Not only will the New York Knicks be part of the postseason, but they also put a couple of players in contention for two different NBA awards, with both making it to the final three in their respective categories.
Jalen Brunson and Immanuel Quickley were named finalists for the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year awards for the 2022-23 season, the Association announced on Friday.
The NBA announced the finalists for all individual awards ahead of the last Play-In games that saw the Miami Heat and the Minnesota Timberwolves clinch the no. 8 seed in the Eastern and the Western conferences.
Jalen Brunson entered the pro circuit in the summer of 2018 as a second-round, 33rd-overall draft pick. After reaching free agency having spent four years in Dallas, JB signed with his hometown franchise, and here we are now.
The man who hails from New Brunswick, NJ, saw an absolute jump in production this season compared to years past, on top of having a much more important role manning the Knickerbockers point. Brunson went from averaging 16 points and less than five and four dimes and rebounds, respectively, to put up 24 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, and 0.9 SPG this season with the Knicks.
Brunson registered career-high marks in points, assists, steals, blocks, three-point shooting, and minutes per game this season, his first of many clad in Blue and Orange.
The other two candidates for the Most Improved Player award are Utah’s Lauri Markkanen (25-8-2), and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (31-5-5).
Immanuel Quickley, the third-year man out of Kentucky by way of a first-round, 25th-overall-pick draft selection by the very own Knicks in the summer of 2020, is aiming at snatching a 6MOY award after playing 223 games as a pro and 81 this season alone, 21 of them (26%) in New York’s starting lineup.
Quickley wrapped up the year averaging 14.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, and one SPG while posting a career-best 44.8 FG%.
Always an off-the-pine piece in Thibs rotation since he arrived in Manhattan ahead of the 2020-21 season, Quickley topped pretty much all of his career highs through the 2023 regular campaign in a much more prominent role and covering for some key absences at times through the season.
IQ will need to fend off Boston’s Malcolm Brogdon (15-4-3 on 67 games with no starts) and Milwaukee’s Bobby Portis (14-9-1 on 70 games with 22 starts), although this award looks more like a two-horse race between Quickley and Brogdon.
TNT will be tasked with announcing the winners of each award during the NBA Playoffs at a later point through the postseason.
Full list of the 2022-23 NBA Awards finalists:
- Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL), Joel Embiid (PHI), Nikola Jokic (DEN)
- Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr. (MEM), Brook Lopez (MIL), Evan Mobley (CLE)
- Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC), Lauri Markkanen (UTA), Jalen Brunson (NYK)
- Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero (ORL), Walker Kessler (UTA), Jalen Williams (OKC)
- Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon (BOS), Bobby Portis (MIL), Immanuel Quickley (NYK)
- Clutch Player of the Year: Jimmy Butler (MIA), DeMar DeRozan (CHI), De’Aaron Fox (SAC)
- Coach of the Year: Mike Brown (SAC), Mark Daigneault (OKC), Joe Mazzulla (BOS)