Ever since their introduction, the NBA awards have traditionally been announced separately throughout the postseason. But this year they will be announced in the first-ever NBA Awards Show on 26 June.
The finalists for the 2017 NBA awards were announced on 19 May. There are three finalists each for the six major award categories. Here are our picks for the candidates who should win the NBA Awards this year.
Most Valuable Player
Finalists: James Harden (Houston Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Let’s get the big one out of the way. After crowning a unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry last year, this year the NBA throws up quite a divisive field. There has already been a lot of talk about LeBron James not making the shortlist but that really is a non-controversy. James has been at his imperious best but this season’s MVP fight is a two-way brawl between Westbrook and Harden (sorry, Leonard).
In essence, it boils down to this: is the MVP award given for the most dominating performance over the season by a single individual regardless of the team’s performance or should it be given to a player who raised the performance of the team while being individually brilliant as well?
This season, it has to be Westbrook. I don’t know if you heard but the man averaged a triple-double the entire regular season. Harden had many standout performances but he had a fairly talented team around him, including the 2017 three-point contest winner Eric Gordon (more on him later). You know who Westbrook had? Andre Roberson.
This season will forever be remembered as the one in which “Westbrook went crazy” and him losing out on the MVP award (after not starting the All-Star game) will be an absolute travesty.
Winner: Russell Westbrook
Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
The Defensive Player of the Year award isn’t a whole lot easier either. Sadly enough, Leonard misses out on this award too because the Spurs are running their offence through him this season and there is only so much the guy can do.
Gun to your head, you would pick Gobert over Green to guard anyone trying to score in the paint, but this is not the award for the best rim-protector. Green is one of the very few players who can guard anyone on the opposite team, be it the speedy point guard or the bullying centre. He actually did exactly that in one play against the Portland Trail Blazers.
But Green is also more than that. He is the defensive mastermind who organises the Golden State defence which is the second best in the league. This season, he has been the best all-round defender, period.
Winner: Draymond Green
NBA Rookie of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon (Milwaukee Bucks), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers)
The 2016 draft class was weak. So much so that the frontrunner for the rookie award is a man from the 2014 draft: Joel “The Process” Embiid, a shot blocking behemoth who scored 20.2 points a game and grabbed 7.8 rebounds for good measure. The only reason Brogdon and Saric are even in this conversation is because Embiid was injured for a large part of the season and played only 31 games.
Quite simply, the argument for Embiid is similar to the one for Westbrook. When we look back at this season years from now, Embiid’s is the only rookie season we might remember.
Winner: Joel Embiid
Most Improved Player
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)
Finally, after three tough predictions, here is an easy pick. Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo is the closest player we have seen to James since well, James. Except at 6’11”, he is even more athletic than James. If the Bucks can surround him with a more talented roster or if he makes a move to a better team, he is pretty much guaranteed to be the face of the league in the post Curry-James era.
He dominated games and became the first player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. He started in the All-Star game. It was a breakout year of a future NBA Hall of Famer. Quite frankly, Gobert and Jokic never had a chance.
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Coach of the Year
Mike D'Antoni (Houston Rockets), Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs), Erik Spoelstra (Miami Heat)
Popovich loses this one because of what should be called the 'LeBron syndrome' – constantly being so good that it becomes the new normal. The Spurs fielded their battled-hardened veterans and as good as their 61-win season was, it wasn’t quite epic.
The Rockets, on the other hand, gave us a season to remember. D’Antoni should get the award just for switching James Harden to point guard which led to ridiculous numbers by The Beard.
But the Rockets weren’t just about Harden. They had one of the greatest offensive seasons in NBA history, aided largely by making the most three-pointers in a single season. Yes, more than the 2015-16 Warriors.
D’Antoni extracted brilliant games from Eric Gordon and Ryan Andersen, in addition to making Nene and Clint Capela look like slam dunk gods. His team also had the third best record in the league this season.
Winner: Mike D’Antoni
Sixth Man Award
Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets), Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors) Lou Williams (Houston Rockets)
The Rockets’ three-point revolution has multiple protagonists but Gordon is one of the most important. His 8.8 three-point attempts kept the floor spaced out for Harden to work his magic. Coming off the bench, Gordon allowed the Rockets to keep up the relentless pressure on the opposition. He was an essential part of the Rockets’ team which really was the most exciting team to watch this year.
Iguodala has been a large reason for the Warriors’ recent success. When Kevin Durant or Green need to take a breather, it’s Iguodala who slots in. An extremely competent defender, he shot a respectable 36.2% from the three-point line and is one of the most versatile players on the Warriors’ roster.
Winner: Andre Iguodala
Best Two-Way Player?
Finally, spare a thought for poor Leonard. He made the shortlist for both MVP and DPOY but will win neither because of his tremendous workload. He was very good offensively but couldn’t quite push through to MVP levels because he was busy being the best defender on the team too. He has carried the Spurs the entire season and will sadly miss out on these awards. Perhaps it is time to bring out an award for the best two-way player in the NBA?
Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 16:09:11 IST