Welcome to the 2018-2019 Unafraid Show NBA Awards. We don’t have an official vote yet for the NBA Awards, but here are the players and coach that should receive the awards. I can’t remember a year where so many of the major races are still up for grabs. It’s all highlighted by the MVP race between Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden. NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA Coach of the Year is a close race as well. What’s your pick?
While you debate your picks, here are my NBA Awards selections.
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
They say ties are a lot like kissing your sister. However, this year more than ever, there should be Co-MVPs. It’s impossible to state whether Giannis Antetokounmpo or James Harden is more valuable to their team. It’s a true catch-22. When comparing stat lines, take your pick. Each guy set records. For Giannis, 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 30.99 per, with the latter ranking first in the NBA. Giannis joins Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the only other player to average 27 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 block per game. For James Harden, the scoring numbers are off the charts. Harden averaged the seventh most points in a season in NBA history with 36.1 to go along with 6.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists, and a 30.67 per, with the latter ranking second behind Giannis. Plus, there was the historic streak of scoring at least 30 points per game in 32 straight games. I usually don’t use wins as the determining factor in the MVP race, but in this particular race, it helps. Giannis led the Bucks to an NBA best of 60 wins, which is 12 more than the win total set by Oddshark back in October. Harden, who single-handily carried the Rockets for long stretches where both Chris Paul and Clint Capela were out, led the Rockets to 53 wins, which is two less than their predicted total on Oddshark. Because of the wins jump and the defensive numbers (which will be mentioned later), my MVP vote by the slimmest of margins goes to Giannis.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic
The hype is real. I am guilty of catching Luka fever. Luka Doncic flat out put on a show this season. Luka was the only rookie to average over 20 points per game and led all rookies in scoring with 21.2 points per game. Since 1990, only 15 first-year players have scored over 20 points per game and just four of them have been 19 years old or younger. Luka’s 21.2 points per game are the most among those four players. The rest of Luka’s stat line was impressive. To go along with the 21 points per game, Luka added 7.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.3 3-pointers made, and 1.0 steal per game in 32.2 minutes a night as a rookie. As a comparison, Luka had higher numbers than LeBron James as a rookie in all of those statistical categories besides assists (tied) and steals (LeBron averaged 1.6). Despite a late push from Trae Young, Doncic’s historic season deserves to be honored with the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo
This is not your typical Defensive Player of the Year award winner. Rudy Gobert is most likely going to win this award if Giannis wins MVP and I’m positive neither player will argue those outcomes. Gobert is one of the best rim protectors in the league and leads the league in defensive real plus-minus. However, Giannis is one of the most feared defenders in the league and the best two-way player in the game. Although Giannis is 14th in defensive real plus-minus, it’s his ability to force bad shots and help on defense that gives him the edge over Gobert. Giannis joins Andre Drummond as the only two players in the NBA to accumulate 100 blocks and 90s steals. Imagine driving to the lane and having a pterodactyl come flying over to alter your shot. That’s what happens when opponents drive on the Bucks’ defense, which ranks first overall in the NBA.
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
If you could award this to a pair of teammates. the easy decision would be Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. I wanted to make sure Harrell was given a shoutout because of his outstanding season. That being said, Lou Williams is going to win this award. “Lou Will” is a scoring machine as the guard once again leads all sixth men in scoring with 20.3 ppg. What’s even more impressive is that Williams leads the Clippers in scoring and is a big reason why the Clippers are headed to playoffs despite this being a rebuilding season. It’s not often the sixth man is the team’s best player, but that’s exactly the case in Los Angeles. Williams will win his third sixth man of the year trophy.
Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam
If you ask a casual NBA fan about Pascal Siakam, they might say, “who?” I don’t mean that as a dig at Siakam. The causal fan better get used to hearing his name this postseason. As great as D’Angelo Russell and De’Aaron Fox have been, this is what they were projected to do coming out of college. Pascal Siakam is an anomaly. Siakam didn’t start playing basketball until he was 18. Look at the jump that Siakam has made in almost every statistical category.
Siakam is 6’9″ matchup nightmare who has developed into one of the best two-way players in the NBA. Siakam is an integral part of the Raptors’ success and will play a key role for Toronto during their playoff run. When the NBA announces its most improved player, the world will never forget the name, Pascal Siakam. He may be a staple on the NBA Awards All-defensive team.
NBA Coach of the Year: Kenny Atkinson
Kenny Atkinson from the Brooklyn Nets should win NBA Coach of the Year, but it’s not going to happen. It’s going to Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks. What Budenholzer has done for the Milwaukee Bucks should not go unnoticed. Budenholzer raised Giannis’s game to an MVP level and guided the Bucks to the best record in the NBA with a 60 win season. Credit to him for a job well done. However, my vote for Coach of the Year goes to Kenny Atkinson of the Brooklyn Nets. I can’t comprehend how good of a job Atkinson has done since he arrived in Brooklyn three seasons ago. Atkinson had to come in and try to clean up the mess from the Paul Pierce / Kevin Garnett trade that left the Nets in shambles. However, Atkinson rebuilt the right way. Teams should take notes on what the Nets have been doing the past few seasons. Sign and trade for young, under-valued talent and let them mature while you clear cap space. Who would’ve thought that D’Angelo Russell, who was deemed “not a leader” by Magic Johnson, would revitalize his career and become an All-Star? The Nets won 28 games last year. This year, the Nets have won 40+ and are going to the playoffs. Congratulations to Kenny Atkinson on a magnificent job.
What are your picks for the NBA Awards 2018-2019? Comment with your thoughts below or join in the conversation on Twitter @UnAfraidShow.