The first-ever NBA Awards show is going to taking place tonight. There will be 18 awards given out, including six that are available to be voted on by fans on NBA.com. I’m going to run down some of the main awards and give reasons for my picks.
Most Valuable Player — Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder): Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.4 assists, and 10.7 rebounds per game, averaging the first triple-double for an entire season since Oscar Robertson‘s historic 1961-62 campaign. Westbrook also went for a record 42 triple-doubles, which was capped off by an incredible game-winner to eliminate the Denver Nuggets from playoff contention. James Harden and Kawhi Leonard great seasons as well, but neither of them live up to what Westbrook was able to do over the 82-game regular season.
Rookie of the Year — Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee Bucks): Brogdon wasn’t a lottery pick from the 2016 NBA Draft, but that didn’t stop him from having one hell of a rookie year. Brogdon is the prototype player from the University of Virginia, defensively sound and extremely fundamental, which helped contribute to his 10.2 points and 4.2 assists per night. Joel Embiid was the favorite to be the NBA’s top rookie coming into the season, but because he only played 31 games due to injury, it’s Brogdon’s award to lose.
Sixth Man of the Year — Andre Igoudala (Golden State Warriors): Igoudala’s statistics are far from overwhelming, at just 7.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game, but his stability is the reason he deserves this accolade. Over the last three years, Golden State’s star back-up has gladly taken his role off the bench, and has exceeded expectations, helping the team win over 200 regular season games in that span. Also, Igoudala’s athleticism and defensive prowess make him a challenge for a ton of the games’ best perimeter players.
Coach of the Year — Mike D’Antoni (Houston Rockets): In 2015-16, the Rockets went 41-41 and finished No. 8 in the Western Conference, just barely slipping into the backend of the playoffs. One year later, Houston was No. 3 in the West with a 55-27 mark. It was D’Antoni’s decision to put The Beard as the main ball handler, and he broke out for 29.1 points and a league-leading 11.2 assists per game. It will be interesting to see if D’Antoni’s coaching can continue to improve the Rockets’ record going forward. San Antonio‘s Gregg Popovich, arguably the greatest coach of all-time, and Miami‘s Erik Spoelstra are also up for the award, and are very deserved, combining for a record of 102-62 this season.
Most Improved Player — Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks): As you can see, the Bucks had a pretty good season, being up for multiple awards, joining the likes of the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, and others. Antetokounmpo went from being well-known because of his hard-to-pronounce name, to simply being a stud in this league. He increased his scoring by +6.0 points per game, and also saw +1.1 increases in assists and rebounds per game, from the season prior. In 2016-17, the Greek Freak went for an astounding 22.9 points and 8.0 boards per game, for the 42-win Milwaukee Bucks.
Defensive Player of the Year — Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors): After finishing in the top-3 for the last couple of seasons, finishing behind Leonard, Green should finally take home the Defensive Player of the Year award. The former Michigan State forward averaged 1.4 blocks, 2.0 steals, and 6.6 defensive rebounds per game. Leonard is again up for the trophy but given that he was more focused on putting the ball in the net this year, he won’t become a three-time Defensive Player of the Year (just yet). And while Rudy Gobert, the Stifle Tower, was a force to be reckoned with in the paint, he doesn’t have the on-ball defending to compete with Green.
Best Style — Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder): Westbrook just seems like he won the 2016-17 season as a whole, and his style pre-game was just another one of the many talking points that the media had on the Thunder’s All-Star point guard. It was also pretty comical when he took a couple of (in?)direct shots at Kevin Durant the photographer and the Golden State Warriors.
Assist of the Year — Stephen Curry and Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors): This play really exemplifies the entire Golden State season, showcasing just how easy it is for them at times, completing an incredible Green-to-Curry-to-Durant alley-oop from nearly full court.
Block of the Year — Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks): Hassan Whiteside‘s block might have been the most intimidating, I’m not sure if I’d attack the basket with him standing there waiting anymore, but Porzingis’ was overall better because of how casual he was and how easy the Knicks big man made it look.
Dunk of the Year — Larry Nance Jr. (Los Angeles Lakers): Just look at Metta World Peace on the bench after the fact and tell me that isn’t how you looked when you first saw this dunk. Nance Jr. hit a quick crossover in front of him and then absolutely demolished Brook Lopez at the rim.
Game Winner of the Year — Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder): Kyrie Irving’s might have been the most watched, given that it was on Christmas Day and was a rematch of the 2016 NBA Finals, but Westbrook’s triple happened when the Thunder were trailing by two points and was from about 40-feet out. Simply amazing.
Performance of the Year — Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns): Booker has been a good scorer since he was running through the SEC at Kentucky, but all of his hard work culminated in the 10th best scoring output in NBA history when he went for 70 points against the Celtics.
Photo Credit: Behind the Buck Press, GQ, and Red Dirt Report.
For video of all the fan voting awards, check out the NBA.com link in first paragraph.