With only a few games remaining in the regular season, it’s time to predict the winners of the NBA’s awards. The League is always changing with new players breaking out each year and, as crazy as it seems, this is the last time in this article that I’ll be mentioning LeBron James.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
Most can agree that this race is between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, though Paul George’s amazing stretch in the middle of the season was certainly fun to watch.
On the surface level, this is a question of how impressed you are by Antetokounmpo’s two-way style of play versus how impressed you are by Harden’s complete offensive dominance over the entire NBA.
With a points-rebounds-assists-steals-blocks per game format, Giannis’s stat-line is 27.4-12.5-5.9-1.3-1.5 and Harden’s is 36.4-6.5-7.5-2.1-0.8.
As incredible as it is that Harden is scoring like we’ve only seen from Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, it’s important to remember that he’s doing so while taking 7.5 more attempts from the field in 4.5 more minutes per game than Antetokounmpo. One has to think that if those numbers equaled out, the scoring would (almost) follow suit.
With that approach and their offensive efforts becoming essentially equal (let’s say for the sake of comparison), then Antetokounmpo is the clear frontrunner for MVP given his defensive prowess.
The season has been an uphill battle for Harden, dealing with injuries to Chris Paul and Clint Capela, and a much less talented supporting cast then Antetokounmpo’s. What Harden has accomplished offensively has been incredible.
Fans often discredit Harden for his lack of effort on defense, with some videos of him not closing out shooters as their proof. All I say is you’re not second in steals in the NBA by being lazy.
Harden might be more the more valuable player to his team (and that may be the most important criterion for this award, but the NBA doesn’t always follow that rubric). However, I believe that Antetokounmpo’s performance throughout the year has made him a top three player on both ends of the court and, for this reason, he is my MVP.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)
I think Paul George is the best on-ball defender in the NBA. Come playoff time, he’s the last person I’d want guarding me. If he’s one pass away and someone throws a pass to his man, I’d bet the house that he’d steal the ball.
However, Antetokounmpo’s length is a nightmare for all offenses, whether he’s guarding the ball or protecting the rim.
As much as I wish their heights and wingspans were equal to make this a fairer discussion, all we can do is compare their performances side by side. I think Antetokounmpo’s defense is more of a game-changer for his team and, as a result, he will win the DPOY.
Rookie of the Year (ROY)
I’m very confused by the rise in support for Trae Young to win this award. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget about excellence because it’s been happening for so long.
Luka Doncic is the clear ROY and Young is right behind him in the race. Doncic has been playing with this triple-double style of play since day one of this season and is the most talented basketball player in this rookie class. Young, while putting up outstanding numbers for a rookie, broke out after the All-Star Break, making his per game stats even more intriguing. (In 20 games since then, he has averaged 25.1-4.6-9.3-0.7-0.1.)
Let it be known that Young was not silent for the first half of the season — he was playing at a second-place in ROY level. However, the fact that Doncic has looked like he’s been in the NBA for several years earns the Slovenian superstar my pick for ROY.
Sixth Man of the Year (SMOY)
This is another easy choice. Lou Williams has proven to be one of the most consistently effective offensive players in the league.
The Clippers’ guard is averaging 20.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. These are very similar numbers to those he put up last year, except he’s achieving these while playing six fewer minutes per game.
Williams will take home SMOY this season.
Most Improved Player (MIP)
My top two choices for MIP are De’Aaron Fox and Pascal Siakam.
Fox has improved defensively, becoming a steal threat. Scarily, for the rest of the NBA, he has become a much more efficient offensive player. His passing has improved and he is creating many more opportunities for his teammates, while scoring more on much higher shooting percentages.
Siakam had a true breakout year, improving in all the same categories, with much larger improvements in shooting the basketball. What stands out the most to me is that he has been the X factor for the Toronto Raptors and the reason they’re near the top of the Eastern Conference instead of in the middle of the pack.
Siakam’s improvements on both the offensive and defensive ends and his impact on his team’s success will earn him this year’s MIP.
Coach of the Year (COY)
Finally, someone has figured out how to coach Antetokounmpo and the rest of the Milwaukee Bucks. Thank you for that, Mike Budenholzer.
I’m not sure if Budenholzer’s success has been further highlighted by Jason Kidd’s shortcomings, but he has done an excellent job of working with the hand he has been dealt, taking his team to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Budenholzer’s main competition for this award is Mike Malone out of Denver. Not many fans expected the Nuggets to be within two games of the Warriors this late in the season.
The fact that Malone has accomplished this with only one star on his team is certainly impressive.
To me, this is a competition between who has the worse roster. If I were coaching, I’d want the Bucks’ roster over the Nuggets’.
For this reason, I am picking Malone as my COY, having achieved almost as much as Budenholzer but with less talent.