With the calendar flipping to 2023, what better time than right now to look at the 2022 portion of the season? While I usually lean into per-game numbers, I'll be considering total value for these awards. The reason is that, while, for example, Anthony Davis has been the number one player on a per-game basis, his recent injury means he has not been able to contribute at all over the past few weeks. Let's dive in.
Midseason MVP: Kevin Durant, Nets
As I alluded to earlier, while Durant has not been the number one player on a per-game basis, his durability (yes, that's not a typo) has meant he sits atop the total ranks. The Nets are rolling right now, and while it isn't all because of Durant, he has undoubtedly been the driving force. He is currently putting up 29.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks, all while shooting an incredible 56.4 percent from the field and 93.1 percent from the line.
When we look at his numbers, nothing stands out as unsustainable other than his percentages and blocks. His field-goal and free-throw percentages would be career-high marks if the season were to end today. His shooting may regress at some point, but let's be honest, he only takes the shots he feels comfortable taking, which is basically every shot. His blocks are also the highest they have been since the 2017-18 season, at which point he was in Golden State, playing a lot of small-ball center. Projecting forward, it comes down to health. If he can stay on the court, there is no reason he can't end the season as the number-one player in total value. Although, as we know, Nikola Jokic is likely to be hot on his heels.
Honorable Mentions: Nikola Jokic, Tyrese Haliburton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Midseason Breakout: Nic Claxton, Nets
There were a lot of candidates for this award, which is somewhat subjective. I opted to go with Claxton because he feels like one that I got right this season, going from the 225th-ranked player last season to number 26 this season. Seen as a potential breakout candidate last season, Claxton's season didn't go to plan, as he suited up for just 47 games. Having already played 34 games this season, he is averaging 11.9 points on 74.3 percent shooting, to go with 8.3 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 2.5 blocks.
Unlike Durant, Claxton's value is tied up in a couple of categories, rather than across-the-board production. This means that his overall value is a little skewed, with his skillset not as valuable in roto formats. With that said, he has also upped his assist numbers from 0.9 to 1.4 per game, as well as his scoring. There were some concerns he would not be able to share the floor with Ben Simmons, although that has been somewhat alleviated recently. He is pivotal to what the Nets are trying to do this season, so while his minutes may fluctuate slightly, he should be locked in moving forward.
Honorable Mentions: Tre Jones, Jalen Brunson, Trey Murphy
Midseason Bust: Rudy Gobert, Timberwolves
As someone who has Gobert in a couple of spots this season, I can attest to how frustrating it has been. While he does sit as the 50th-ranked player thus far, his numbers are well below where we projected. His current averages come in at 13.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.3 blocks, shooting 67.5 percent from the floor and 67.1 percent from the stripe.
The production is fine in a vacuum, especially the rebound numbers. However, compared to previous seasons, we are looking at below-par numbers. His 11.7 rebounds would be the lowest since the 2017-18 season, while 1.3 blocks are the lowest since his rookie season, as are his 0.9 assists. The absence of Karl-Anthony Towns due to a calf strain has had little impact on Gobert's stats. The Timberwolves' guards seem reluctant to use him on the offensive end. There is no point trying to sell him off at this point, given his limited skillset. Managers have to hope he can turn things around sooner rather than later.
Honorable Mentions: Jonas Valanciunas, Scottie Barnes, Jalen Smith
Midseason Most Improved: Lauri Markkanen, Jazz
Coming into the season, Markkanen was a popular target in the mid-to-late rounds of most drafts. The Jazz were seen as a rebuilding team who would run with him as the lead guy, allowing him to fire away at will. While he became the lead man, Utah is, surprisingly, not a team looking to pump up stats and ignore the scoreboard. After a red-hot start, the Jazz have overcome a minor blip to now sit only a handful of games out of the fifth seed. Much of their success is because Markkanen puts up 23.8 points on 53.1 percent shooting, adding 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 3.0 3-pointers and 1.2 combined steals and blocks.
Compared to his career numbers, we are looking at high marks across multiple categories, including points, assists, 3-pointers and field goal percentage. Given he had never shot better than 48.0 percent from the floor prior to this season, there is a chance his efficiency regresses at some point. That would impact not only his percentages but also his scoring and 3-pointers. With the Jazz seemingly pushing for at least a play-in spot, and the fact the fans are coming out in droves, Markkanen should have the opportunity to build off his red-hot start for the rest of the campaign.
Honorable Mentions: OG Anunoby, Anfernee Simons, Brook Lopez
Midseason Pickup: De'Anthony Melton, 76ers
Melton was initially drafted in at least a few competitive leagues, although he was dropped in a lot of spots due to an underwhelming start to the season. He played no more than 22 minutes in six of the first seven games, delivering modest production at best. Injuries to both James Harden and Tyrese Maxey then opened the door for Melton to step into a more prominent role, something he did with great success. The guard is averaging 12.0 points, 2.5 triples, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.5 blocks. He's the 30th-ranked player in standard formats.
These numbers will likely decline with Harden and Maxey back in the lineup. However, managers may want to think twice before simply releasing him. During his uptick in playing time, Melton showed everyone, including the coaching staff, how important he can be on both ends of the floor. He will likely shift back to the bench soon, but there is a chance he maintains a 26-minute role on most nights -- more than enough for him to sustain 12-team value.
Honorable Mentions: Bol Bol, Jalen McDaniels, Malik Beasley