2017-18 NBA Season Awards Picks

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Hello friends! What an NBA season we’ve had. Whether it was Kawhi Leonard mysteriously disappearing, a #1 pick forgetting how to shoot, postgame fights in a secret hallway, or all things associated with LaVar Ball, this season never failed to deliver insane and hilarious moments. Now, let’s ignore all of them and focus on meaningless awards for the next 1,500 words. After me…

Most Valuable Player

  1. James Harden
  2. LeBron James
  3. Anthony Davis
  4. Kevin Durant
  5. Damian Lillard

James Harden has had a statistically incredible season, averaging over 30 points per game and 8.8 assists per game, leading the Rockets to a league-best 65 wins. In addition to points per game, he leads the league in PER, USG%, Offensive Win Shares, Win Shares, Win Shares per 48 Minutes, and Box Plus/Minus. At one point, the Rockets held the highest offensive rating in NBA history, but they have fallen to merely the 10th best offense all-time, amassing a measly 1.147 points per possession. He’s the clear cut MVP in my eyes.

I’m not going to lie, I had a whole column written out trashing LeBron for saying he’d vote for himself for MVP. I still might publish that column. But the fact that he played all 82 games (81 if you discount Wednesday’s joke of a basketball game against the Knicks) is really impressive, and he is as statistically dominant as he’s ever been. The Cavs have endured a legitimate amount of nonsense this season, the turnover is unprecedented and as the lone constant I think LeBron deserves a great deal of credit, even if his team is the 4th best team by record in the Eastern Conference.

As for Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard, they’ve both had great seasons in the past, but they both reached a new level this year, carrying their teams to 48 and 49 wins respectively and into the playoffs. Davis was a beast this season, averaging nearly 30 and 12 after the all-star break and keeping the Pelicans afloat after Demarcus Cousins’s injury.

KD had a really nice year, he still might be the greatest scorer of all time, though his shooting percentages have fallen off just a bit from last year. He complained about the ‘Blog Boys’ on Bill Simmons’ podcast, and I’d just like to say, first of all, thanks for the shoutout. Second of all, the other thing I took from that podcast was KD saying that he is obsessed with developing the ability to make every shot on the court, and he’s actually progressed pretty well to that goal. Courtesy of NBAsavant, we can see that he’s made a shot from just about every angle this season. He’s as dynamic of a scorer as they come and will be a menace in the playoffs.

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 11.54.01 AM.png

Rookie of the Year

This is legitimately the closest and most stacked Rookie of the Year race that I can remember. Over the last ten seasons, the average win shares for a rookie of the year has been 4.8. Last year, Malcolm Brogdon won the award after a very solid rookie year where he put up 4.1 win shares averaging 10 points per game.

This year it’s a whole different ball game. Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell are all putting up insane rookie seasons, leading their teams to playoff spots in their first season in the league. Ben Simmons has 9.2 win shares, Tatum has 7.1, and Donovan Mitchell has 5.2 and is averaging 20 points per game.

Tatum has been great this season, but it’s hard to get past the fact that Mitchell and Simmons were both the most important offensive options on their team for at least most of the season, whereas Tatum had Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to take some of the offensive load off. It’s a small reason, but I feel like the role a rookie plays on their team should matter for Rookie of the Year voting.

Mitchell set the rookie record for most three pointers made in a season, and his shooting revived the Jazz from a 17-26 record, leading them to the 5 seed in the West. He’s shot ridiculously well, his 1.26 points per possession on spot up jump shots ranks in the 95th percentile in the league this season. He’s had more 25 point games this season (27) than LeBron, KD, Larry Bird, and Hakeem Olajuwon had in theirs. He has been absolutely magnificent.

I’m going to ignore the petty beef that exists between Mitchell and Simmons, except to say that the hoodie that Donovan Mitchell rocked this week was incredible.

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Mitchell makes a good point, but Simmons’s season has spoken for itself. He’s 27th in the NBA in Real Plus Minus, his team has somehow achieved 52 wins, and the Sixers have won all their games down the stretch without Joel Embiid. His 2,732 minutes are twelfth in the NBA, and he’s going to be the first rookie to average 15 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds per game since Oscar Robertson(Basketball-Reference).

I am going to show you two players’ rookie seasons. One of them is Ben Simmons, another is a rookie from about ten years ago. Ready?

Pts/G Ast/G Reb/G Stl/G True Shooting % Usage % PER Offensive Win Shares Defensive Win Shares
Player A 16.1 7.8 5.1 2.2 54.6% 22.2% 22.1 6.8 3.6
Player B 15.8 8.2 8.1 1.7 55.7% 22.3% 20 4.2 5.0
(Source: Basketball-Reference)

The rebounds probably gave it away, but Player B is Ben Simmons. And his statistically close counterpart? None other than the Point Gawd himself Chris Paul.

