By: Kenny Doyle
This has been one of the wildest seasons in the history of the NBA. We had a man averaging a triple-double, a former MVP in his prime joining a 73 win team, James Harden almost putting up a Tiny Archibald season, and a 5’9” point guard averaging over 29 PPG. It’s been an incredible season with so many amazing players. The league is as loaded as it’s ever been, which makes picking these awards all the more difficult and interesting. We simultaneously have perhaps the best MVP race ever and probably the worst ROY race ever. Some amazing players will be snubbed this award season no matter what, and no matter who you pick you’ll be leaving someone just as deserving off. It is incredibly difficult to split the hairs between all these incredible superstars and with that being said, here are my picks:
This year is more about who you left off, not who you put on. Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry were left off because they were both injured for significant portions of the season. Durant was injured for slightly less time, but Durant is also so great that he still gets to be on. It’s easier to put Durant on and leave off someone like Paul George then it is to have Chris Paul or Lowry on and have the reigning MVP, Steph Curry, left off.
Butler and George are off simply because 4 out of the 6 ahead of them are a lock to gave a better record, Anthony Davis is top 5 in scoring and rebounding, and Giannis is just having a better season than both. As for DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns, all I can say is: at least sniff the playoffs before thinking about being on All-NBA.
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
It’s hard to not give this to Nikola Jokic, but Giannis deserves it. At only 21 years old, Giannis has already become an All-Star starter. As soon as he was drafted there was some who believed Giannis was destined for stardom. He always looked the part, but took a hit because his competition did not. That left 14 teams (including the Celtics) regretting not taking the freakish Greek.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Giannis is the 2nd best international player in NBA history already. I think he will be chasing Dirk for the title of the greatest international player of all time for the rest of his career. Giannis as I said before is only 21 years old and he’s already averaging 23, 9, and 5. He could actually be a 25, 11, and 8 guy during his prime. Those are Larry Bird like numbers. The freak does it much differently than Bird, but it’s just as jaw dropping. I can’t wait for the rest of Giannis’ career. Dominique Wilkins might have to move aside. This is the real human highlight reel. I mean just look how ridiculous this is:
Token Giannis highlight:
Rookie of the Year: Dario Saric
I am genuinely angry at the Rookie of the Year race this year. The 2016 NBA draft class has been such a disaster that 2 of the 3 legitimate candidates are actually from the 2014 NBA draft and the other was a second round pick. Brandon Ingram has been a disappointment so far, we didn’t even get to see Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown has had to ride the bench, and Kris Dunn? Sucks.
I don’t pick Dario Saric because I want to, but because statistically he’s the clear winner. The part that is so frustrating about this is that HE’S NOT EVEN THE BEST ROOKIE ON HIS TEAM! Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are probably both better than Saric, but when we look back on this team in 3 years it will have been Saric that won Rookie of the Year. Ben Simmons obviously isn’t eligible for the award anyway, but Embiid would have won if he had just played 25 more games. I can’t get over how awkward it would be to see Saric giving an acceptance speech while Embiid looks on, but what are we supposed to do? Give it to Brogdon who is having a worse statistical season just because it would be awkward for Saric to win it? That would be even stupider. So congratulations Dario Saric, you win by default.
Token Saric highlight:
6th Man of the Year: Eric Gordon
Mike D‘Antoni and James Harden have resurrected Eric Gordon’s career. It feels like at least some of the Louis Williams trade was just to make Gordon a lock for this award, and he deserves it. Gordon once looked like he would be one of the best guards in the NBA as a rookie, but he wasn’t even close in New Orleans. Injuries and losing sent Gordon’s career in a tailspin, but now he’s found new life with the Rockets.
Token Gordon highlight:
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens
A lot of the time this award goes to a coach in the first year with his team, and this year will likely be no different. D’Antoni will probably win the award for getting a Rockets team that was the 2 seed just 2 years ago all the way to the 3 seed. It’s always the year to year jump in wins that stand out. Not the consistent improvement. D’Antoni gets to win thanks to the Rockets inconsistency. A lot of people will mention the argument that the Rockets lost Dwight Howard and brought in Anderson and Gordon and got better, but who would you rather have Howard or Anderson and Gordon? It’s not as if these players are garbage and somehow they’re winning.
Brad has improved his team every year, and now they’re the second best team in their conference. Stevens deserves this award, even if he won’t get it. I’d like to see him win it at some point in his career. This year seemed like his best chance, we’ll see how things play out in the future.
Token Stevens Highlight:
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
It has been a sensational season for Draymond. He’s 1st in steals per game and 13th in blocks per game. No other player in the top 10 for steals is even in the top 30 in blocks. He’s the defensive leader of the 2nd best team in defensive efficiency as well as the best team record wise in the NBA. The way he is able to guard both wings and centers makes him the most versatile defender in the entire NBA. (Just wait for the token Draymond highlight)
Green was in the running last year for this award and it would be a shame if he lost again to Leonard. You may not like Green when you’re team is playing him, but he’s a joy to watch when he’s someone else’s problem. He just has to cut down on the technicals.
Token Draymond highlight:
MVP: James Harden
You can’t go against James Harden at this point. Any voter that goes against Harden is being disingenuous. Last year Harden was left off all of the All-NBA teams despite putting up 29, 6, and 7 and voters said it was because he didn’t win enough. Now Harden is going to lose the MVP award to a player with a worse record than him? That would be ridiculous.
I’m not trying to diminish Westbrook’s amazing season, but you’re splitting hairs between them both. Harden is leading the league in assists and 2nd in points. Westbrook is 2nd in assists and leading the league in points. Harden is averaging assist, rebound, and point numbers that have only been done by Oscar Robertson. Westbrook is also averaging assist, rebound, and point numbers that haven’t been done since Oscar Robertson. We’ve established that both these guys are doing things that only Oscar Robertson has done, and Harden is winning more. Why vote for Westbrook?
People worry that if you don’t vote for Westbrook then you’re diminishing the triple double, but it’s the other way around. You’re giving the triple double too much value. You shouldn’t decide the MVP just based on a triple double. Again, both are doing things statistically that haven’t been done since Oscar Robertson. The achievements are nearly identical. You’re just valuing rebounding over winning if you’re voting for Westbrook. If Westbrook ends up winning and we look back on James Harden’s career and he never wins an MVP, voters will regret that more than not giving it to the guy that averaged a triple double. James Harden’s ridiculous season is more deserving than Russell Westbrook’s ridiculous season.
Token Harden highlight: