The finalists for each of the NBA Awards for this season were announced on Friday. So, I am going to rundown each of the finalists for each of the awards and make my predictions on who will win. In the past I wrote about my prediction for MVP, so instead of writing about it again (my opinion has not changed), you can find my MVP article here. Okay, now onto my predictions for the rest of the awards:
Rookie of the Year
- Malcolm Brogdon G Milwaukee Bucks – Brogdon averaged 10.2 points per game, 4.2 assists per game, and 2.8 rebounds per game in 75 games played. He also helped lead the Bucks to their third playoff appearance in the last 7 years.
- Joel Embiid C Philadelphia 76ers – Embiid averaged 20.2 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, although he only played 31 games this season due to an injury. Embiid shot well, making 46.6% of his field goals, but the 76ers only won 14 games with Embiid on the floor. He had a strong season, but his injury problems, and the 76ers’ struggle for wins may hamper his qualification as the rookie of the year selection.
- Dario Saric F Philadelphia 76ers – Saric averaged 12.8 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game while playing in all 81 games. The 76ers only won 28 games all season which could effect Saric’s qualifications as the rookie of the year. Despite the losses, Saric stepped up and played a large role in the 76ers’ frontcourt while Embiid was sidelined.
My Prediction: Malcolm Brogdon – In my opinion, Brogdon beats out the other candidates based on his success this season. Embiid played phenomenally, and his stats show that, but his averages are high because he only played 31 games. Brogdon played well, and his team succeeded. There are exciting things, and awards, coming from each of these players in the future, but based on this season, Brogdon takes home the award.
Most Improved Player of the Year
- Giannis Antetokounmpo F/PG Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis took the league by storm this year. The Greek Freak had a great year and helped the Bucks make the playoffs. He averaged 6 points per game higher than last year and recorded the highest win share for the Bucks this season. He also managed to land in the top 20 in field goals, rebounds, steals, blocks, player efficiency rating, and many other categories. Giannis’ heroics led the Bucks to nine more wins than last season and a trip to the playoffs.
- Nikola Jokic C Denver Nuggets – Despite Denver’s lackluster season, Jokic showed promise as a powerful center. Jokic found his way onto the leader boards in both offensive and defensive rebounding as well as overall rebounding. Jokic was also in the top 10 on field goal percentage for this season. Jokic has improved greatly since last season and look out for him to continue that rise in the next few years.
- Rudy Gobert C Utah Jazz – Gobert had a strong season averaging 14 points per game, 12.8 rebounds per game, and shot a stunning 66.2 field goal percentage which put him at second best in the league. Not only did Gobert have a strong season on both ends of the court, he also helped the Jazz get to the playoffs for the first time in the last five seasons. Gobert was also first in defensive win shares and second in overall win share.
My Prediction: Rudy Gobert – Gobert’s stellar season shows a lot of promise for the Utah Jazz and puts him in a good spot for likely recipient of Most Improved Player of the Year. Giannis and Jokic are definitely worthy of this award and each finalist posted significantly better numbers than last season, but Rudy Gobert deserves this award in my book.
Sixth Man of the Year
- Andre Iguodala F Golden State Warriors – It’s hard to shine off the bench when you play for the Warriors considering the starters are all superstars, but Iggy has found a way to impact the game coming off the bench. Iggy averaged 7.6 points per game in 76 games played. That is not stellar, but he shot 52.8% on 177 attempts scoring 574 points. While just playing 26.3 minutes per game, Iguodala managed to help the Warriors continue their championship run for the third straight year.
- Eric Gordon G Houston Rockets – Gordon came off the Rockets bench and managed to average 16.2 points per game in 75 games played. He shot 40.6% on 1016 field goal attempts and scored 1217 points. Gordon meshed into the Rockets’ high paced offense led by James Harden. Even with a star like Harden on the court, Gordon managed to excel on the court.
