The 2022-23 NBA regular season came to a close almost a month ago and the playoff battle is raging on. This year, we’ve seen an unbelievable display of talent across the league. From top to bottom, the NBA is the most talented it’s ever been. Today, while I’m a little late to the party, I will be recognizing some of the very best players in basketball by handing out my picks for all of the major awards, as well as the Bench Mob Blog awards. Let’s get started!
(Note: I have chosen my own finalists for each accolade rather than using the official ones.)
(Second note: I ran a survey for my Twitter followers to find out their award picks. The BMB fan award picks will be listed next to each of mine.)
Coach of the Year
Honorable Mentions- Joe Mazzulla, Mike Budenholzer, Taylor Jenkins, Will Hardy
Finalist: Mark Daigneault
The Oklahoma City Thunder played ahead of schedule this season, battling hard in the play-in and nearly cracking the playoffs despite being one of the league’s youngest rosters. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s rise to superstardom is a major reason why, Mark Daigneault deserves a lot of credit as well. His defensive scheme allowed his undersized squad to compete every night. Daigneault is just 37 years old, the third youngest coach in the NBA, and has a long and fruitful career ahead of him.
Finalist: Jacque Vaughn
The Nets started the season off cold which led to the firing of Steve Nash. After Jacque Vaughn stepped in to fill the role, he had the team playing like a title contender almost immediately, primarily thanks to a monstrous team defense. Even after the shocking trade requests from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the team still finished with a top-six seed in the ultra-tight Eastern Conference behind Vaughn’s guidance.
Finalist: Mike Brown
Mike Brown’s job steering the ship for the Sacramento Kings was nothing short of incredible. He designed an absolute flamethrower of an offense that was statistically one of the best ever. Brown’s leadership helped turn this organization from a laughing stock to a top seed in just one year and he was rightfully named the first unanimous COTY winner in history.
2022-23 NBA Coach of the Year- Mike Brown
(BMB Fan Coach of the Year- Mike Brown. Also receiving votes: M. Budenholzer, M. Daigneault, J. Mazzulla, M. Malone, J. Vaughn, T. Thibodeau)
Sixth Man of the Year
Honorable Mentions- Malik Monk, Norman Powell, Tyus Jones, Bruce Brown, Cole Anthony
Finalist: Malcolm Brogdon
There are many teams in the league that would start Malcolm Brogdon. When healthy with the Pacers, he was a borderline All-Star. However, with the Celtics, he sacrificed usage and a spot in the opening lineup for the betterment of the team and thrived as a result. The heady point guard elevated Boston with his efficiency and floor generalship and has a chance to help them raise banner number 18 in June.
Finalist: Bobby Portis Jr.
Bobby Portis may have taken a step back as a shooter this year, but his fierce competitive spirit never relented. He changed games for Milwaukee with his energy, crashing the glass with purpose and punishing mismatches with his back-to-the-basket game. Even though he only passed out of the post twice in 70 games (OK, that’s an exaggeration), Bobby was still an invaluable contributor for the Bucks.
Finalist: Immanuel Quickley
Coach Tom Thibodeau finally embraced the youth movement this season, removing vets like Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose from the rotation entirely. Immanuel Quickley was a major beneficiary of this decision. He was a spark plug and breathed life into New York’s lineup whenever he subbed in. He proved to be one of the NBA’s best team defenders at the guard position, making up for his height with excellent help instincts and high IQ (no pun intended). On the other end, he boasts a ballsy pull-up game and one of the most effective floaters in basketball. Quickley delivered an abundance of electric two-way performances on his way to 6MOY contention.
2022-23 NBA Sixth Man of the Year- Malcolm Brogdon
(BMB Fan Sixth Man of the Year- Immanuel Quickley. Also receiving votes: M. Brogdon, B. Portis Jr., B. Mathurin, N. Powell, C. Anthony, A. Reaves, M. Monk, B. Brown)
Most Improved Player
Honorable Mentions- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Jaden McDaniels, Immanuel Quickley, Aaron Gordon
Finalist: Devin Vassell
The Spurs were largely irrelevant and uncompetitive, so you probably missed out on it, but Devin Vassell’s growth this season exceeded all expectations. With all the freedom necessary to spread his wings, Vassell blossomed into a legitimate star-caliber offensive player. He’s efficient, smart, and versatile in his scoring attack and is similar in many ways to Milwaukee’s second All-Star Khris Middleton. These qualities will make Vassell the perfect running mate for Victor Wembanyama if the ping-pong balls bounce in San Antonio’s favor.
Finalist: Nic Claxton
Brooklyn Nets big man Nic Claxton makes his name on the defensive end. He was a serious DPOY candidate this year, combining all-world rim protection with elite switchability. It was offensively, though, where Claxton grew the most. He was generally an unskilled scorer through his first three campaigns as a pro, but this season he deepened his finishing bag and displayed silky touch in the low post. He was a significant part of Brooklyn’s regular season success and deserved MIP consideration.
Finalist: Lauri Markkanen
From solid starter to All-NBA candidate, Lauri Markkanen made an enormous leap in the 2022-23 season. He went from primarily a stretch four to one of the best off-ball scorers in the sport, taking full advantage of his expanded role with the Jazz. Markkanen is the 2023 Most Improved Player.
2022-23 NBA Most Improved Player- Lauri Markkanen
(BMB Fan Most Improved Player- Lauri Markkanen. Also receiving votes: S. Gilgeous-Alexander, T. Haliburton, J. Brunson, N. Claxton, D. Vassell, A. Gordon, M. Bridges)
Defensive Player of the Year
Honorable Mentions- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bam Adebayo, Jrue Holiday, Evan Mobley
Finalist: Nic Claxton
As mentioned before, Claxton was a defensive force this season. He’s a menacing shot blocker and one of the best switch bigs in the league. His lateral quickness is not normal for a guy of his size and he can legitimately swap onto all five positions and lock down. There was less attention shined on Brooklyn after the departure of KD and Kyrie, which hurt his case, but Claxton had a DPOY-caliber year regardless.
Finalist: Brook Lopez
When they rolled out a fully healthy lineup (which wasn’t often), the Milwaukee Bucks were as impressive as anyone defensively. At the heart of this dominant defensive unit was Brook Lopez, who had a career year at age 35. Whether the metrics support it or not, his rim protection was unparalleled. Trying to finish over Lopez at the rim is like trying to eat with both hands tied behind your back: you just can’t do so cleanly. He rejected, altered, or smothered countless shots attempted in his vicinity. While his teammates Giannis and Jrue are two of the best defenders in hoops themselves, Lopez was the most important and impactful cog of Milwaukee’s defensive machine in 2023.
Finalist: Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Grizzlies ranked second in defensive rating this season, and Jaren Jackson Jr. can be thanked for that. He’s a destroyer of worlds in the paint—shooting anywhere near him is just asking for him to swat it to the 10th row. His block totals were so insane that people began questioning their authenticity. Another key piece of Jackson’s case is his dramatically-improved ability to defend without fouling. He has earned a reputation as a hack who struggles to stay on the court but he committed the least fouls per 100 possessions of his career this year.
2022-23 NBA Defensive Player of the Year- Brook Lopez
(BMB Fan Defensive Player of the Year- Brook Lopez. Also receiving votes: J. Jackson Jr., G. Antetokounmpo, N. Claxton, J. Holiday, O. Anunoby, J. McDaniels
Rookie of the Year
Honorable Mentions- Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin, Jaden Ivey
Finalist: Jalen Williams
Jalen “J-Dub” Williams was ranked in the All-Star tier of my Draft Casual’s Big Board during the scouting process, and his rookie campaign showed he’s well on his way to becoming that level of player. He’s the human embodiment of the word versatile. He can create on the ball for himself and others, he makes timely cuts often off the ball, and he uses his absurd length to be a disruptor defensively. Williams fits OKC’s preferred player mold of high-feel guys who contribute in multiple facets of the game to a tee, and it won’t be long before he’s suiting up next to his teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the All-Star game.
Finalist: Walker Kessler
It’s rare that rookies are impactful defenders, so finding one that contributes on that end at an all-league level is like discovering a unicorn. The Utah Jazz acquired a mythical creature in Walker Kessler via the Rudy Gobert trade. The 7’1” first-year man from Auburn showcased impeccable fundamentals as a shot blocker and is already one of the league’s best in that category. Kessler also finished an astounding clip of his field goals (72.0% on the year) and vacuumed in oodles of boards, making him a winning contributor from day one.
Finalist: Paolo Banchero
Once the regular season tipped off, Paolo Banchero came out of the gate head and shoulders above the rest of the class and never looked back. Standing at 6’10” with a 250lb frame, the freshman phenom already overmatches most of the league physically and used that advantage to find early success. He’s a bulldozer, a high-feel creator, a tantalizing prospect, and the 2023 Rookie of the Year.
2022-23 NBA Rookie of the Year- Paolo Banchero
(BMB Fan Rookie of the Year- Paolo Banchero. Also receiving votes: J. Williams, B. Mathurin, W. Kessler, J. Duren, K. Murray)
Most Valuable Player
Honorable Mention- Jayson Tatum
Finalist: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Two-time MVP and my pick last year, Giannis Antetokounmpo is unsurprisingly at the forefront of conversations around the award once again. This year, he’s armed with the best player on the best team argument. Even with championship co-star Khris Middleton sidelined for the majority of the season, the Greek Freak was able to lead his squad to a league-best 58 wins. His two-way dominance was as evident as ever and, while Jokic and Embiid received most of the buzz, his MVP case is equally as convincing.
Finalist: Nikola Jokic
Winning MVP this year would have made Nikola Jokic only the fourth player in history to earn it three straight times, putting him in the remarkable company of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and Larry Bird. He spearheaded Denver’s one-seed campaign, putting on diming and post-scoring masterclasses nightly while blowing everybody else out of the water in virtually every advanced metric in the process. Even though he won’t be completing the three-peat, the Joker proved that he belongs in all-time companionship regardless.
Finalist: Joel Embiid
After finishing as the runner-up two years straight, Joel Embiid finally got over the hump and was named MVP last week. He accomplished it by being the most unstoppable force in the sport. Guarding him one-on-one is a death wish. Once he faces up in the mid-range or turns his back to the basket, he commands the attention of every defender on the court or he will put two points on the board. Although Embiid was the official winner, he is a close second for me behind the best player in the world.
2022-23 NBA Most Valuable Player- Giannis Antetokounmpo
(BMB Fan Most Valuable Player- Giannis Antetokounmpo. Also receiving votes: N. Jokic, J. Embiid, J. Tatum, L. Doncic)
Bench Mob Player of the Year
Honorable Mentions- Josh Green, A.J. Green, Josh Okogie, Jordan Nwora
Finalist: Yuta Watanabe
Reliable shooting. Glass-crashing. Nonstop energy. Yuta Watanabe does everything a coach wants from their end-of-rotation guys. Even when he fell out of Brooklyn’s regular lineup towards the end of the year, Watanabe never complained and continued to hustle his tail off every second he was on the hardwood. The dirty work he does and the threes he hits were key all season long for the Nets and his stats don’t do justice to the impact he has on victory.
Finalist: Jordan Goodwin
Jordan Goodwin started the 2022-23 campaign on a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards. Having just two games of experience under his belt before this year, he was unknown to many. Then, Delon Wright went down with an injury and Coach Unseld was in need of a new backup guard. Goodwin answered the call. He filled Wright’s role of defensive hound, marking his man up at full court every possession and picking countless pockets while limiting turnovers as a floor general on the other end. He went on to earn a well-deserved multi-year standard deal for his endeavors. Goodwin’s journey from undrafted free agent, to G-Leaguer, to two-way contract man, to legitimate rotational contributor is truly inspirational and he embodies a bench mobber.
Finalist: Isaiah Joe
For the first two years of his career, Isaiah Joe was rotting on the end of the bench in Philadelphia, never getting the chance to spread his wings as a pro. When the Sixers waived him in the offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder were quick to scoop him up. It was a low-risk, high-reward move for a rebuilding organization and it ended up being one of the best signings of the summer. Finally getting an opportunity to play often, Joe emerged as an invaluable role player for OKC because he’s one of the best three-point specialists in the association. He shoots elite percentages on spot-up and off-screen tries and, as an added bonus, holds up defensively. With his performance this season, Isaiah Joe has paved a loooong career for himself. Daryl Morey undoubtedly regrets letting him go.
2022-23 NBA Bench Mob Player of the Year- Isaiah Joe
(BMB Fan Bench Mob Player of the Year- Isaiah Joe. Also receiving votes: J. Nwora, J. Alvarado, Y. Watanabe, J. Okogie, J. Green, J. McDaniels, A.J. Green)
All-NBA First Team
G- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
G- Donovan Mitchell
F- Jayson Tatum
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo
C- Joel Embiid
All-NBA Second Team
G- Luka Doncic
G- Damian Lillard
F- LeBron James
F- Julius Randle
C- Nikola Jokic
All- NBA Third Team
G- Stephen Curry
G- De’Aaron Fox
F- Jaylen Brown
F- Kevin Durant
C- Domantas Sabonis
All-Defensive First Team
G- Jrue Holiday
G- Derrick White
F- Evan Mobley
F- Jaren Jackson Jr.
C- Brook Lopez
All-Defensive Second Team
G- Alex Caruso
G- Mikal Bridges
F- Jaden McDaniels
F- Giannis Antetokounmpo
C- Nic Claxton
All-Rookie First Team
All-Rookie Second Team
All-Bench-Mob First Team
All-Bench-Mob Second Team
All-Bench-Mob Third Team
So, those are my official 2022-23 NBA awards! Let me know what you agree and disagree with, I’m always down for a hoops discussion on my Twitter account @finleykuehl. Thanks for reading, and see you next time!