Last week, the NBA announced that seeding games will not be considered in awards voting. With the Thunder scrimmages wrapping up and the final push to the Playoffs about to begin, we figured it is the perfect time to make our picks for the NBA Awards.
Let’s start with the big one: Giannis or LeBron for MVP?
Bobby Howard: Make no mistake: LeBron’s regular season has been a return to MVP form. However, a real case could be made that Anthony Davis has taken the reins as the best player on the Lakers. Remove Giannis from the Bucks and Milwaukee is just another decent Eastern Conference team that shoots threes and moves the ball well. The Greek Freak will go back-to-back.
Jack Foster: As much as I dislike back-to-back MVPs, it’s gotta be Giannis. He’s as unstoppable in the paint as ever, and has made significant strides with his jumper. His ability to pull-up from the top of the key has been the difference in quite a few games. He’s also shooting 30.6% from three on almost five attempts per game, easily the best in his career.
Clemente Almanza: It should be Giannis. Best player on the best team this season, that simple. LeBron will get a run at it for leading the big market Lakers to the top seed in the West but at the end of the day, Giannis should be winning his second MVP in as many seasons.
Josh Callaway: I think it’ll probably go to Giannis. Has the best record and, unlike LeBron, does not have another MVP-level player on his team.
Jesse Crittenden: MVP is always a subjective award and the winner is usually evaluated on different criteria. But this year, it’s Giannis. Plain and simple. The Bucks have dominated the league and the engine is Giannis on both ends of the floor.
Will Chris Paul make an All-NBA Team? If so, which?
Cody Beat: With Injuries to big names like Steph, Klay, and Kyrie it seems like CP3 has a chance to make a team. Locks are Harden and Doncic — the remaining four could be any grouping of CP3, Russ, Dame, Trae, Butler, Kemba, Lowry, or Simmons. I’d say he makes one of the 3rd Team slots.
Clemente Almanza: Definitely. Paul has the narrative, stats and team record to show for it. While his box score and per-game averages look casual, advanced metrics and value stats LOVE Paul this season. The narrative is perfect for him and that really plays a huge factor when it comes to these types of accolades. A rejuvenated Paul leading arguably the most overachieving team this season to a respectable record thanks to his clutch play is one hell of a story that the media will love to talk about in this story-driven league. This season has been Paul’s redemption arc. Paul should be an All-NBA 3rd team guard and ahead of a guy like Russell Westbrook.
Josh Callaway: I actually do think CP3 sneaks onto the All-NBA 3rd team. There are not six guards having a better season than Chris this season — no Steph Curry and no Kyrie Irving help with that. Plus, beyond just his clutch time numbers, he’s leading the charge on one of the biggest surprise teams in the league. He is having a career-rejuvenation type of season and I think that storyline surrounding him helps land a spot on the Third Team.
Jesse Crittenden: CP3 has been a top-five guard in the league this season and the media has taken notice. His per-game numbers don’t jump off the page, but he’s the leader of a team that has wildly exceeded expectations. My guess is he’ll make the 3rd Team, but he definitely has a shot for the 2nd Team.
Bobby Howard: While the over-dramatic commercial above is about a Buick, it could apply to this season’s CP3 renaissance. In returning to the city where he began his career, Paul completely overhauled his diet and attitude, turning a situation many saw as potentially toxic into one of his best yet. He’ll most likely land on the 3rd Team, but don’t be shocked if it winds up a spot higher on the 2nd Team.
Dennis is OKC’s 6th Man of the Year, but will he actually win The Award? If Not, which player will snub our favorite German?
Bobby Howard: As much as I believe that Dennis is the clear-cut 6th Man of the Year, it is hard to shake the feeling that Lou Williams or Montrez Harrell will be getting this one. In the hierarchy of NBA Awards, I think 6th Man is probably one of the bigger afterthoughts. Will the voters go with the guy on the second-best team in the West that has won it three of the past five seasons, or the guy who did most of his work on NBA League Pass? I’ll go with Schroder, but am preparing for disappointment.
Jack Foster: The general consensus seems to be Schröder or Montrezl Harrell, and Schröder gets my vote. He leads all bench players in scoring with 19 points per game. But more importantly, his defensive play has been vastly improved. If you need more convincing, he has been one of the best players in the league in terms of efficiency. The perfect summary of why he should get the award is his steal/layup to beat Boston in the Garden prior to the shutdown.
Clemente Almanza: This is a huge toss-up for me. But ultimately I think the voters get it right and give it to Schroder. Lou Williams might win it on reputation alone, but Schroder has been having a career season off the bench for the Thunder and has shown to be one of the best scoring and playmaking bench players in the league. Better yet, he’s done it efficiently — a previous criticism of Dennis.
Dillon Young: I’ll be the first to admit, I let my heart pick these kinds of things. You really think I’m not going with Dennis Schroder? It’s actually so impressive that Dennis, the third-best point guard on the team, has flourished so much this season. The three-point-guard lineup, that so many lauded to start the season, became one of the most effective in the NBA. Schroder’s improvement on defense also played a big part in his 6MOY campaign. Dennis, in his role, came up big in clutch moments for a team that has out-performed people’s expectations. And he looked like a superstar doing it.
Kade Kimble: Because I am a Thunder fan — I would love for Schröder to win it. Unfortunately, Lou Williams will likely win it again. His reputation is better than Schröder’s and the Clippers are four games up on OKC in the standings — which only strengthens Lou’s case for the hardware.
Assuming the Fake News media doesn’t put Lu Dort up for Defensive Player of the Year, who do you have taking It Home?
Clemente Almanza: The safe pick is Giannis. While defensive stats, in general, are a bit unreliable, he’s leading the league in both Defensive Win Shares (4.8) and Defensive plus/minus (4.1) and that has to mean something. The Bucks have been the best team in terms of Defensive Rating at 101.6. Giannis should be winning this award, too.
Hunter VanDeusen: Rudy Gobert is looking to become the second player in NBA history to win DPOY three years in a row (Dwight Howard). Despite Gobert’s impressive ability to shut the entire league down on March 11, this award belongs to Giannis. The Greek Freak is the best one-on-one defender in the league, holding opponents to a measly 41.8% from the field, best in the NBA. It’s safe to say Giannis will be adding a couple more trophies to his collection but the real question is, will he add the Larry O’B?
Bobby Howard: While I would love to be the outlier here and pick Anthony Davis, the stats are undeniably in Giannis’ favor. The Greek Freak’s defensive impact has not only made the Bucks a solid defensive team, but the best unit in the entire NBA.
Dillon Young: This one is going to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is the best player on both ends for a really good Bucks team. If (when) Giannis wins DPOY and MVP, he’ll be only the third player ever to win both awards. (Jordan & Olajuwon)
Kevin Robertson: I’ll take the ever-solid argument of “stats don’t lie.” At number two in the league in total steals, number two in the league in total rebounds, and number eight in the league in total blocks — the Defensive Player of the Year should be Andre Drummond. Too bad he played for two teams this season and no one will vote for him.
Billy Donovan has been one of the biggest factors in OKC’s surprise run this season. will he take home Coach of the Year?
Bobby Howard: In his fourth season, Billy Donovan finally showed what he is capable of as a coach in the NBA. Freed from having to cater to ball dominant mega-stars, Donovan has thrived with this young, balanced roster. In the words of an old friend, Billy was truly was able to make chicken salad out of chicken-something-else.
However, I gotta give this award to Nick Nurse. Last year’s title was more than just Kawhi Leonard going supernova, as evidenced by the stellar performance of this year’s Raptors squad. Nurse deserves this one — maybe next time, Billy.
Cody Beat: Billy undoubtedly should be in the discussion. He deserves a ton of credit for this team’s success due to his creativity in lineups and the ability to make adjustments in-game. I think he makes COY Finalist but loses out to either Nick Nurse or Mike Bundenholzer.
Hunter VanDeusen: A new cast of characters this season allowed for Billy to get creative. His 3-guard lineup wreaks havoc in the clutch and has been a huge factor in OKC’s success. However, if this season has shown us anything, it’s that this Thunder roster is chock-full of talent. When it all boils down, I’d argue Nick Nurse (1st) and Eric Spoelstra (2nd) have done more with less talent and deserve the award.
Josh Callaway: It is pretty insane that Billy is getting some serious love for this considering how last season ended with many Thunder fans wanting him to not be back this year (I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t really upset with how things went in that Portland series). But he has done a masterful job this year, reminding us why we were all so high on him in the 2016 playoff run. But, this is Nick Nurse’s award. He lost his best player, arguably the best player in the league, and Toronto is still toward the top of the East. He has earned it in my book.
Clemente Almanza: Probably not but Donovan should finish in the top three in voting. Donovan has flipped the script this season when it comes to how Thunder fans view their head coach. Donovan would be a great case study when it comes to talking about how little power most coaches have when it comes to actually coaching their star players with guys like Westbrook, Paul George and Kevin Durant running the show here. But Donovan has been the head coach of one of the most overachieving teams this season so that’s gotta count for something, right? I think Nick Nurse wins it with the job he has done in Toronto without Kawhi.
Lastly — Who is the Most Improved Player?
Hunter VanDeusen: There are currently two players in the NBA averaging at least 16 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5 assists — Giannis Anetokuompo and Miami’s Bam Adebayo. One season alongside Jimmy Butler has transformed Bam from a solid roleplayer into a budding star and a top-five center in the league. Despite many other compelling arguments, this year’s MIP is Adebayo. As JAY-Z famously said, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t lie.”
Clemente Almanza: Bam Adebayo. Adebayo is averaging career-highs across the board in both his per-game averages and advanced analytics. He’s the perfect modern-day big with a good handle and can lead the offense with his passing. The only thing missing from his game is an outside shot but when you are above-average-to-elite in every other facet of your game it’s something you can probably live with.
Cody Beat: There are three options I could see winning — Bam Adebayo, Pascal Siakam, or SGA. Although Siakam won MIP last year, he still made a crazy leap this year with career-high in points, rebounds, and assists. The same can be said for Bam and SGA’s growth in their statistical averages, so I give the edge to Bam considering he made his first All-Star team on an over-achieving Heat team.
Bobby Howard: Brandon Ingram. Surprise! Ingram has been dropping serious numbers in the large, injured shadow of Zion Williamson. The former 2nd overall pick finally is showing signs that he has the potential to be a perennial All-Star, averaging 24.3 points per game. In addition to the improved scoring, he has been taking over games, highlighted by a 49 point performance in a thrilling duel against Donovan Mitchell.
Dillon Young: Jayson Tatum is my pick here. Tatum went from a disappointing sophomore season to a potential mega-star this year. His scoring average jumped nearly 8 ppg this season (23.6 ppg) while shooting 39.8% from beyond the arc. Before the season stoppage, Tatum was looking like one of the NBA’s top players and is poised for a max contract extension from the Celtics this summer… maybe fall?… Whenever they do that now.