It’s just about that time of year again. Awards season. The time of year where NBA fans debate tirelessly who should bring home the league’s most prestigious hardware. This year is a bit different, though. Most years, there’s usually a clear favorite, and then a few dark horses that voters could potentially fall for. But in 2016-17’, there’s no clear favorite in most awards, making these selections all the more difficult. Regardless, here are our picks:
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
And we though last season was Giannis’ coming out party. While he always possessed the athleticism, he only started putting it all together at the back end of last season.
And after an offseason clearly spent in the weight room, the end product this season has been something to behold. Had it not been for the mediocracy of Milwaukee, he’d be in the conversation with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard as second-tier MVP candidates. The numbers are that impressive. But don’t worry. By next season, he’ll be a first tier candidate.
Honorable mentions: N/A, this one is a runaway.
Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid
How can a player who only played in 31 games win an award? you ask. Well, for one, the competition wasn’t all that great, but more importantly, Embiid was that good in his limited action.
In under 28 minutes per game, Embiid averaged 20 points and 8 rebounds. On a per 36 scale, which is the standard minutes per game of an NBA starter, those numbers inflate to over 27 points and 12 rebounds. No other rookie came close to such production.
Honorable mentions: Dario Saric, Brandon Ingram
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
After two consecutive seasons of coming in second, 2016-17’ is finally the season for Draymond. In part because of voter’s fatigue, and in part because of his stellar defensive play, the DPOY award will likely go Kawhi’s runner-up for two years running.
With respect to Rudy Gobert, who is a stellar candidate in his own right, the league has clearly shifted to the perimeter, therefore perimeter defenders are more likely to win DPOY from this point forward.
Honorable mentions: Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gobert
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
A toss-up. But the momentum is with Houston this season. They have the MVP (spoiler alert). They have the 3-seed in the West. But most importantly, they have a 5-seed improvement from last season. After a disappointing season in 2015-16’, Mike D’Antoni took over what looked like a defeated roster, who’d just lost their starting center to boot. But his up-tempo system has revitalized Harden and the rest of the Rockets, who are primed for a deep playoff run.
Though it must be said, Brad Stevens is certainly a worthy candidate. Ever since he took over in Beantown, the C’s trajectory has been pointing skyward. Just a few years into the project, and they’ve already finished above the reigning champs to take the 1-seed, which is impressive in itself.
Honorable mention: Brad Stevens
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
If it were any other season, Harden would win the MVP on numbers alone. But this isn’t “any” season. There’s a guy who AVERAGED A TRIPLE DOUBLE, and it’d be anarchy not to give him the trophy. Right? RIGHT???
It’s clearly a toss-up, and I didn’t want to make this decision on personal preference. So I didn’t. I used statistics. And this one jumped out: Since 1980, no player whose team has finished with anything less than a 2-seed has won MVP. Obviously, that trend will be broken this season. But I don’t think the voters will go as far as to give a player on a 6-seed the trophy, even if he did average a triple double.
Honorable mentions: Russell Westbrook…(mind….the….gap)…. LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard