Utah’s second-half surge to claim the fifth seed in the Western Conference can largely be attributed to Gobert’s return from injury, which turned the Jazz into one of the league’s strongest defence down the stretch.
It’s easy to overlook his defence in favour of his crafty post moves or deadly jump shot, but Embiid’s greatest asset is his ability to control a game on the defensive end.
As the most athletic of the top three candidates, Davis is the most exciting to watch and turned in the most highlight reel plays, flying all over the court to record blocks and contest shots at the rim.
With Gary Harris missing a good chunk of the stretch run, Barton stepped into a starting role to close out the year and turned in a flurry of quality scoring games to keep the Nuggets in playoff contention until the final day.
November’s top candidates Jonathon Simmons, Tyreke Evans and Rudy Gay, with Eric Gordon as an honourable mention (he had started too many games due to Paul’s injury).
He’s managed a bunch of young talent, incorporated veteran acquisitions like Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova, and put together a beautiful motion offence that flows seamlessly and moves the ball well.
In a season full of surprises, Utah bouncing back from the loss of Gordon Hayward to go 48-34 and snatch the fifth seed over the likes of New Orleans, Minnesota and San Antonio was one of the least expected – many people predicted that they would miss the playoffs entirely.
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