The NBA regular season is now officially over so now it’s time to hand out the yearly awards. This season has been full of historic individual performances and multiple players having breakout seasons.
The great individual performances this season has made picking awards more difficult than usual, especially the MVP. This years MVP race has been one of the closest and most compelling in recent memory with four candidates all having great cases for the award.
This season has been an historic one, especially in terms of individual statistical performances and has been an overall great one. So, without further ado, here are my picks for this years major awards.
All stats are accurate as of before the games on Wednesday, April 12.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
This pick was an extremely difficult one. I’ve gone back-and-forth between Westbrook and James Harden countless times over the course of the season and even still over the past few weeks. Harden has had an incredible and historic season in his own right and Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James have had great seasons as well but Westbrook’s season has just felt on another level.
As everyone knows, Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the season putting up a league leading 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. He also recorded 42 triple-doubles this season, breaking the 55 year old record held by Oscar Robertson who had 41 in the 1961-62 season. His triple-doubles also had a direct impact on winning as the Thunder had a record of 33-9 (78.6 win percentage) in games where Westbrook recorded a triple-double.
On the advanced stats side of things, the Thunder’s net rating with Russell Westbrook on the court is a plus-3.3 and have a net rating of a minus-9.2 with him on the bench, meaning the Thunder are 12.5 points better per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the court, according to NBA.com. Westbrook also ranks No. 1 in PER at 30.8, box plus-minus at 15.7, offensive box plus-minus at 11.0 and value over replacement at 12.4, according to basketball-reference.com.
There is the argument of wins and his efficiency not being great but at the end of the day Russell Westbrook’s season is the one we’ll remember and be talking about for years to come.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
This years rookie class hasn’t been a very good one and there isn’t any great candidates for this award since Joel Embiid went down and finished the season only playing 31 games, which isn’t enough for me to give him the award for. So since Embiid doesn’t qualify for me, I’m going to go with Brogdon.
Brogdon leads all rookies in assists with 4.2 per game and steals with 1.1 per game to go along 10.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Brogdon is also shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from three and is a solid defender.
He has been a consistent contributor and has played a role on a playoff team this year which few other rookies have done and he’s been the best of that group.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
This award is pretty much down to two players, Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert, but I’m going with Draymond Green. Green is the most versatile defender in the NBA, guarding all five positions, and anchors the leagues second rated defense according to defensive rating.
He leads the league in steals at 2.0 per game and ranks 14th in blocks at 1.4 per game (he’s the only player averaging at least those numbers). He also ranks first in defensive rating among players playing 20-plus minutes per game at 99.3, according to NBA.com, and defensive box plus-minus at 4.9 and second in defensive win shares at 5.4, according to basketball-reference.com.
Draymond has the numbers, individually and team wise, and his versatility on the defensive end makes him the most impactful defender in the NBA and I think that makes him this years DPOY.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
This award usually goes to whichever bench player shoots the most and scores the most points but this year, I think Andre Iguodala deserves it.
Iguodala doesn’t put up huge numbers, averaging just 7.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, but he does all the things the Warriors need him to do and he’s been very good at it. He’s shooting an efficient 52.8 percent from the field and a solid 36.2 percent from three and only turns the ball over 0.8 times per game and is a key component in the Warriors second rated defense. Iguodala has probably been the best sixth man in the league the past few years so it’s probably time we give him the award.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
This award has some other candidates that deserve some consideration like Nikola Jokic and Otto Porter but neither of those players made the type of leap Antetokounmpo made this season. Giannis’ per game numbers have all gone up in points (16.9 to 22.9), rebounds (7.7 to 8.7), assists (4.3 to 5.4), steals (1.2 to 1.6), blocks (1.4 to 1.9), field goal percentage (50.6 to 52.2), three point percentage (25.7 to 27.2) and free throw percentage (72.4 to 77.0).
His boost in production isn’t just a result from increased minutes as Antetokounmpo averages just 0.3 more minutes per game than last season and all of his per 100 possession numbers have gone up as well. He’s also been the driving force behind the Bucks making the playoffs this season as a 6-seed despite Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker missing games.
Other players have made big jumps this year but Antetokounmpo’s jump from good player to great player was the most impressive one made this season.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets
When the Rockets announced the hiring of Mike D’Antoni this past offseason, many (including myself) questioned the hire and didn’t have much confidence D’Antoni would have success in Houston. But as we’ve seen, he’s been wildly successful this season, taking the Rockets from a 41-41, 8-seed team to a 55-27, 3-seed team. He also propelled James Harden into MVP consideration again leading the leagues second ranked offense.
There are a handful of candidates that you could give this award to including Gregg Popovich, Brad Stevens, Quin Snyder, Scott Brooks and Erik Spoelstra, who all have great cases but I think D’Antoni’s work in Houston stands out the most.
EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
Bob Myers is also a deserving candidate here after signing Kevin Durant over the offseason but I’ve decided to go with Morey. Morey brought in Mike D’Antoni (who I just picked as my COY) to pair with Harden which worked out beautifully. He also took gambles on Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in free agency which turned out to be smart moves, signed Nene whose been a solid role player and made the move for Lou Williams at the deadline to bolster the bench.
While Myers made the big splash of the offseason, Morey made smaller yet smart moves that took the Rockets from a .500 team last season that barely made the playoffs to a 55 win team that was one of the best teams in the league this season.