All You Need To Know About the 2021-22 NBA Awards Finalists & Winners

Source: NBA Getty Images

The NBA announced the three finalists for each of the six 2021-22 awards that honor some of the best in the game on Sunday, April 17th. The winner of each award will be announced throughout the 2022 NBA Playoffs on TNT’s broadcast. The awards are as follows: Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, and Sixth Man of the Year.

All finalists and winners are listed below:

NBA Coach of the Year Finalists

  • Taylor Jenkins, Memphis Grizzlies
  • Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
  • Monty Williams, Phoenix Suns *Winner

Coach Monty Williams is the recipient of the annual Coach of the Year award following the Phoenix Suns’s franchise-best record of 64-18 as announced on May 9th. This is the first time Williams wins the award, joining Cotton Fitzsimmons (1988-89) and Mike D’Antoni (2004-05) as the third Suns coach to be honored.

Williams totaled 81 first-place votes with 458 points. The Suns tied for the third-most road wins and fifth-best road winning percentage (.780) in NBA history this season. 

In October/November and January, Williams was named the NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month. They had a 18-0 run with an undefeated November where they won 16 games-the second-most wins without a loss in a month in NBA history.

Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Finalists

  • Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
  • Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
  • Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics *Winner

Marcus Smart was announced as the winner of the DPOY award on April 18th becoming the first guard to win the award since Gary Payton in 1995-96. Smart is the second Celtic to win the award joining Kevin Garnet who won in 2007-08.

Smart arrived at the Celtics-Nets Round 1 Game 2 matchup wearing a silk Puma robe with DPOY detailing in the back to celebrate. 

Receiving 257 points from 100 sportswriters and broadcasters, Smart came in first place. The eight-year veteran started all 71 games he played in and helped lead his team to a 106.2 defensive rating and 104.5 points allowed, both league bests. They also held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage (43.4) and three-point field goal percentage (33.9). 

This is Smart’s first time winning the award and he has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team twice before in 2018-19 and 2019-20. 

Kia NBA Most Improved Player Finalists

  • Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies *Winner
  • Dejounte Murray, San Antonio Spurs

Ja Morant had a career-best season and was named the Most Improved Player on April 25th. The third-year All-Star becomes the first player to win the award in a Memphis uniform. 

He earned 221 points with 38 first-place votes. Morant averaged a career-high 27.4 points, 6.7 assists, and 5.7 rebounds in 33.1 minutes with 57 games played this season. Additionally, Morant shot a career-best 49.3 percent from the field. The 22-year-old is the third player in NBA history to reach these numbers for points, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage in their third season, joining NBA 75th Anniversary Team members Oscar Robertson and Dwyane Wade.

As the face of the franchise, Ja helped the team finish with the second-best regular season record in the league.

Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Finalists

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
  • Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
  • Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets *Winner

For the second year in a row, Nikola Jokic has been named the Most Valuable Player in the NBA. He is the 13th player to win in consecutive seasons although they probably didn’t accept their award like Jokic did. See below!

Jokic received 65 first-place votes totaling 875 points from the 100 voters. Finishing his seventh season in the NBA, Jokic averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 1.47 steals, and 0.85 steals in 74 games playing 33.5 minutes. He led the league in total rebounds (1,019 rebounds) and total defensive rebounds (813 rebounds). 

Additionally, he is the first player in NBA history to record at least 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and 500 assists in a season as well as the first player to average a minimum of 25.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists.

Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Finalists

  • Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors *Winner
  • Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons
  • Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

Scottie Barnes received 378 points (48 first-place votes) to win the Rookie of the Year award for the 2021-2022 season. He is the third Raptor to win the annual award, joining Damon Stoudamire (1995-96) and Vince Carter (1998-99).

Carter presented the award to Barnes via video with his team surrounding him on April 23rd.

Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.08 steals, and 0.74 blocks in 35.4 minutes in 74 games played—all of which he started. He leads all rookies in minutes, ranks third in points and rebounds, and fifth in assists, steals, and blocks. Barnes joins Alvan Adams (1975-76), Lionel Simmons (1990-91), Chris Webber (1993-94), Lamar Odom (1999-00), and Ben Simmons (2017-18) as the sixth player to average at least 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.00 steals, and 0.70 blocks in a season since steals and blocks became official stats.

He’s the first Raptors rookie to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 250 assists in a season and set the franchise rookie record for offensive rebounds with 195. 

NBA Sixth Man of the Year Finalists

  • Tyler Herro, Miami Heat *Winner
  • Cam Johnson, Phoenix Suns
  • Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Tyler Herro received 96 first place votes of the 100 panelists and had 488 points in total to win the award by a long shot. Herro becomes the first Miami Heat player to win this award after contributing to their success off the bench this season.

In his third NBA season, Herro averaged 20.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 32.6 minutes in 66 games played with 10 starts. He had the highest scoring average in the NBA as a reserve. Herro is the fifth NBA player to average at least 20.0 points off the bench with a minimum of 50 games being a reserve, joining Thurl Bailey (1987-88), Eddie Johnson (1988-89), Ricky Pierce (1989-90, 1990-91), and Lou Williams (2017-18, 2018-19). 

The Heat’s “OG” and captain, Udonis Haslem, presented and commemorated Herro’s hard work both on and off the court this season in the video above. Herro helped lead the Miami Heat with 1,162 points off the bench this season, a single-season franchise record.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners!

Laura Blanco