I don’t expect anybody to care about the 2006 Rookie of the Year Voting, but Chris Paul received 124 out of 125 first place votes (whoever voted for Deron Williams, I very much dislike you). That means Chris Paul’s season, carrying a bad Hornets team to 38 wins, was deserving of a nearly unanimous victory, due in large part to just how good his numbers were. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but the 76ers won Fifty Two gosh darn games this season. That’s ridiculously impressive.

My ballot goes

  1. Ben Simmons
  2. Donovan Mitchell
  3. Jayson Tatum
  4. De’Aaron Fox
  5. Kyle Kuzma

Coach of the Year

No one really cares about this one so I’ll be brief. I judge for this award based on a few things:

  • How well a team performed versus how much talent they had
  • How the rotation, late game adjustments, and strategic decisions are managed
  • How well the coach diffuses problems in the locker room

The last one is really hard to know sometimes, but it’s worth putting down because it’s an underrated aspect of coaching in my opinion. With that being said:

  1. Quin Snyder
  2. Gregg Popovich
  3. Dwane Casey
  4. Brad Stevens
  5. Erik Spoelstra

The Jazz are one of my favorite storylines of this season because of how well they were able to bounce back from the adversity of losing their leading scorer in the offseason. Additionally, they recovered really nicely from Gobert’s injuries and were able to manage roster turnover on an high level. Quin Snyder proved his metal as a top-notch coach this year, and I do think the voters will give him this award.

Defensive Player of the Year

  1. Rudy Gobert
  2. Anthony Davis
  3. Robert Covington
  4. Draymond Green
  5. Aron Baynes

Gobert posts the third best defensive rating in the NBA, and despite having missed a quarter of the season, he has proven his value over a long enough period of time that I feel that he’s worthy of the award. He still has the fourth most blocks and the highest block percentage in the league, and the most defensive win shares per game. From a viewing standpoint, it’s not hard to see how much he impacts the game. He’s been the anchor of a Utah defense that posted the second best regular season defensive rating in the league, and despite his missed time, he’s been the most impactful and valuable defensive player this season.

Covington’s numbers are equally impressive, and I love it when a wing player can have such a measurable defensive impact on a team. The 76ers, who posted the third best regular season defensive rating, have relied on Covington’s ability to guard multiple positions and force turnovers in bunches. His team allows just 99 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor, a defensive rating that is good for fifth in the league among qualified players. He and Simmons have incredible versatility when guarding perimeter players, allowing Philadelphia to get creative with their lineup combinations. I’m looking forward to watching Covington, Simmons, and Embiid lock down teams for minutes on end in the playoffs.

Most Improved Player

No list. Give the award to Victor Oladipo. Enough said.

Sixth Man of the Year

No list. Give the award to Lou Williams. Enough said.

All NBA Teams

First Team
  • James Harden – HOU, G
  • Damian Lillard – POR, G
  • Kevin Durant – GSW, F
  • LeBron James – CLE, F
  • Anthony Davis – NOP, F/C
Second Team
  • Russell Westbrook – OKC, G
  • Chris Paul – HOU, G
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo – MIL, G
  • Lamarcus Aldridge – SAS, F
  • Karl-Anthony Towns – MIN, C
Third Team
  • Stephen Curry – GSW, G
  • DeMar DeRozan – TOR, G
  • Al Horford – BOS, F
  • Draymond Green – GSW, F
  • Nikola Jokic – DEN, C

All Rookie Teams

First Team
  • Ben Simmons – PHI, G
  • Donovan Mitchell – UTA, G
  • Jayson Tatum – BOS, G/F
  • Kyle Kuzma – LAL, F
  • Bam Adebayo – MIA, C
Second Team
  • Frank Ntilikina – NYK, G
  • De’Aaron Fox – SAC, G
  • OG Anunoby – TOR, F
  • Lauri Markkanen
  • John Collins – ATL, F/C

That’s it for my 2017-18 NBA Season awards ballot! If you made it all the way to the end of this article, you must either be my parents or really love basketball, so let’s do some first round playoff predictions while we’re here.

Toronto over Washington (6)

Milwaukee over Boston (7)

Philadelphia over Miami (6)

Cleveland over Indiana (6)

Houston over Minnesota (5)

Golden State over San Antonio (5)

Portland over New Orleans (7)

Oklahoma City over Utah (7)

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll enjoy watching these playoffs as much as I will.

Jacob Mooallem is a student manager for the Indiana University Men’s Basketball team and a sophomore in the Kelley School of Business. He spends too much of his time on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

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