The NBA season is unfortunately over. All the drama, incredible plays, and long grind is over. Everything is OVER!
But it's actually not, because that means the playoffs are here. Before we get there, let's reflect on this historic season. It's time for some awards.
Most Improved Player
Throughout this NBA season, we may have had some hot takes over here. But giving this award to Spicy P isn't a hot take at all. No player made a bigger leap from last season than Pascal Siakam. His play not only elevated the Toronto Raptors ceiling, but it showed how much work he put in during the offseason.
An increase in minutes not allowed for Siakam to get into a better flow with his teammates, but he was able to show his new coach what he could bring to the table. Nick Nurse told him before the season that he needed to trust his jump shot a lot more than he did in year two. He took twice as many shots while still increasing his shooting percentage.
The addition of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green increased the spacing on the floor for this stretch-four. But his ability to rise to the level of his new teammates gave him the opportunity to improve drastically from last year to this year.
Defensive Player of the Year
Defensive Rebounds: 732
Defensive Box Plus/Minus: +5
It was a long and emotional season for Rudy Gobert. Upon being given the information that he was not going to be on the All-Star team, he broke down and had to leave his press conference. This is a guy who loves the game of basketball, and wears his heart on his sleeve. A trait found in most defensive minded players.
Picking between him and Myles Turner was like splitting hairs. In just about every defensive category they were both top five, alternating being first and second. But there were two statistics that stuck out; Defensive Rebounds, and Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
Forcing turnovers is huge when it comes to winning tightly contested games, and a defensive rebound is no different then a turnover. Gaining that possession and getting your team back on offense is huge, and Gobert did it exponentially better than Turner. Both of these guys had great seasons and both helped their team get the fifth seed in their conference. The voting may be closer than any other award.
Sixth Man of the Year
Minutes Per Game: 26.6
Points Per Game: 20
Assists Per Game: 5.4
Free Throw Percentage: 88%
This award isn't really even fair at this point. Lou Williams has been in the league for 13 years and he is still putting up big numbers. The only difference is that he is doing it in less minutes on the floor with every year he's played. The already two-time winner of the award will most likely make it three.
He averaged playing just over half of each game and still managed to be the Los Angeles Clippers leading scorer. Talk about efficiency. As Lou went, the Clippers went. In their 47 wins, he contributed to an Offensive Rating of 117. In their 28 losses, that number was all the way down to 104.
Lou not only contributed to his team off the bench, but his play determined most nights whether they won or lost. And with the Clippers making the playoffs, it makes the burden he carried look that much more impressive.
Rookie of the Year
Points Per Game: 21.2
Assists Per Game: 6
Rebounds Per Game: 7.8
First of all, let's give it up for Trae Young. He got off to a very slow start to the season, but still played in more games and scored more points than Luka, and was second in the NBA in assists. However, this award takes into account the entire season. And Luka Doncic controlled the race for a majority of the season.
Doncic just flat out impacted the game in more ways than Trae did. He was a more efficient shooter, was a great rebounder, and logged 8 triple-doubles. Early on in the season, it seemed as if this would've been a unanimous choice. But Trae's clutch plays and incredible scoring feats will make it a tight race among the voters.
It's all about perspective and narrative when it comes to this stuff. If the voters are swayed by emotion then they may vote for Trae. If they are more analytical in their decisions then they will go with Luka. Either way, we'll be sitting on the right side of history with our vote.
Most Valuable Player
In just about every scoring category, you're going to see James Harden at the top. No player has averaged more points per game than James Harden in a single season besides Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. But this is an award for the most Valuable player to his team, not the most Outstanding player in the league. And we don't do Co-MVP's, that doesn't even make sense.
The Milwaukee Bucks, with new head coach Mike Budenholzer, ended the season with the best record in the NBA of 60-22. And the best player on the best team was Giannis Antetokounmpo. He was number one in the league in terms of Player Efficiency Rating (a measure of per-minute production) with 30.9. To put that into perspective, the league average is 15, and Harden (who touched the ball more than anyone else in the league) carried a 30.8.
Giannis averaged a double-double with 27.7 points per game and 12.5 rebounds. He shot an incredible 58% from the field. He scored more points than he ever has while playing the least amount of minutes since his 2014 season. His play led to the most double digit wins in the NBA, and the most since the 73 win Golden State Warriors.
His play was not only great, but it was dominant. No disrespect to All-Star reserve Khris Middleton, but this was his second best player all season on a 60 win team. And take into account the fact that the Bucks won every season series against every Eastern Conference opponent, the dominance can not be denied.
Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the 2018-2019 Most Valuable Player.
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