Is it ever too early to start thinking of NBA individual award races? The Los Angeles Lakers have a few viable candidates for some of the game's most prestigious accolades. In no way, shape, or form is that statement meant to indicate that the Lakers have any of the current front-runners.
Here are the Lakers' most logical candidates to bring home some individual hardware at the conclusion of the regular season.
One Lakers candidate for each NBA award this season:
MVP: LeBron James
The NBA world better appreciate what LeBron James is doing this season. The man turns 39 at the end of this month but is showing us that the end of his road could still be a ways away.
The team has been excellent with him on the floor and he has shown the type of burst that someone his age has never shown. Anthony Davis looks ready to take the reigns of this franchise, but right now Bron is in control.
Defensive Player Of the Year: Anthony Davis
Speaking of AD, he has been tremendous all around to kick off 23-24. His aggressiveness inside has been lethal offensively. He has been a vacuum on the boards. And yet, the most impressive aspect of his game has once again been his complete dominance defensively.
AD has been swatting shots like flies and playing passing lanes like poker. He can effectively switch onto essentially any player in the NBA and is actually a legitimate candidate for this award. At this stage of the season, it would be fair to call Davis and Rudy Gobert the early front-runners for the acknowledgment.
Rookie of the Year: Jalen Hood-Schifino
JHS is basically here by default and has struggled for the most part in his first action since returning from injury. He had a nice game in the blowout win over the Pistons on November 29th and will need some more time to properly groom. He has a lot of potential, even though that potential might be reached elsewhere.
6th Man of the Year: Austin Reaves
In a (good) move that came a bit out of left field, Darvin Ham plopped Austin Reaves into a bench role after the team's mediocre first 8 games. While it was surprising to many, Darvin compared what Austin's new role would be with the Lakers to what Manu Ginobli's old role was with the Spurs.
When you think about it from that perspective, it actually made a lot of sense. In his first 12 games since the switch, he put up 13.8 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds a night with shooting slashes of 49.6/34.9/83.7. While those are not spectacular numbers, he has looked comfortable in his new role and embraced it with professionalism.
Most Improved Player: Cam Reddish
Guys like Max Christie, Rui Hachimura, and Gabe Vincent were supposed to show improvements for the Lakers this season. Vincent has missed all but 4 games, and while Christie has looked better lately and Hachimura's playoff hot streak from outside has carried over into this season, Cam Reddish has been the guy that stands out most in terms of overall improvement. He is not scoring as much as he has at his prior stops, but he does not have to on this particular team.
Where this team needed him most was in helping to prevent opponents from scoring, and he has certainly delivered early on. He has always had the tools to put on the clamps, and now he has the right guys in his corner to maximize those gifts for the betterment of the team.
Clutch Player of the Year: LeBron James
When you look at it from a number's perspective, LeBron is actually in the NBA's upper echelon as it pertains to crunch time. If your team is down 1 with 10 seconds to go in the game and you have the choice to put the ball in the hands of anyone in the entire league, LBJ would be in heavy consideration among true NBA fans.