thunder have been an annual winner or contender for at least one of the awards every year, but one of the side effects of a rebuild is the lack of postseason hardware.
Enter Daily Thunder. We are going to make sure OKC has a victor in every NBA season award category.
The envelopes, please…
MVP: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
While the Thunder boast some really nice, promising young pieces, the talent gap from SGA to OKC’s next best player this season was as wide as Russell Westbrook to OKC’s next best players in his MVP season, Jamie Tartt and the rest of the AFC Richmond roster and Beyonce and the other members of Destiny’s Child.
The Thunder traded away Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams and Danilo Gallinari and STILL couldn’t properly tank until Gilgeous-Alexander got hurt. And the biggest reason was the drippy 6’6” point guard from Ontario who inherited the clutch gene from Chris Paul. SGA wasn’t selected as an All Star, but he arguably had a better first half than West All Star guards Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, CP3 and, inarguably, Mike Conley.
SGA’s final line: 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists on 50.8 FG%, 41.8 3P% and 80.8 FT%. OKC’s record with SGA: 16-19. OKC’s record without SGA: 6-31. Other Thunder players receiving votes for this award: 0.
6th Man: Kenrich Williams.
Ty Jerome, Svi Mykhailiuk, Mike Muscala, Tony Bradley, Isaiah Roby and Gabriel Deck all averaged more points per game off the bench than Kenny Hustle. And this vote still wasn’t close.
If he were more selfish or chose to take bad shots, Williams would have easily led the reserves in scoring. The grizzled 26 year old vet was tops on the Thunder in 3 point shooting at 44.4 percent. His true shooting percentage was 59.9 percent, better than every OKC player besides Bradley and SGA.
Outside of Shai, Kenrich might’ve been OKC’s most efficient offensive player. Outside of Dort, Kenrich might’ve been OKC’s best defensive player. Outside of the ghost of Nick Collison, Kenrich might be OKC’s best blue collar hustle, effort and smarts combo.
Most Improved Player: Ty Jerome
Yes, SGA took a leap from question marks to exclamation marks. Yes, Lu Dort took a leap from undrafted defensive specialist to averaging 14 points a night and carrying the offensive load with SGA injured.
Those are impressive transformations, but they’re a little like Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That. We already knew SGA and Dort’s games were beautiful, they just took off their glasses and let their hair down this season.
Neither of them compare to the Jerome transformation. His rookie season, he was little Steve Rogers, but he found the Super-Soldier Serum in OKC.
Jerome went from 3.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists on 33.6 FG% and 28 3PT% to 10.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists on 44.6 FG% and 42.3 3P%.
When the season opened, Thunder fans were asking “who is this guy?” When the season closed, Thunder fans were asking “how do we keep this guy?”
Rookie of the Year: Theo Maledon
I wanted so badly to give this to Poku. Given the youngest player in the NBA’s emergence after the G League Bubble, Aleksej has a real case.
But based on the totality of the season and the raw numbers, it’s impossible not to give this to the sixth youngest player in the NBA. Maledon averaged 10.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and shot 33.5% from 3. The efficiency isn’t great, but Theo consistently stuffed the boxscore and played more minutes than any Thunder player this season.
Plus, Theo didn’t cause the Thunder to pick up a season finale victory by hitting six 3s and scoring 29 points.
Defensive Player of the Year: Lu Dort
The ’85 Bears beat the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX. Dort would’ve shut the Pats out.
Coach of the Year: Mark Daigneault
I could’ve just left this category out since it’s a one man race. I could’ve pulled a cheeky twist and given it to Al Horford or second-half-of-the-season bench hype-man SGA. But I decided to include this award for the sole fact that I believe Coach D performed so admirably and impressively that I felt he should be recognized. If Daigneault had the team completely bought in and giving 100% effort in a season when the Thunder were trying to lose, imagine what he can do with a team that’s actually attempting to win.