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May 23, 2024

2023–2024 NBA awards: It keeps getting tougher

By JOSH FELTON | April 23, 2024

luka-doncic-and-nikola-jokic-51916142031

ERIK DROST / CC BY 2.0

In what has somehow gotten even harder every season, Josh Felton shares his selections for the 2024 NBA Awards.

With the NBA regular season ending last week, it’s time to make my annual award selections. This year, the NBA made award selections positionless, which in theory should make it easier for voters to make a decision. But does it? 

Does this put guards at a disadvantage to earn the most prestigious defensive awards? How does the minimum games requirement help or hurt the cases of deserving candidates who decided to play through injury to meet the threshold?

Here are my selections.

Rookie of the Year: Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio Spurs)

This might be the easiest selection of all. Wembanyama is having one of the greatest rookie seasons we’ve ever seen. He became the first rookie to score 1,500 points, block at least 250 shots and hit 100 3-point shots in a single season. 

His 21.4 points per game and 10.6 rebounds is the highest for a rookie in over a decade and his 3.6 blocks per game is second to only David Robinson amongst rookies historically.

To add to his case, Wembanyama has played like a top five defender. He’s second in defensive player of the year (DPOY) odds because his 7 foot 4 inch frame makes him the league’s best rim protector. 

The Spurs defense is five points better when he’s on the floor, which is a signal you’d typically see of DPOY candidates. If the Spurs were a better team, he’d probably win even more awards. His rookie season is one for the history books.

Coach of the Year: Joe Mazzulla (Boston Celtics)

The Boston Celtics have arguably the most talented roster in the league, which, to many, disqualifies Mazzulla from coach of the year consideration; however, it’s not easy maximizing the ability of a team. 

In a YouTube video, I highlighted the way Mazzulla has used Kristaps Porziņģis offensively and Jrue Holiday defensively to make the Celtics basically unstoppable in the regular season.

The Celtics have so much talent, but it’s remarkable how they’re able to utilize this talent to counter basically every defensive approach. 

It starts with Porziņģis, but it doesn’t end there. Mazzulla has done a remarkable job at integrating the new players and making this team look like a cheat code at times.

Sixth Man of the Year: Malik Monk (Sacramento Kings)

It’s hard to express just how valuable Malik Monk is to the Kings’ offense. He averages 15 points and five assists, but even that doesn’t do him justice. At just under 26%, his usage rate is extremely high for a sixth man.

His offensive load, which is an even better representation of his involvement in Sacramento’s offense, reaches superstar levels when De'Aaron Fox goes to the bench. 

Without him, it’s hard to say where the Kings would be. His playmaking and secondary creation really make a huge difference.

Most Improved Player: Coby White (Chicago Bulls)

When DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine went down in the regular season, White was called upon to take a larger on-ball creator role. He delivered in a big way. I highlighted how he has improved in this aspect, which seems like it is going under the radar when this award is discussed. 

While some most improved player candidates simply had a change in role that dictated the change in their stats, Coby has tremendously improved in many aspects of his game that he struggled mightily in when he entered the league — one of which is pick-and-roll operating, one of the most important yet difficult skills to have and develop as a guard.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert (Minnesota Timberwolves)

For years, Gobert has been a frontrunner for this award, but he often has been questioned in the postseason because of his previous team’s shortcoming — which, often, were not his fault. 

Since coming to Minnesota, however, the Timberwolves have surrounded him with competent wing defenders and the results have been tremendous.

Gobert is the anchor of the league’s best defense. He is an elite isolation defender and pick-and-roll defender, ranking near the top of the league in those aspects. His rim protection value goes without saying

Now that he has team defenders that can contain dribble penetration, the Timberwolves have looked like one of the greatest defenses in NBA history, relative to era. 

They are the first team since the 2020 Milwaukee Bucks to be at least six points better than league average defensively — a remarkable number that only 32 teams in the history of basketball can say.

Most Valuable Player: Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets)

It’s crazy to think that Nikola Jokić is replicating his incredible season last year, but it’s happening. His scoring rate is higher than it was last year, and while the efficiency is down, it is still elite for someone of his volume. 

The Nuggets have posted a 124 offensive rating when he’s on the floor this season. Without him, that number drops to 107. A 17-point swing on offense is absolutely absurd and is just one of many reasons why he is the premier offensive player in the game.

Him and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are the most efficient volume scorers in the league and Jokić is the best passer in the league, which is why his value is so high. 

Last year, I claimed that Jokić, with a larger playoff sample, could establish himself as one of the top-five offensive players ever. Not only did he have a postseason for the ages, but he’s made a strong case to be the greatest offensive player we’ve ever seen. 

It’s certainly not hyperbole, and with another MVP to his name, he would join a list of eight players with at least 3 MVPs — special company for such a special player.

All-NBA first team: Luka Dončić, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Brunson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokić 

All-NBA second team: Jayson Tatum, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis

All-NBA third team: Stephen Curry, Anthony Edwards, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Domantas Sabonis

All-Defensive first team: Alex Caruso, Herb Jones, Victor Wembanyama, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert

All Defensive second team: Jalen Suggs, Derrick White, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jarrett Allen, Bam Adebayo


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