Jackson Toomey Staff Writer
With the NBA playoffs already in full swing, this is the perfect time to look back at what was an amazing regular season. We saw records fall, streaks end, and more drama then we anticipated. The most memorable thing about this season were the performances. It seemed like the NBA’s elite were putting together masterful performances every week. While a large number of players were amazing this year, let us shine a spotlight on the best of the best and predict who will win the regular season awards:
Rookie of the year: Luka Doncic- Dallas Mavericks
Luka came into the league as the most hyped international player ever. His shooting, ball handling, and passing ability had NBA front offices salivating with anticipation. Surprisingly, the reality was better than the hype as Luka looked like a future star from game 1. How good was he? He is one of two players in NBA history to average 20 points, seven rebounds, and five assists as a rookie, the other player being hall of famer Oscar Robertson. Luka is in elite company. As unbelievable as it sounds, the stats don’t do the Mavericks’ star justice, as his consistency and clutch shooting were beyond his years as he routinely took over games in the final minutes to help Dallas win. With the retirement of franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas looks to have caught lightning in a bottle again by drafting another sweet shooting international superstar to be their face. Even though Atlanta rookie Trae young was amazing this year, especially in the second half of the season, this award goes to Luka.
Defensive player of the year: Rudy Gobert- Utah Jazz
Utah’s big man Rudy Gobert looks to be closing in on his second straight DPOY award. He is the engine that makes the top-ranked defense in the NBA run. His 7-foot-9 wingspan makes it easy to block shots and patrol the paint, which makes it easier for the other players to defend. There are plenty of players that could win the award, Paul George and Draymond Green come to mind, but it looks like it will go to the stifle tower.
Sixth man of the year: Lou Williams- Los Angeles Clippers
The NBA should probably consider renaming this award after Lou at this point. The Clippers’ guard has been a consistent source of offense off the bench for a number of years. After LA traded Tobias Harris to Philadelphia it was assumed that the Clippers would fall out of the playoff picture, but they kept winning. This improbable run was largely due to Lou Williams, who took over many games and carried an often outmatched team to wins. Expect Lou to win the award again, making it three in five years.
Most improved player: Pascal Siakam- Toronto Raptors
Going into the season, we knew that the Raptors would be an elite team because they swapped out Demar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors are even better than we thought due to the rapid growth of Siakam, who went from a solid role player to a legitimate secondary star next to Leonard. Siakam went from 7.3 points per game to 16.9 in one season,with improvements across the board. The biggest improvement in his game has been his shooting. When a player jumps from 22% from deep to 37% it is a testament to their work ethic, and it’s clear that he needs to be rewarded for that.
Coach of the year: Mike Budenholzer- Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have finally joined the rest of the NBA in regards to shooting as many threes as possible. Coach Bud transformed an often-average Bucks team into an offensive juggernaut in just one season. His strategy of surrounding Giannis Antetokounmpo (more on him later) with three-point snippers has produced the best record in the league and a chance at an NBA championship. With Coach Bud at the helm, the future looks bright in Milwaukee.
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis has been a historically dominant player since the first game of the season. This is a rare year when there are two deserving candidates, James Harden has put up numbers that have not been seen since Michael Jordan, but he won’t win this year and that’s a shame. Giannis checks all the boxes, he’s putting up historic numbers, his team is winning, and he has been dominant on both hands. The Greek Freak was the first player in NBA history to average 27 points, 12 rebounds, 5.5 assists, along with one steal and block a game. His defense has been remarkable, he is anchoring a top-five defense and a top-five offense and he deserves to be rewarded for that. In a season of great players, nobody was greater than Giannis and that’s why he’s the MVP.