We have reached the end of the NBA regular season and the finalists for each award has been announced. Below, I will give my take on who should win each award and why.
Most Improved Player
This years nominees are Jerami Grant from the Detroit Pistons, Michael Porter Jr. from the Denver Nuggets, and Julius Randle from the New York Knicks. For me, the winner of this award is obvious and that is not a knock on the 2 runner ups. Julius Randle my unanimous winner. When the Knicks signed him, he was made out to be the laughing stock of the NBA. We aren’t laughing anymore. Randle and his Knicks are the #4 seed in the east in a year that they were projected to be last, Randle has made himself a household name, and The Knicks are getting back to being a respectable franchise.
Defensive Player of the Year
Defensive player of the game is made for dogs. They are usually the players on their team that is assigned to the best player each night. The nominees are Draymond Green from the Golden State Warriors, Rudy Gobert from the Utah Jazz, and Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. This year I have the award going to Ben Simmons. He improved his game with Doc Rivers this year. He has found his role on the team that highlight his skill set.
6th Man of the Year
For the first man coming off the bench playing like a starter. This to me is the second most important award right behind the MVP. Having a player that can play like a 6th starter spells trouble for teams trying to defend them. For this award we have Jordan Clarkson from the Utah Jazz, Joe Ingles also from the Utah Jazz, and Derrick Rose from the New York Knicks. This one is difficult to make a decision because you can make a case for all 3 of them. I am going to pick the person who has stepped their game up the most as my winner though. I am going with Jordan Clarkson. This man has found his fit in Utah.
Coach of the Year
Coach of the year is the most difficult award to choose this year. I honestly can say that all 3 coaches this year deserve it for different reasons. We will start with Quin Snyder from the Utah Jazz. He led this team to the best record in the western conference and the number 1 seed when all of the critics picked at least 6 teams ahead of them in preseason rankings. Tom Thibodeau from the New York Knicks. The Knicks were supposed to be the laughing stock of the NBA. Instead, Thibodeau has them as the 4 seed in the eastern conference playoffs and has 2 players nominated for 2 different awards. Last but not least we have Monty Williams from the Phoenix Suns. The same argument that was made for Snyder can be made here. The preseason rankings showed this team behind the likes of the Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks, Trail Blazers, Etc. but they showed everyone they were owed respect. For this award, I have to go with Monty Williams. I thinks we expected much less out of the Suns this year and they deserve to be recognized for their accomplishment.
Rookie of the Year
For me being a Hornets fan, this was the easiest decision to make. Even if I remove my personal fandom, I would make the same pick. For this award we have Lamelo Ball from the Charlotte Hornets, Anthony Edwards from the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Tyrese Haliburton from the Sacramento Kings. Although Haliburton and Edwards made decent impacts on their teams, neither of them made the impact on the franchise like Ball did. Hornets basketball became exciting again. The biggest thing that made Ball stand out was the fact that he was injured for 21 games and still led rookies in stats. My pick for this award if it wasn’t clear is Lamelo Ball.
Time for the MVP. This award is the trickiest one to give out. Our nominees are Steph Curry from the Golden State Warriors, Joel Embiid from the Philadelphia 76ers, and Nikola Jokić from the Denver Nuggets. Much like the 6th man and coach of the year, I can make cases for all 3. Steph did Steph things and carried the Warriors on his back in a season where he didn’t have a consistent second scorer. Locking up the scoring title, he led this team to being 1 game away from being in the playoffs. Embiid, the all star that led the 76ers to having the 1 seed in the eastern conference playoffs. Then you have Jokić averaging 26 points and 11 rebounds a game and leading his team into the playoffs after his running mat Jamal Murray was done for the season with a torn ACL. With all of this laid out, as hard as it is to make the decision, I will have to give this award to Nikola Jokić this year because of his consistency.