By Marquist Parker
The NBA season has come to an end, and we have seen plenty of great moments and games. Now that the playoffs are upon us, its time to give out the end of season awards.
MVP- James Harden, Houston Rockets- I know that Russell Westbrook has set the league on fire by averaging a triple double, something that hasn’t been done since Eisenhower was president. Despite Russell Westbrook’s epic season, James Harden continues to have the most complete MVP case. His stat line (29.3 PPG, 11.2 APG, 8.2) hasn’t been matched since Oscar Robertson in 1965. His combined total of points, rebounds and assists per game exceeds every MVP during the three-point era. He is the lone All-Star on one of the 10 most efficient offenses of the three-point era. He leads the league in Win Shares, assists and points generated by his assists. He’s carried Houston to the NBA’s third-best record, second-ranked offense and top-ranked three-point attack. His renewed commitment has helped the Rockets become the league’s top overachievers relative to preseason expectations. He ranks third overall in minutes played and missed just one game all season despite bearing the league’s third-highest usage rate.
Most Improved Player- Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks- Giannis Antetokounmpo has had a stranglehold on this award all season long, posting career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FG%, 3P%, free throw attempts, minutes, PER, Win Shares, usage, offensive rating, turnover percentage, True Shooting %. Name basically any category that matters, and the 22-year-old Antetokounmpo has improved in it. That includes wins, as the Bucks have sealed up the first winning season of his four-year career. This decision looks like even more of a no-brainer once one considers that Antetokounmpo made his first All-Star Game—as a starter, no less—and carried the Bucks through injuries to Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker. Antetokounmpo has transformed from “budding star” to “bona fide franchise player,” a difficult leap that’s worthy of the hardware.
Sixth Man of the Year- Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors- Let’s forget the microwave scorers for one year and acknowledge the strong all-around work of Andre Iguodala, who played a key role in another phenomenally consistent Golden State season. An unselfish playmaker and reliable perimeter defender, Iguodala kept the Warriors’ bench clicking on all cylinders despite a host of off–season rotation losses and Durant’s extended late-season injury absence. While his per-game numbers are modest (7.6 PPG, 4 RPG, 3.5 APG), the 2015 Finals MVP led NBA reserves in plus-minus and ranked first in Win Shares among players with fewer than 20 starts. There’s no question he would be the first player selected in a draft of bench players if the goal was winning a title this season. What contender would pass up the chance at his basketball intelligence, on-court leadership, playmaking ability, multi-positional defense, and passable three-point shooting?
Rookie of the year- Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks- Give me Brogdon, who has played a significant role on a playoff team. The Embiid situation is the elephant in the rookie room, but I just don’t feel comfortable giving a year-long award to someone who only played 31 games. We’re splitting hairs, but the award is not for most talented rookie. From start to finish, Brogdon has had a solid if not spectacular rookie campaign. Embiid will be up for many awards throughout his career provided he’s healthy enough to take the court. Availability is important, and Brogdon has earned the distinction of Rookie of the Year.
Defensive Player of the Year- Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors- Green is the linchpin of the NBA’s second-best defense, and his versatility is unmatched across the league. Watching Green harass centers in the post and then lock down perimeter stars—often times within the same quarter—is an underrated joy of watching the Warriors. Green’s defensive ability—he’s probably the only player in the league aside from LeBron who can credibly guard one through five—is a huge reason for the Warriors’ unprecedented success over the last three years. And if it weren’t for Green’s play on the defensive end, we may have never known what it was like to witness the Death Lineup
Coach of the Year- Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics- This award could easily go to a number of other people, but I choose to give this award to the man who got a young team on the brink of the best record in the east, the same conference that has LeBron James in it. The Celtics were bit by the injury bug all season, but Brad was able to keep his guys focused on winning, and the Celtics, Behind the leadership of their coach and the play of their undersized star, have done just that.