Examining where the Celtics currently stand in the chase for some NBA hardware

The NBA has fallen in love with trophies and naming them after former stars. While slightly strange, it’s been a boon for former Celtics, whose successes are further spotlighted with their names attached to annual awards.

It started last season with the NBA renaming some postseason trophies. The Celtics aren’t just the defending Eastern Conference champions, they are the owners of the new Bob Cousy Trophy. Tuesday, the NBA announced six newly rebranded awards including the Michael Jordan trophy for Most Valuable Player, the John Havlicek trophy for Sixth Man of the Year, and a new Jerry West trophy for Clutch Player of the Year.

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The sparkly new trophies add a little glitz to the annual awards. But the NBA’s announcement really just left us wondering if any Celtics might be the first recipients of the new hardware. So here’s a way too early look at the Celtics players most likely to muscle into those conversations…

Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon

As the rest of Boston’s bench hits a bit of a speed bump on this long road trip, Malcolm Brogdon is showing why the Celtics splurged to add him this offseason.

Brogdon is sixth in scoring among players with at least 15 appearances off the bench, averaging 14.3 points per game while shooting 50.4 percent from the field, a league-best 48.4 percent beyond the 3-point arc, and 87.1 percent at the free-throw line. He’s adding 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 23 games off the bench.

What do the odds say? Brogdon sits third via current odds at PointsBet at +400. He’s slotted behind Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (+140) and Golden State’s Jordan Poole (+300).If the Celtics linger near the top of the NBA standings, Brogdon will be a frontrunner for the award. Voters love to reward high-volume bench scorers with this honor but Brogdon’s all-around impact could sway ballot-casters. He has embraced the shift to a reserve role and was one of Boston’s best players in both losses to the Warriors and Clippers.

Tuesday’s showdown with the Lakers offers a chance to show he deserves the nod over someone like Westbrook, whose output might be greater but not nearly as efficient nor as impactful to winning.

Most Valuable Player: Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum cemented himself as an MVP candidate over the first quarter of the season, particularly in outdueling other candidates like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, and Devin Booker in head-to-head matchups. Tatum’s candidacy hit its first snag this week as he turned in a pair of clunkers, most notably in a Finals rematch with the Golden State Warriors.

What do the odds say? Tatum was still the MVP favorite on PointsBet on Tuesday morning at +250. Doncic (+300) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300) remain on his heels.

Tatum routinely found ways to impact winning in the rare instances when his shot wasn’t falling at the start of the year. The last two games he’s let his shooting woes impact his overall performance. Tatum can help his candidacy by steering the Celtics back on track after this little stumble late in this West Coast trip.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Smart

Boston has made some encourage strides since lingering in the back third of the NBA in defensive rating to start the year. Boston in 10th in defensive efficiency allowing 111.2 points per 100 possessions.

Alas, they were steamrolling towards a spot in the top five until some woes against the Warriors and Clippers. So even defending DPOY Marcus Smart has an uphill climb to muscle into this year’s conversation.

What do the odds say? Smart lingers tied for 13th best odds at +5000 on PointsBet. The betting favorites remain a slew of big men with Toronto’s OG Anunoby a rare wing in the mix.

The Celtics would have to get back to an elite level of defense to have someone surge into the award conversation. After ending the quarter-century drought for guards winning the award, Smart has to work twice as hard to sway voters again. Robert Williams III could make a case if he helps supercharge Boston’s defense but having missed at least 28 games will hinder his candidacy.

Clutch Player of the Year: ??

The Celtics rank second in the NBA in clutch-game winning percentage having won 8 of the 11 games that trigger the criteria (plus or minus five points; final five minutes). Alas, they don’t have someone who screams “clutch,” at least in the sense of multiple game-winning moments.

Derrick White averages the most clutch points per game (3.4) on the team but has only played in five of those 11 games. Tatum and Brown have been solid in crunch-time situations but neither has made the sort of game-winner that might help promote their case.

Coach of the Year: Joe Mazzulla

No new trophy here; it’s long been the Red Auerbach Trophy. but Joe Mazzulla might be the one member of the Celtics most likely to earn hardware.

What do the odds say? Mazzulla is a heavy favorite to win the award on Points Bet at +125. Willie Green (+425), Will Hardy (+600), and Mike Brown (+700) are the closest competition.

Mazzulla was thrust into a tough spot and helped the Celtics navigate out from under the dark clouds that the Ime Udoka scandal left behind. Even while operating with the interim title, Mazzulla has routinely pressed the right buttons and ensured Boston didn’t have the sort of slow start that prevented its title quest last season.

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