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After a long season, we are finally on the cusp of the NBA Playoffs. Through the season, multiple stars such as James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo and others have took the league by storm. With that, here are our candidates for the regular season awards:
NBA Coach of the Year
1. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks (58-20)
Mike Budenholzer took this job with a similar roster as last year, added Brook Lopez to their starting five, and produced an MVP candidate along the way in Giannis Antetokounmpo. In result, Budenholzer will have led his second team in 5 years to 60+ wins, as he did the same with Atlanta in 2014-15.
The award is practically sewed up on his end, and if not for injury, this team would have been close to 65 wins. The Bucks have improved from 44 wins last year to 58 this year with 4 games still yet to play.
2. Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets (52-26)
This is Mike Malone’s fourth year with the team, and they have improved to a realistic shot at 55 wins this season. The Denver Nuggets field an MVP candidate in Nikola Jokic, and hold two elite guards in Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. Alongside Paul Millsap, the Nuggets may become a force in the postseason.
3. Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn Nets (39-40)
The Brooklyn Nets a surprise team for most, but currently sit with a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Due to Kenny Atkinson, D’Angelo Russell has become one of the most talked-about athletes. Even with the injury to Caris LeVert, the Nets have been able to turn Spencer Dinwiddie into a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Honorable Mention: Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers (47-32)
Doc Rivers has seen the Los Angeles Clippers go 18-7 since trading away their best starter in Tobias Harris. Currently, Los Angeles sits with a postseason position in the Western Conference, and should win close to 50 games, if not achieve getting to that win total. That puts a wrench in everyone’s thoughts who thought they would be tanking after the trade.
NBA 6th Man of the Year
1. Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers (20.2 points, 5.3 assists)
Lou Williams is primed to win this award in back-to-back seasons. This is Williams’ second consecutive season averaging 20+ points off the bench. His fourth quarter scoring has been a factor in the success of the Los Angeles Clippers. With multiple notable performances, this should be close to a unanimous vote.
2. Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets (17.1 points, 4.6 assists)
Spencer Dinwiddie has seen his sixth man role expand from last year, and he has taken his shooting percentages from 39% to 45%. Personal stats aside, Dinwiddie has assisted the Brooklyn Nets in winning 25 of their last 39 games that he has suited up for. With a career-high 39 points off the bench earlier this season, Dinwiddie has shown flashes of elite play.
3. Dennis Schroder: Oklahoma City Thunder (15.3 points, 4.1 assists)
Dennis Schroder has settled into his role in Oklahoma City after emerging as a starter for the Atlanta Hawks last season. Schroder contains 5 games of 25+ points this season. The Thunder still sit with a playoff position, and a degree of credit should go to the play of Schroder.
Honorable Mention: Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves (18 points, 4.3 assists)
Derrick Rose is the only bench player in the league to score 50 points in a game, and his comeback story has made him a fan favorite around the NBA community. The team success of the Minnesota Timberwolves is underwhelming, and Rose has only played in 51 games this year. He won’t win the award, but should be mentioned nonetheless.
NBA Most Improved Player
1. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (17 points, 6.9 rebounds)
Pascal Siakam has shown major growth in his third NBA season, and become a reliable backup option for when Kawhi Leonard isn’t in the lineup. With multiple 30+ point games, Siakam has more than doubled his point average, and has nearly doubled his rebounds. Next season, expect for another major leap with potential to average 20+ points.
2. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings (17.4 points, 7.3 assists)
De’Aaron Fox has shown he can be the point guard of the future for the Sacramento Kings. Even by passing up on Luka Doncic in the NBA Draft, the Kings have made the most of Fox’s potential. Accumulating 15 double-doubles this season, Fox set a career-high 16 assists earlier this season.
3. Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans (21.3 points, 8.6 rebounds)
Julius Randle continued where he left off post-All-Star break last season, and has seen his points per game improve by over 5 because of it. With Anthony Davis heavily restricted on minutes, Randle has made the most of the opportunity. Due to his personal play, New Orleans currently averages 115 points per contest. However, due to the lack of team success, it’s still unlikely Randle will become a serious contender for this award.
