The NBA playoffs are in full-swing and making me very anxious. I can’t handle writing about all the blowouts and lost leads, so let’s talk about the upcoming NBA Awards. They’re coming up on June 25th and I’ve been thinking about who I would choose as the winner in each category. Let’s talk.
Sixth Man of the Year
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
*My pick: Lou Williams
Look, if it’s in a Drake song, I go with it.
Just kidding, but I really do think Lou Williams deserves the Sixth Man award. Williams came off the bench for the Clippers, but was easily their most valuable player. He led the team in both points and assists, two things that are pretty imperative in basketball. He’s an incredible weapon offensively, and helped a not-so-great Clipper team win games. He’s won the award once before, and it’s looking good for him again this year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
*My pick: Rudy Gobert
The Stifle Tower, man. The Jazz were significantly worse before Gobert returned to the lineup in the winter. He’s absolutely relentless near the basket and is unafraid to contest every single shot. After his return, Utah allowed the fewest field goal attempts in the restricted area. Their opponents weren’t even trying to score near the rim if Gobert was around.
He averaged 10.7 rebounds, .8 steals and 2.3 blocks per game, as well.
Most Improved Player of the Year
Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets
Clint Capela, Houston Rockets
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
*My pick: Victor Oladipo
It’s just gotta be Oladipo. I feel like this is going to a unanimous decision. Everyone thought that OKC was getting the waaaaay better deal when they got Paul George from Indiana for Oladipo and Sabonis. I definitely thought that. The Pacers won 48 games in the regular season and took a team led by LeBron James to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s no secret that Oladipo had much to do with the team’s success. He averaged career-highs in, well, everything. He doubled his number of steals, and increased his points per game by over 7. Oladipo clearly worked extremely hard before the season to change his game – he looked stronger, faster (how is that even possible???), and more aggressive. Perhaps he was playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but he’s now beyond beloved in Indiana. If he doesn’t win, someone’s gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do.
Rookie of the Year
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
*My pick: Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell is my choice, though this one is super tricky. Offensively speaking, there’s no question – it’s Mitchell, hands down. He averaged 20.5 points per game and shot 34% from behind the arc. He beat Damian Lillard’s previous record of most 3-pointers made by a rookie with 186 made.
As a rookie, Mitchell was his team’s go-to guy – that’s a lot of pressure for a rookie. The fact that he was the guy means the opposing defenses M.O. was to prevent him from scoring, yet he still averaged over 20 points a game. Simmons has more to offer as far as defense goes, thanks to his size, but Mitchell has been able to perform and finish games time after time.
Coach of the Year
Dwane Casey, Toronto Raptors
Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz
*My pick: Brad Stevens
Dwane Casey was voted by his peers as Coach of the Year (and then was fired, awkward), but Brad Stevens is my choice.
Mark already wrote a great piece on Stevens for Coach of the Year, so I’ll just say this – the fact that Stevens has been able to adjust to all of the lineup changes and injuries is incredible. Gordon Hayward going down in the first minutes of the season was devastating, but the Celtics played on. Many people (myself included) thought Kyrie Irving’s injury would be the end of the Celtics playoff run, but again, we find them in the Eastern Conference finals battling LeBron.
Stevens is a damn good coach.
Most Valuable Player of the Year
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
James Harden, Houston Rockets
Anthony Davis, New Orlean Pelicans
*My pick: LeBron James
LeBron James is in his 15th year in the league. He didn’t miss a single game this season and continues to put up record numbers. He’s averaging 27.5 points per game, 8.6 rebounds, and 9.1 assists. His field goal percentage is 54.2% on the season and 36.7% from three.
Last season, the Cavaliers were a much stronger team overall, and somehow they still managed to finish the season with 50 wins. This is because LeBron James is a freak of nature.
He works harder than anyone else in the league, and it’s clear. His control over the game and ability to enhance his teammates’ performances is unparalleled. He’s like the f*cking Rain Man of the NBA. When LeBron decides he’s going to win, he finds a way to make it happen again and again. The Eastern Conference Finals are now tied at 2-2, after Boston started the series at 2-0, and James is to thank for that. He’s already had 6 40+ point games in this post-season alone.
James Harden is probably going to win and yes, he’s incredible and yes, his season has been amazing. But what James has done and continues to do in his 15th year in the league, on this team makes him the MVP to me.