- Lou Williams G Houston Rockets – Williams only played 28 games with the Rockets this season because he was traded by the Lakers during the season. While on the Lakers, Williams played 58 games and averaged 18.6 points per game. After being traded, Williams averaged 14.9 points per game. While on the Lakers, Williams averaged more points while playing less minutes for the Lakers, and he shot 5.8% better on field goals while with the Lakers. If Williams had stayed with the Lakers all season, there is a chance he would have ended up getting a starting spot.
My Prediction: Eric Gordon – My selection is Eric Gordon because he played a key role in the Rockets offense coming off the bench. Gordon placed fourth on the leader boards this season in three pointers behind only the Splash Brothers and the star of his own team, James Harden. Williams and Iggy both played very well coming off the bench as well, but Gordon showed that he is a contender in the NBA without even starting a game. On almost any other team, Gordon is a starter, but on the Rockets he still plays a massive offensive role.
Defensive Player of the Year
- Draymond Green PF/C Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green had a fantastic season on defense this season. He ended second in steals, first in steals per game, third in limiting opponents shooting percentage (44%), and second in defensive rating. He also led the league in defensive box plus minus along with many other accomplishments. It is hard to quantify defensive impact, but Draymond Green proves to fans and players that he means business.
- Kawhi Leonard F San Antonio Spurs – Kawhi is hoping to win his third straight Defensive Player of the Year award and is a finalist for good reason. He finished the season eighth in steals and steals per game, ninth in defensive rating, and sixth in defensive win shares. Kawhi not only helped lead the Spurs to the playoffs, but made in impact felt when he went out with an injury. The Spurs have been impressive, but without Kawhi, they have been swept by the Warriors and outscored by 64 points in the Conference Finals.
- Rudy Gobert C Utah Jazz – Gobert had an impressive season defensively. He ended fourth in rebounds, first in blocks, first in defensive win shares, and third in defensive box plus minus. Gobert also led the league in limiting opponents to only 43.9% shooting at the rim. His defensive abilities helped take the Jazz to the playoffs, and Gobert showed his ability to defend in the paint. He managed to contest 14.2 shots per game for the Jazz this season.
My Prediction: Draymond Green – No three-peat for Kawhi this year. Draymond really excelled on defense this season to help the Warriors head to the playoffs, and possibly the finals. Green’s league leading defensive box plus minues and steals per game are just a glimpse into the defensive skills that Draymond has. As I said, it is difficult to quantify all the defensive skills a player can have, but just watching Green play shows his incredible ability to control a game on defense. For this reason, I pick him as the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year
- Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets – Under D’Antoni the Rockets finished with the third best record in the NBA this season at 55-27. The Rockets played great with their fast paced offense which led to scoring the most three pointers of any team. D’Antoni posted his third most wins in the regular season and in the playoffs this season. He also tied his third highest win percentage of his coaching career.
- Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs – Gregg Popovich is arguably the best coach in NBA history and this season added to his impressive resume. The Spurs finished 61-21. This is the second season that the Spurs have won 60 games and the 20th season making a playoff appearance. This mark ties Phil Jackson for most consecutive playoff appearances by a coach in the history of the NBA.
- Erik Spoelstra Miami Heat – Spoelstra and the Heat recorded an incredible 30-11 record after going 11-30 to start this season. The Heat may have only gone .500 this season, but they came back from 19 games down to reach that mark. Spoelstra’s down side was that he cataloged his second worst record of his career and missed the playoffs.
My Prediction: Mike D’Antoni – D’Antoni’s record setting season warrants him a Coach of the Year honor. The Rockets posted an impressive season that led them into the playoffs. This season also put James Harden into the MVP spotlight. It is hard to argue against Pop as Coach of the Year because of his legendary status, but D’Antoni showed he deserves the honor based on his record setting season and the impressive offensive abilities of James Harden and the rest of the Houston Rockets.
These are just my predictions based on this season’s statistics. Tune into the NBA Awards show which will air on June 26th on TNT to see the selections. The Awards show will be hosted by rapper Drake who will get to talk in front of tons of NBA players rather than into their ears while sitting courtside.