Honorable Mention: Josh Richardson, Miami Heat (16.6 points, 4.1 assists)
Josh Richardson has seen his scoring go up nearly 4 points a contest year over the year, taken 6 threes-point attempts per game. With the increased attempt rate, Richardson is hitting 35% from behind the arc. The Miami Heat have a chance to sneak into the postseason, and Richardson is a factor as to why.
NBA Rookie of the Year
1. Luka Doncic: Dallas Mavericks (21.2 points, 5.9 assists, 7.7 rebounds)
Luka Doncic has taken the NBA by storm, as his ability to translate his game from overseas to the league has been seamless. He holds 7 triple-doubles in his rookie season just recently finished a stretch where he had 3 of them in 5 games. With Rookie of the Year aspirations this year, it may not be long before we are talking about Doncic as an MVP candidate.
2. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks (19 points, 8 assists)
Trae Young got off to a rocky start in his first 29 games, only shooting 25% from 3 and under 40% from the field. However, in his last 50 games, Young has averaged 21 points and 9 assists. Young has fully adjusted and should be an All-Star point guard in the league for years to come.
3. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds)
Deandre Ayton is a walking double-double with the ability to hit a jump shot as a center. With 40 double-doubles this season, Ayton is left to work on his defensive discipline. In the near future, he should be a player averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds consistently.
Honorable Mention: Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings (14.8 points, 7.4 rebounds)
Marvin Bagley has been playing a sixth man role for the Sacramento Kings and has come into his own as of late. Over his last 25 games, Bagley is averaging 18 points per contest. The young Kings roster should only assist Bagley in becoming an exciting talent to pay attention to.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (12.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.3 steals)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is someone who can guard any position the opposition fits. In fact, he has multiple games of 4+ steals and 3+ blocks for the Milwaukee Bucks. Due to his play on the defensive end, the Bucks are outscoring their opponents by nearly 10 points per game.
2. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (12.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 0.8 steals)
Rudy Gobert has been a defensive stalwart, with numerous games of 4+ blocks, including 7 in one specific performance. His impact is difficult to quantify, but his chances of Defensive Player of the Year are just as equal as Giannis Antetokounmpo’s.
3. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (7.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1 block)
Draymond Green is often in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year, as it’s his fifth consecutive year averaging 1+ steal, 1+ block, and 7+ rebounds per game. His defensive impact is overlooked, but is a factor in the success for the Golden State Warriors.
Honorable Mention: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (1.1 steals)
The defensive impact of Klay Thompson cannot be measured with pure statistics, but he has forced oppnents such as Paul George, Jamal Murray, Chris Paul, and countless others into terrible shooting nights. The Warriors hold a solid defensive rating this season, and Thompson deserves more respect than granted.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (27.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists)
The Milwaukee Bucks, led by the play of Giannis Antetokounmpo, will have 60+ regular season wins. Antetokounmpo has been consistent all season, recently coming off a 52/16/7 game against the Philadelphia 76ers just two weeks ago. With 53 double-doubles and 5 triple-doubles, the gap is gradually growing between ‘The Greek Freak’ and the rest of the field.
2. James Harden, Houston Rockets (36.3 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds)
James Harden had a monster stretch of 32 consecutive 30-point games, and will average the most points per game by a player in nearly 3 decades. With 27 double-doubles and 6 triple-doubles this season, some may label Harden as the front runner for the MVP award. After a rough start to the season, it may depend on how refined the memory of the voters is.
3. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists)
Nikola Jokic has led the Denver Nuggets to 50+ wins, as they will be a force in the early rounds of the postseason. Playing some of their most elite basketball in recent memory, Jokic has been the captain of this roster. With 55 double-doubles and 14 triple-doubles, Jokic and the Nuggets have a bright future ahead of themselves.
Honorable Mention: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder (28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists)
Paul George had an amazing campaign, but after coming back from a shoulder injury, his numbers have dipped slightly. Still, the veteran is averaging nearly 31 points over the last 48 games. While the Oklahoma City Thunder attempt to find their rhythm before the postseason commences, George will instead focus on reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in his 9-year career.
Featured Image: Bleacher Report