Hawes, Mason, and Foreman win individual awards
- By Andrew Seitz, Day 1, 2023
Rookie of the Year
Latrell Mason, Kings
This past draft class is understood to be of substantially lower quality than the draft class before, but Mason took over for Kelvin Black in Cincinnati and helped the Kings become the most improved team over the previous season. In terms of rookies, Mason was first in scoring, third in rebounding, second in steals, third in blocks, and, among starters, first in PER. He finished the regular season with per game averages of 16 points and 8 rebounds on 51% eFG. For comparison, at the age of eighteen Kelvin Hawes averaged 9 ppg and 10 rpg on 45% eFG. Mason capped off his rookies season by averaging 15p/10r/2a/2.3b in the Kings’ playoff series win over the Cyclones and hanging right with Black (16p/11r/2a/2.3). Talent, though, was never an issue with Mason: his big red flag is whether he has the motivation to become one of the best big men in the league. It remains to be seen whether he will put in the necessary work to improve his game.
Most Improved Player
Isaiah Foreman, Rockets
This award was the most surprising of all of them. Not because Foreman didn’t have a good season, but rather because there were few players that made big jumps this year. Foreman is a third year center that was drafted by the Mustangs in the second round in 2020 out of Chattanooga, where he averaged 22 ppg as an 18 year old. He mostly rode the bench for his first two seasons, and the most notable thing about that time was him being a part of the big Goodwin/Rice trade that has altered the futures of both the Bullets and the Rockets. He ended 2021 with DNP-CD in 11 of the last 12 games. Foreman though has a workhorse personality and must have impressed the Rockets coaches in training camp, because he ended up starting 80 games and upping his minutes from 443 to 2553. This minutes explosion was probably the biggest driver of his success, as it helped his WS go from 1.2 to 7.5 despite a similar WS/48. Foreman is a restricted free agent, and the Rockets will be looking to keep him on the roster.
MVP / GM’s Player
Kelvin Hawes, Knights
There is not much to be said about Hawes that hasn’t been said already. He is what this year’s rookie of the year, Latrell Mason, aspires to be. Hawes is unstoppable on both sides of the court and is a threat to take over any game he participates in, including this year’s All-Star game. His performance was actually down slightly from 2021, but his 15-game injury all but eliminated his MVP chances. Still, his 2022 per game numbers are incredible at 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. Hawes had 6 games with game scores over 40, including Day 139 when he scored 61 points on 27 for 41 shooting. His 2019 and 2020 seasons saw him shoot a lot of long range shots, and his efficiency shot up when he started taking more shots closer to the basket. He went from 30% At Rim in 2019 to 50% this past season, and 28% Long to 16% during the same time period. The scary thing about Hawes is that he may have developed a three point shot: after shooting 5% (sic, 8/158) his first three years, he shot 33% (26/79) in 2021 and 38% (32/85) in 2022. If he can scale that up, it would be just one more thing for JBL defenders to worry about.