These award predictions will give me grey hair. These predictions were not made lightly, and a case for any of the candidates can be properly argued and I would not disagree with you. One thing is clear: what a phenomenal year for basketball.
Rookie of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks.
With all of my heart, I wanted to give this award to Joel Embiid. There technically is no minimum games requirement necessary to be eligible for this award – let alone to win it – but it just isn’t right. Had Embiid been able to play 60 games or an amount near that, I would be perfectly happy giving Embiid the award. However, Embiid was not able to stay healthy for enough time.
That’s not to say Malcolm Brogdon isn’t deserving of the award himself. Brogdon, the 36th pick in the 2016 draft, was undeniably consistent, making his impact even before the season started. A feel-good story of being able to find gold at any spot in the draft, being the 36th pick in the draft, Brogdon has no business being in the discussion for rookie of the year. Brogdon, however, has made the award all about him, making a big impact on a team that is bound for the playoffs.
Other candidates: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers. Dario Saric, Philadelphia 76ers.
Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets.
You might see the Rockets mentioned on here a few times (spoiler alert). Flying way under the radar, operating in the massive shadow cast by James Harden, is Eric Gordon, formerly of the New Orleans Pelicans. Gordon isn’t exactly acclimated to coming off the bench in his career. However, in his first season coming off the bench rather exclusively, Gordon set the record for three-pointers made by a reserve. Gordon has been especially vital to a Rockets team that wasn’t supposed to be as good as they are.
Other candidates: Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors. Lou Williams, Houston Rockets.
Most Improved Player: Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics.
You know we went through a great season when the first three predictions I have made have all been tightly contested. It is very, very tough to give this award to Thomas instead of Giannis Anteotokunmpo, who was top-5 on his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. However, we have Isaiah Thomas, the 5’9” (if that) point guard who has been told his entire life that he wouldn’t make it. Thomas lead the Celtics team to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, overcoming the defending champions in the process. Thomas inserted himself into the MVP conversation and should rightfully finish top-10 in that race, too, and number one in this one.
Other candidates: Giannis Anteotokunmpo, Milwaukee Bucks. Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz.
Another tightly-contested award race, Gobert takes the crown, but just narrowly. It’s hard to argue the impact Gobert had on a massively-resurgent Jazz squad as Gobert ranked in the top-two in both Offensive Win Shares and Defensive Win Shares in the NBA. The Jazz have the third-ranked defense in the NBA, anchored by the Stifle Tower. He holds his opponents to 55.8% shooting in the paint, by far the lowest percentage of any center in the NBA.
Other candidates: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets.
Moving James Harden from shooting guard to point guard responsibilities is reason enough for giving D’Antoni this award. Not only is Harden orchestrating D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense in a fantastic way (leading the league in assists), but he is also scoring and rebounding at a career clip. Adding pieces like Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon along the way have helped make this Houston Rockets team the third seed in the Western Conference, a feat no one predicted at the beginning of the season.
Other candidates: Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat. Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics.
Executive of the Year: Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors.
Alright, so the Warriors may have gotten snubbed on the Defensive Player of the Year front, as well as the Sixth Man of the Year front, but not here. It is hard to give this award to a man not named Daryl Morey, but Myers and the franchise as a whole are incredibly deserving. It might sound silly at first, but it’s not the easiest feat in the world to pry a prior MVP from the team he’s spent his entire career playing for and throwing him into what was already the best regular season team of all-time. Myers managed to do so, and the Warriors have thrived, achieving the number one seed in the Western Conference yet again.
Other candidates: Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets. Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors.
Most Valuable Player: ???, ???
This award deserves an entire article in it of itself, so look out for that article coming out tomorrow. Spoiler alert, it’s between Russell Westbrook and James Harden. No offense, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard.