Sleeper candidates for each of the NBA Awards in 2022-23

Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell defended by Raptors forward OG Anunoby (Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Cavs guard Donovan Mitchell defended by Raptors forward OG Anunoby (Cole Burston/Getty Images) /
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Utah Jazz, NBA Awards
Utah Jazz PF Lauri Markkanen and head coach Will Hardy, an NBA Awards sleeper (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /

Whether you like it or not, NBA Awards are no longer confined to the final few weeks of the season. They’ve become a season-long talking point, constantly being reshaped based on trends of the league, hot streaks, injuries and extenuating circumstances. Let’s face it: Debating who deserves which award and why can be fun! These are legacy-defining accolades that set players apart in the history books while celebrating the season at large.

This year’s early slate is a perfect example of why expectations never persist in this league. Besides the re-emergence of 2021’s Finals teams at the top of their respective conference standings, nothing is as it seemed coming into the year. That left the door open for some sleepers to enter the NBA Awards conversations.

NBA Awards Sleeper: Will Hardy of the Utah Jazz for Coach of the Year

It’s not often that a first-year coach enters the NBA’s Coach of the Year conversation, let alone wins the whole thing. Yet through the first 11 games of his head coaching career, Will Hardy seems fit for the competition. Most viewed this year’s Utah Jazz as bait in the Wembanyama sweepstakes, but that doesn’t appear to be the case with this team humming to the eighth rank in both offensive and defensive ratings for sixth in net rating.

Replacing a yearly Coach of the Year contender in Quin Snyder is quite an undertaking, but Hardy hasn’t been phased. Even without the two superstars he signed on to coach, the Jazz have a sturdy nine-man rotation comprised of players who know their roles well and play for each other. That makes for a winning combination, and if the Jazz defy the odds and reach the Playoffs, it’ll be difficult keeping Hardy out of the NBA Awards race.