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NBLCNET Awards Race

Photo Courtesy: London Lightning

The National Basketball League has complete two weeks of its sixth campaign and the level of talent on display from all 10 teams has surpassed all expectations.  Unlike previous years, where each award comes down to one or two possible victors, this season has provided us with a number of potential candidates for each major award that the NBLC hands out come May.  Stay tuned weekly as the staff here at NBLCNET breaks down our Top 5 candidates for each category.

Now, onto the first rankings of the season.

 

Most Valuable Player

1. Royce White, London Lightning

White has already recorded two triple-doubles and four double-doubles in the first 7 games for the London Lightning, and has put up gaudy averages just two weeks into the season.  As the biggest signing in NBL Canada history, White has performed as advertised.  The 6’8 forward leads his team in points, rebounds, and assists, all while logging a majority of his minutes at the center position.  It’s a shooter’s dream playing in a system with Royce as his physical presence in the post demands a double team, leaving London’s shooters wide open.  We’re only 7 games in and White still has rust to shake off despite making everything look effortless and easy on the court.  It will take something very special to take the top spot from White when it comes to winning the MVP.

(19.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 7.1 assists)

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Courtesy: London Lightning

 

2. Justin Moss, Orangeville A’s

The Orangeville A’s currently find themselves atop the Central Division as we start the third week of the season, large in part to Justin Moss.  After finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting last season, Moss has picked up right where he left off.  He’s scoring and rebounding at a higher clip this season, and he’s shown how capable of a leader he is for this A’s franchise.  With the exception of White, no other player demands more attention when he has the ball than Moss, it’s a large reason that teammate Rahlir Jefferson has scored more points this season. As the season progresses, we’ll likely see Moss overtake Jefferson in scoring.

(21.4 points, 10.0 rebounds, 82% FT)

 

3. Gabe Freeman, Saint John Riptide

Gabe Freeman is back with the Saint John Riptide this season and is leading them to their hottest start in franchise history and currently sits third in the league in both scoring and rebounding.  Freeman has scored 24 or more points in three of his first 5 games this season and is putting up numbers similar to his MVP campaign in 2011-12.  While working with former MVP Anthony Anderson hurts Freeman standings slightly, if Anderson wants his first NBLC title, he’s going to need Freeman to play MVP caliber basketball.

(21.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists)

 

4. Terry Thomas, Island Storm

Another player leading his team in multiple statistical categories is Island Storm guard, Terry Thomas.  The much improved Canadian ranks first in the league in steals and has been one of the most impressive player in the Atlantic Division.  While his Storm have not had the start to their season that they were hoping for, Thomas has been doing everything to help his team stay afloat in the Atlantic.  While we’ve seen players on losing teams win MVP before (Logan Stutz), the success of the Storm will be key in Thomas’ campaign to winning Most Valuable Player.

(22.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals)

 

5. Rahlir Jefferson, Orangeville A’s

The second Orangeville A on the list, Rahlir Jefferson, has been the biggest surprise of the season so far.  Leading the league in scoring through the first two weeks, Jefferson has his A’s atop the Central Division to start the season.  While having back-to-back games of 28 and 30 points this week have boosted is scoring numbers, well likely see Jefferson come back to earth and plateau as the season progresses.  This all coming from a player who left the Mill Rats training camp early last season to rehab chronic knee issues.  He’s back, he’s healthy and he’s shooting a very efficient 54% from the field.  Jefferson has become the perfect complimentary piece to Justin Moss.

(22.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals)

 

Rookie of the Year

1. Mike Poole, Halifax Hurricanes

Not only is rookie forward, Mike Poole, contributing to the defending champs, he’s leading his squad to a franchise best start.  After making a splash in his first pro game with 21 points, Poole has been a steady contributor on the leagues best team.  While he’s not putting up numbers like last season’s ROTY, Stephen Maxwell, Poole has had an impressive first season in the National Basketball League of Canada.  Not only is he contributing offensively, but defensively he’s a major key in Halifax’s league leading defense.

(15.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals)

 

2. Orlando Coleman, KW Titans

An early Rookie of the Year Candidate from the get go, Orlando Coleman has been an instant spark plug for the NBL Canada’s newest franchise.  With numbers that rival front-runner, Mike Poole, Coleman has proven himself vital in the success of the KW Titans.  Despite playing for a team that features NBLC vets and a large rookie class, we’ve seen him outshine most other rookies in the 2016-17 class.

(15.6 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists)

 

3. Ricky Tarrant, KW Titans

Leading the 2016-17 National Basketball League of Canada rookie class in scoring is KW guard, Ricky Tarrant.  The 6’2 Memphis is second on his team in scoring and leads the league in free throw percentage.  While his three-point shooting is less than impressive, Tarrant makes up for it in other shooting categories.  Nevertheless he’s had an impressive start and is poised to make a huge impact for his team in just his first season as a professional athlete.

(17.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 96% FT)

 

4. Maurice Jones, Windsor Express

While he doesn’t boast the scoring numbers of his rookie counterparts, few players have stepped into their role as seamlessly as Jones has. At just 5’7, 155lbs, the undersized lead-guard has been one of the few bright spots on an otherwise under performing and disappointing Windsor Express squad.  Where he really stands out is his play making and defensive abilities, Jones currently leads the league in steals per game and is second in total steals just two weeks into the season.  If he can shoot the ball more effectively and use better shot selection, there’s no reason why Mo can’t climb the ladder.

(9.6 points, 6.4 assists, 2.80 steals)

 

5. Timothy Mitchell, Monton Miracles

At 6’9, 265lbs, Moncton Miracles rookie big man has a pro’s body and the skill set to match.  He’s second in rookie rebounding and is a sure bet to get 10 and 10 every night for the Miracles.  Most impressive of his numbers has been his shooting percentage.  While being a big body center, Mitchell has shown soft hands around the rim with a solid mid range game.  He’ll need to pick up the pace if he wants to hold his spot in the rankings as rookie big man Jernard Jarreau is hot on his heels.

(9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 65% FG)

 

Canadian of the Year

1. Terry Thomas, Island Storm

The Island Storm’s Terry Thomas is having the best statistical season for any Canadian since the inception of the National Basketball League of Canada.  While his Storm have not had the start to their season that they had hoped for, Thomas has been leading the way in most major statistical categories for his team. He’s first in Canadian scoring and second in rebounds after the first two weeks of play.  He’s also the only Canadian on the MVP list.  Should his numbers stay consistent and his Storm start winning more games, expect Thomas to have Canadian Player of the Year locked up early.

(22.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals)

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Courtesy: Island Storm

 

2. Garrett Williamson, London Lightning

As a previous winner of the Canadian Player of the Year award, Williamson is always in the running year in and year out.  Having a nice bounce back year after an injury plagued 2015-16 season, Williamson has been a major contributor on a very deep London Lightning team.  All his statistics are up from last season and while they aren’t quite as impressive as the year he won the award (a product of playing for a team as deep as London), Williamson has been a leader on and off the court for the Lightning.  It’s hard to see London winning their third championship without a healthy Williamson this season.

(14.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists)

 

3. Kyle Johnson, London Lightning

A late addition by the Lightning, Johnson has been an instant contributor off the bench for the Lightning.  Adding to their depth, Johnson is the perfect complement player for Royce White.  Known for his scoring and shooting, the 6’4 guard has improved his averages since we last saw him in 2014-15 with the Bramtpon A’s.  As the second London Lightning player to make the list, Johnson will have to out perform teammate Garrett Williamson before he can challenge Thomas for top Canadian in the league.

(15.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists)

 

4. Tyrrel Tate, Moncton Miracles

One of just three returning players for the Moncton Miracles, Tyrell Tate has established himself as a go to scorer for his team and is second in scoring for Canadian players.  Not only has he improved his scoring and rebound averages by 8 points and three rebounds per game, he’s also been a contributor as a starter or as a back up coming off the bench.  While his shooting numbers aren’t where Moncton would like them to be, undoubtedly holding him back in ranking, his consistency has not been an issue.  As the season goes on, look for Tate to climb the ladder.

(16.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists)

 

5. Chadrack Lufile, Cape Breton Highlanders

One of the few bright spots for the Highlanders in their first season is Canadian Chadrack Lufile.  The 6’9 Lufile is a force to be reckoned with in the paint.  He’s a young, talented player that Cape Breton can build around.  He’s a solid 10 and 10 player for his squad and a solid shooter.  If he continues on the pace he’s at, we very well could see Lufile rise in the rankings.

(12.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 51% FG)

 

 

Newcomer of the Year

1. Rahlir Jefferson, Orangeville A’s

An early MVP candidate, Rahlir has made his name known in the NBL Canada.  Leading his Orangeville A’s and the league in scoring, Jefferson has been more than expected.  No doubt his time in the NBA D-League and being cut by the Saint John Mill Rats have been contributing factors in Jefferson’s break out season.  While the NBL Canada is not keen on handing out more than one award to a single player, we’re more than likely going to see Rahlir win Newcomer of the Year than MVP.

(22.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.8 steals)

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Courtesy: A’s Basketball

 

2. Jahii Carson, Island Storm

The second biggest name signed to the National Basketball League of Canada has been former All-American and Arizona State standout, Jahii Carson.  Carson has been as advertised for his Island Storm during the first two weeks of the season.  With impressive averages and an exciting style of play, Carson has become a fan favorite quickly in Charlottetown.  Expect it to be a neck and neck battle between Carson and Jefferson for Newcomer of the Year if both players keep their current pace.

(19.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists)

 

3. Antoine “Scoop” Jardine, Moncton Miracles

Another “big name” signing for the league this off-season was in point guard Scoop Jardine.  A standout player at Syracuse, Jardine has been exactly what this Moncton Miracles team has needed.  He’s a steady contributor with a solid locker room presence.  His numbers have been stellar and on par with Carson’s, but he narrowly misses out on the second.  Jardine is the third of 5 players who very well could win the award.

(19.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists)

 

4. Julian Boyd, London Lightning

Having a great bounce back professional season is London Lightning forward, Julian Boyd.  Suffering various knee injuries has not slowed down the Lightning’s (second) hottest player.  While his output has been down the last few games, Boyd has been a great inside/outside scoring threat for a very talented London Lightning team.  Boyd is currently second in the league in three-point shooting percentage.  What’s most impressive is how well he works with fellow newcomer and MVP candidate, Royce White.  Both White and Boyd are a compliment to each other’s play style and have been huge factors in each others success.

(19.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 52% 3FG)

 

5. Booker Woodfox, Cape Breton Highlanders

Having two NBA D-League Three Point Championships on his resume is more than enough to get hyped about Booker Woodfox.  The Highlanders leading scorer is on pace to hit more threes than Omar Strong in 2014-15.  While his numbers are undoubtedly impressive, Woodfox has been stuck on an under performing and disorganized Cape Breton team.  While the combined efforts of Woodfox and teammate Hank Thorns have not been enough to get Cape Breton out of the basement, Woodfox has had an impressive start to his personal season nonetheless.

(18.6 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists)

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year

1. Anthony Stover, Saint John Riptide

Of course we have to put defending Defensive Player of the Year, Anthony Stover at the top of the list.  The long and lanky 6’11 center has picked up where he left off last season.  While he’s not currently leading the league in blocks per game, few players have a presence on the defensive end like Stover.  He’s improved his numbers across the board and is on pace to take over as the all-time leader in blocked shots by the end of the season.  That in itself is good enough for top defensive player of the year honors.

(7.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.20 blocks)

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Courtesy: Saint John Riptide

 

2. Renaldo Dixon, Halifax Hurricanes

This list would not be credible if it didn’t include Dixon.  Tied for first in the league for overall blocks, Dixon has been the driving force in Halifax’s league leading defense.  His team currently sits first in blocks per game, first in scoring defense per game, first in steals per game, and second in field goal defense. While Halifax has great overall team defense, Dixon has been the biggest reason for their defensive success.

