Co-MVP: Russell Westbrook & James Harden
Accuse me of taking the easy way out, but I’ve already covered how you can’t split a hair between the trip and why we have no other choice but to give them both the award in my earlier post.
Just fell short: Kawhi Leonard (explained in next category)
Defensive Player Of The Year: Kawhi Leonard
It would be a bit of a travesty if Kawhi went home without some kind of individual award after the magnificent season he had. If not for the history-altering seasons Westbrook sadness Harden both had, Kawhi would be much more involved in the conversation for MVP.
Kawhi’s breakthrough came on the offensive end this year, demolishing his previous career high in scoring and becoming the first clear cut go-to scorer in the Spurs’ famous spread-the-ball system since the young Tim Duncan days. But it was his notorious defense that scares the rest of the league. Those hands could black out the sun, and have done so for even the best of players. For the third consecutive season, Kawhi was clearly the guy offensive players didn’t want guarding them.
Just fell short: Rudy Gobert
Rookie Of The Year: Dario Saric
It’s been a dire year for this award. The top two even worth considering for the award weren’t even from this year’s draft. And the third name, Malcolm Brogdon, though a solid young player, does not exude any sort of potential to be even a borderline all-star in this league.
Between the two Sixers, Embiid is by far the more exciting, and resembles more of the typical franchise building block. The only problem, and a big one, is that, even after sitting out the entire first two seasons of his career, he wasn’t on the floor for even half this season.
Saric, once given the opportunity, showed he was be far the best talent on the Sixers after Embiid. He’s stayed healthy, and even kept the Sixers winning more than their usual rate when Embiid was out. He’s a capable scorer inside and out, and is another in a new breed of tall forward/centres with great passing vision and skill. Embiid is still the better player, but Saric wins this by measure of games played and full season contribution.
Just fell short: Joel Embiid
Most Improved Player: Nikola Jokic
Most will say Giannis Antetonkoumpo here, but my argument is that grew was already a full time starter last year and towards the we’d already seen how good he was. With Jokic, his ascent into a top 10 centre in the league comes as more of a surprise. We saw some good performances and potential in him last year, but he’s just taken over as the franchise player of the Nuggets. He’s their best scorer, rebounder, passer, playmaker, and Denver just can’t get anything going whenever he’s off the floor.
Just fell short: Giannis Antetonkoumpo
Sixth Man Of The Year: Lou Williams
Before he joined his main competition for this award on the Rockets, Lou was having a career season off the bench, even if it was for the hapless Lakers. He’s become the prototypical sixth man for the league, a guy who comes off the bench to provide instant scoring, can setup teammates, and injects energy. Even on the Rockets, he’s at times proven to be a more impactful boost off the bench than Eric Gordon.
Just fell short: Eric Gordon
Coach Of The Year: Mike D’Antoni
You could be tempted to say it was all Harden, but it was the coach who made the decision to let The Bearded One run the point, and played the perfect system around him. D’Antoni has proven before that when given the right set of players, his offense works wonders.
All-NBA 1st Team:
Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, James Harden
All-NBA 2nd Team:
Karl Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetonkoumpo, John Wall, Steph Curry
All-NBA 3rd Team:
Rudy Gobert, Demar Derozan, Gordon Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, Jimmy Butler
Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul