2017-18 Regular Season NBA Awards Picks

Most Valuable Player

  1. LeBron James
  2. James Harden
  3. Anthony Davis
  4. Damian Lillard
  5. Giannis Antetokounmpo

What else can I say, the King is still the King. When we talk about the MVP award, I tend to simply stick with who is the best and most valuable player. Did the Cavs struggle at times this season? Yes. Did the Rockets sail smoothly into the best record in the NBA? Yes. But is anyone doubting that the Rockets would be just as good or better with LeBron? I hope not. James Harden had an incredible season, and will likely win this award, but LeBron is the best player and should not be the underdog in this race.

Anthony Davis had a late season surge after the injury to Boogie Cousins that would probably put him higher in the running if it was over the entire season. Davis makes up for so many defensive deficiencies while also carrying the load on offense, he is consistently a MVP and DPOY candidate. Watching the Pelicans play is fun if only to see what Davis does for that team on both ends of the floor. If LeBron wasn’t an alien who will never get old, I’d give the MVP favorite next season to AD. Giannis came roaring out of the gates, but has stagnated over the past few months just as Damian Lillard began to light the West on fire and grab the 3 seed. As recently as March, I had Lillard off my ballot, but he continued to score when the Blazers needed him most, as well as really improving his defense. I’ve long been a critic, but he deserves props for taking the weakest area of his game and turning it into a strength.

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Anthony Davis
  2. Joel Embiid
  3. Rudy Gobert

Honorable Mention: Draymond Green

Joel Embiid and Rudy Gobert look very similar when they play defense. Other teams scheme around their presence, and you can tell players try to avoid them before they even arrive on the help side. It warps offenses and makes the entire game look different. They deserve consideration for the award, and one of them will likely win. Anthony Davis does the same thing, but it’s a bit harder to notice. That is partially because Gobert and Embiid play with teammates who are mostly good defenders. Rubio, Exum, Crowder are excellent defenders, and the rest of the Jazz roster is at least adequate. Covington, Saric, Simmons, and the rest of the 76ers might be even better on that end. Anthony Davis plays with Jrue Holiday and a bunch of guys who wouldn’t get minutes on either of those teams. And yet the Pelicans’ defense remains stout when Davis is on the court. The Brow has cut down on jumping at every fake, and he still leads the league in blocks – by a hefty margin too. He leads all centers in steals, and is 2nd behind only Thad Young if you include true power forwards (ie. not Ben Simmons-type wings who play nominal PF). Davis also carries a much larger role on offense than the other two, and played more than 800 more minutes than either of them. This added burden is hard work, and makes his defensive accomplishments even more impressive.

I want to give a special shout-out to Draymond Green for being the best defender in the league (no offense to Kawhi) when he is locked in. His anticipation, physicality, quick hands, and ability to know where the play is going seemingly before the offense is truly astounding. This would be his award if the Warriors, you know, tried all season.

Rookie of the Year

  1. Ben Simmons
  2. Donovan Mitchell
  3. Jayson Tatum

This was the hardest award for me to decide, mostly because I absolutely love Donovan Mitchell’s game. I decided that we should just give Ben Simmons the 2017 Rookie of the Year (sorry, not sorry Malcolm Brogdon) and let Donovan Mitchell win the 2018 Rookie of the Year. It seems like the most fair. Maybe they’ll just give them a tie like Grant Hill and Jason Kidd. Either way it goes, the next decade of these two (hopefully) having a rivalry is going to be great. Ben Simmons gets the nod from me for simply having more wins and a better chance to go far in the playoffs and not make me look dumb.

Jayson Tatum looks like the real deal. He hit a rookie slump after coming out hot, but there wasn’t really anyone pushing him for the 3 spot. Josh Jackson improved in an expanded role, and Dennis Smith has been explosive all season, but they are a tier below with the likes of John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball.

Coach of the Year
Popovich Yelling

  1. Tom Thibodeau Gregg Popovich
  2. Brad Stevens
  3. Dwane Casey

Who is the best coach in the NBA? The one who brought his team to a record 20 straight seasons with 50-plus wins (the same as the next best playoff streak in NBA history) and broke the streak by only winning 47 games in a loaded West after losing his 1st Team All-NBA star for the entire season. Gregg Popovich is the GOAT. Brad Stevens is making an argument to surpass Pop as the best coach in the NBA, but he’s not there yet. He did get his team more wins, but with substantially more talent. His out of bounds plays continue to amaze. No offense to the Bucks (who I honestly think have more talent in this matchup) they stand little chance of an upset. The coaching disparity is far too large for talent alone to overcome in the playoffs.

The final spot on this list was a huge pain. Quin Snyder led his team to finish 27-5, Mike D’Antoni put in the system that allowed the Rockets to flourish, Terry Stotts brought on a late season surge to the 3-seed, Brett Brown finally got rewarded for his years of tanktastic development, and Erik Spoelstra was solid as usual. After much back and forth, I went with the guy who won the most with the least talent. Dwane Casey built arguably the best bench in the league, got buy-in from his stars to relinquish some control, and brought a team that I thought had peaked to a new level. He gets the nod here.

Most Improved Player

  1. Victor Oladipo
  2. Joe Ingles
  3. Taurean Prince

This one was easy. I’ve long been a fan of Oladipo and just thought he needed the right role on the right team to become a good player. Instead, he became a great player. He went from decent rotational player to All-NBA caliber in the course of one plane trip away from Russell Westbrook¬†home to Indiana.

Joe Ingles and Taurean Prince narrowly edge out a large group of others who made a leap, mostly because it’s my choice and I just like these guys better. Others deserving looks include Jamal Murray, Brandon Ingram, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jaylen Brown, and Taj Gibson; the list could be much longer, and with an award like this, there’s not really any wrong answer. Joe Ingles is the classic team-first player who is always playing hard, knows exactly where to be, and always fills his role perfectly. I know that “deceptively athletic” is usually just code for “white guy” but in this case it’s actually true. He showed enough playmaking ability this season to be more than just the spot-up shooter we’ve seen in the past. Taurean Prince made a similar sophomore leap to a few others, but he had flashes that were just plain better than the other candidates. He’s also one of the few players that I’ve seen on a bad team that still locks in on defense when the season is essentially over – that deserves credit.

Sixth Man of the Year
lou williams

  1. Lou Williams
  2. Eric Gordon
  3. Patty Mills/Dejounte Murray

I don’t really like giving this award to a player who didn’t make a contribution to a playoff team, but the Clippers’ offense was awful when he was out. He was an absolute flamethrower all season, to the point where he almost made the all-star team (and would have in the East) off the bench. Eric Gordon was great as usual, and I almost gave him the nod, but his role is an easier one to fill. I think that has been shown by the rest of the Rockets bench succeeding. The final spot goes to whichever of the Spurs PGs you think is the backup. They both started about half the games, and I believe they’re both eligible. I’ll call it a tie. Spurs keep on Spursing.

All-NBA Teams

1st Team

G. James Harden
G. Damian Lillard
F. LeBron James
F. Giannis Antetokounmpo
C. Anthony Davis

2nd Team

G. DeMar DeRozan
G. Russell Westbrook
F. Kevin Durant
F. Lamarcus Aldridge
C. Karl-Anthony Towns

3rd Team

G. Chris Paul
G. Stephen Curry
F. Victor Oladipo
F. Jimmy Butler
C. Joel Embiid

This was one of the hardest seasons for me, due to injury and a bunch of really even play across much of the league. 1st Team was my top 5 MVP candidates. I gave DeRozan, Westbrook, and Towns 2nd team over Paul, Curry, and Embiid due to availability. The latter were better when they played, but you need to play. Kyrie Irving missed the Injury team 3rd team barely, and I had to fudge the positioning to sneak in Butler and Oladipo. Can someone tell the NBA we should just go positionless? Or at least change it to PG-Wing-Big so that we don’t need to skirt the rules to get players onto the correct teams. There were a handful of additional deserving candidates, but alas we can only vote for 15. I’m comfortable with where I landed.

All-Defense Teams

1st Team

G. Ricky Rubio
G. Dejounte Murray
F. Robert Covington
F. Anthony Davis
C. Joel Embiid

2nd Team

G. Ben Simmons
G. Chris Paul
F. Draymond Green
F. LeBron James
C. Rudy Gobert

Again – sorry for the positional change with Anthony Davis, but I’m not leaving one of 3 DPOY votes off an All-Defense team. Ricky Rubio was stellar again this season, and it finally showed up on the scoreboard when you surround him with not-terrible-at-defense teammates. Murray and Paul were both great, Murray gets the nod because he played more. Lonzo Ball would have made a team if he stayed healthy all season. Simmons ended the season as a terror on the defensive end, but he struggled early, and still gambles too much for my liking. Covington over Draymond Green was hard, but with the above-mentioned lack of effort during the season, I don’t feel bad about it. For the last forward spot: LeBron is LeBron.

All-Rookie Teams

1st Team

Donovan Mitchell
Ben Simmons
Jayson Tatum
Josh Jackson
Lauri Markkanen

2nd Team

Dennis Smith Jr.
Lonzo Ball
Bogdan Bogdanovic
Kyle Kuzma
John Collins

This is the first year that it was tough to leave players off the All-Rookie teams. This rookie class will go down as an all-timer. After the first 3 spots, any of the other players has a case for 1st team. Bam Adebayo, OG Onunoby, Josh Hart, Milos Teodosic, and Daniel Theis all have legitimate cases to be on this team – and all would have been 1st Team last season. When it came down to it, I went with the players who ended up having the biggest roles. It’s not perfect, but I think it gets the best players on there most of the time. On to the playoffs!

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