(8.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks)

 

3. Adam Blazek, KW Titans

The only guard on the list, Blazek is a defensive stalwart for his KW Titans.  An underrated defender last season for the River Lions, Blazek currently sits tied for first in steals per game, and tied for second in total steals.  While it’s almost impossible for guards to win Defensive Player of the Year awards, we have faith in his defensive capabilities.

(18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.8 steals)

 

4. Jamell Harris, KW Titans

While Blazek is KW’s first line of defense, big man Jamell Harris is their last.  Tied for first in both blocks per game and total blocks, Harris has provided much-needed rim protection on an otherwise very thin Titan front court.  With players like Blazek, Coleman and Ricky Tarrant on the team, Harris has been able to focus primarily on the defensive side of the ball. If he keeps up his current pace, we could see him challenge Stover for best shot blocker this season.

(7.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.80 blocks)

 

5. Russell Byrd, Moncton Miracles

Russell Byrd is the very definition of an underrated defender. While he doesn’t stand out with shot blocking and steals like his counterparts, Byrd has proven to be a very capable and elite lock down defender on the perimeter.  Take for example his game against the Saint John Mill Rats on January 5th.  He held MVP candidate Gabe Freeman to just 7 points all night, 14 points below his season average.  If he can improve his steals and block numbers, there’s no doubt we’ll see Byrd rise in the rankings.

(12.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.67 assists)

 

 

Sixth Man of the Year

1. Tyshawn Patterson, Niagara River Lions

Tyshawn Patterson finds himself in a very similar situation as last season.  He’s had a hot start coming off the bench for a Central Division team.  While he’s traded in the Yellow and Black of London for the Navy and Forest of Niagara, Patterson is still the hottest bench player to start the season. He’s started a couple of games for his team but has spent a majority of time as the first player of the bench.  What looks like another disappointing season, the River Lions have relied heavily on Patterson to carry the offense (their offense just looks stale and stagnant when he’s not on the floor).

(15.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.4 assist)

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Courtesy: Megan Muir Photography

 

2. Kyle Johnson, London Lightning

Johnson makes a second list, this time as a candidate for 6th Man of the Year honors.  An early season addition to the team, Johnson has added even more depth and scoring to the potent Lightning offense. An excellent outside shooter and slasher, his style of play compliments the type of offense that London runs, not to mention how compatible it is with Royce White’s play style. If he’s proven anything in his time in the league it’s that he’s reliable and consistent.

(15.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists)

 

3. Nick Okorie, Island Storm

One of the all-time greats, Nick Okorie has had a less than expected opening to his season.  His numbers are down across the board and his Island Storm find themselves off to a slow start.  On the positive side, Okorie has been a stable bench contributor for a team that needs it.  We’re only two weeks into the season, with Okorie’s skill set there is no doubt he’ll get better as the season progresses.  He very well may find himself off this list, simply because he’s way to talented to spend a season on the bench.

(15.5 points, 3.8 assists, 53% 3FG)

 

4. Antoine Mason, Halifax Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are off to their best start in franchise history and look like early favorites to win the 2016-17 NBL Canada Championship, again.  A large part of their early season success has been the contribution of their bench, lead by Antoine Mason.  The 6’4 son of a former NBA legend has made a solid name for himself this season as the Hurricanes’ second leading scorer.  Coach Mike Leslie and his starters have full trust in their bench to hold a lead or get their team back into a game with a guy like Mason coming off the bench.

(14.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.o assists)

 

5. AJ Davis, KW Titans

Another player cut by the Lightning and making a name for himself in the league is AJ Davis of the KW Titans.  Davis is a long, athletic, do everything kind of guard who has excelled in a bench role this season.  With solid all around numbers, Head Coach Serge Langis has not been afraid to give big minutes to him and play him in crunch time, a product of his 95% free throw shooting.  We’ll see if Davis can keep this level of contribution up as the season progresses.

(14.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, 95% FT)