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Who will be the Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Most Valuable Player? Well, I cannot answer that question with the correct answer, but instead, I will give you my choices for each award. This season has been fun and historic, but it is coming to a close. The Spurs tied for the most home wins in a season, the Warriors are going for a record 73 wins, and finally, Kobe is mortal and plays in his final NBA game tonight. Let’s see who wins some awards (hypothetically) in this historic season.
Most Improved Player
#3: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)-
The Greak Freak! A possible point guard next season? That is scary for teams since he is an athletic 6’11”, 222lbs monster. His season was pretty good. The Bucks? Not so much. That is why he takes a hit here and sits at #3. The Bucks finished with a 33-48 record and did not make the playoffs after making the playoffs last season.
Giannis did not dissapoint this season. He was a huge bright spot for this Bucks squad. Giannis (with one more game to go) put up 21 double-doubles and 5 triple-doubles. His minutes went from 31.4 to 35.4. He increased his scoring from 12.7 to 16.8. His rebounds increased from 6.7 to 7.6. His assists increased from 2.6 to 4.3. His steals and blocks also increased from 0.9 to 1.2 and 1.0 to 1.4 respectively. Although he still shot it poorly from the three, he grew upon his field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throw percentage. His percentages went from .491% to .507% (field goal %), .159% to .260% (three point %), and .741% to .721% (free throw %). He was good enough to be considered for this award.
#2: Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)-
Hassan has played in 72 games (with one left to go) this season. He has started 42 of those. I believe not being a starter hinds his MIP case. He has been a major factor for the Miami Heat as they make it to the playoffs this season. Currently, the Heat are sitting at #3 in the Eastern Conference with a 48-33 record. Now let’s get back to Hassan Whiteside.
The only major stat that he did not increase is field goal percentage. Hassan’s minutes per game have been upped from 23.8 to 29.1. His points per game increased from 11.8 to 14.2. His rebounds per game went up from 10.0 to 11.9, which is third in the NBA this season. His blocks per game went from 2.6 to a crazy 3.7, which is first in the NBA. DeAndre Jordan is second and he only has 2.3. Hassan has also put up three games this season where he accomplished a triple-double, as well as 41 double-doubles. Like I said earlier, his field goal percentage declined from .628% to .606%, still putting him at #3 in the NBA. Whiteside has quite a resume for him to possibly win MIP.
#1: C.J. McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)-
What if I told you that the Blazers were not expected to make the playoffs after losing 4/5 of their starters? What if I told you that the Blazers did not care about that. The Blazers will be the 5th or the 6th seed in the playoffs with a record of either 44-38 or 43-39 with one game to go. Damian Lillard was amazing this season as the only remaining starter for the Blazers squad. Another reason why they are so good this season is their shooting guard, C.J. McCollum. Wesley Matthews went to the Dallas Mavericks, allowing C.J. McCollum to slide over to the starting shooting guard spot. Lillard and McCollum are a dangerous backcourt. Let’s not focus on Lillard right now because this is about his teammate, my pick for Most Improved Player.
McCollum has increased his stats across the board. With Matthews departure, his minutes per game increased from 15.7 to 34.8, and he did not disappoint. His points per game increased from 6.8 to 20.9. His rebounds per game went from 1.5 to 3.2. His assists went from 1.0 to 4.3. His steals went from 0.7 to 1.2. He increased all of his percentages as well. His field goal % went from .436% to .448%. His three point % went from .396% to .421%. Lastly, his free throw % went from .699% to .827%. Those number increases, the fact he went from a bench player to a starter due to a starter moving on, and the fact that he has answered the call and helped Lillard lead this team to a playoff seed when they were counted out in the beginning of the season, means he should win this award.
Sixth Man of the Year
Honorable Mention: Will Barton (Denver Nuggets)-
The main reason Barton did not make the list was due to team success. The Nuggets finished 11th in the West with a record of 33-48. Barton’s name is starting to surface around the league more as he continues to develop his game and by making it to play in the All-Star Dunk competition. Barton had a solid season playing in 81 games (only starting in only 1 of them). He put up averages of 14.4ppg, 5.9rpg, and 2.5apg (all career highs). He was able to shoot .433% from the field, .347% from the three point line, and .805% from the free throw line (three point % is a career high). Here’s to hoping Barton continues to improve for this Nuggets squad.
#3: Jeremy Lin (Charlotte Hornets)-
Well, his hair choices were absolutely horrible, but his season was not. Charlotte turned some heads this season with a record of 47-34 (one game remaining) and are currently sitting at #6 in the East. Kemba Walker has had a beautiful season for the Hornets. Nicolas Batum turned out to be a smart trade as he has turned it around with some beautiful play this season. Another reason Nicolas Batum was a smart acquisition deals with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missing almost the entire season. Lin, the backup point guard, has had a solid season averaging 11.7ppg, 3.2rpg, and 3.0apg in 77 games (12 games started). Lin has had 4 games where he put up 20+ points. He has two 21 points games, a 25 point game, and a 29 point game. Since his team is in the playoffs, he gets a boost, in my opinion, for Sixth Man of the Year.
#2 Jamal Crawford (Los Angeles Clippers)-
Another year, another possibility that Jamal Crawford is named Sixth Man of the Year. It seems like he is always in the conversation right? He won in 2010 and 2014. It could happen again. The Clippers nabbed the 4th seed in the Western Conference with a 53-28 record (one more game to go). Blake Griffin has missed a ton of time with injury. That’s a large void to fill and they were able to fill it. Crawford had another solid season at age 36. He put up 14.2ppg, 1.8rpg, and 2.3apg. Those are not breathtaking numbers but he’s a scorer above all. That is his role. He shot .404% from the field, .340% from the three point line, and .904% from the free throw line. He might take the award. We will have to see if he beats my #1.
#1 Enes Kanter (Oklahoma City Thunder)-
The Thunder are back as one of the West’s powerhouses (minus the 4th quarter blowups they have been prone too). Russell Westbrook has been amazing and has blasted himself into the MVP conversation. Kevin Durant is, well, Kevin Durant. Enes Kanter has packed a punch off the bench. Kanter has played in all 82 games and only started one. Thunder have finished the season with a 55-27 record, good enough for 3rd in the West. Off the bench in 21 minutes per game, Kanter has put up 12.7ppg and 8.1rpg. Kanter has finished the season with 25 double-doubles as well. That’s good for 26th in the NBA. He’s not a defensive big at all. He’s a rebounder and a scorer and he has done that pretty well this season. He’s shot .576% from the field, .476% from the three point line (averaged 0.3 attempts a game), and .797% from the free throw line. It could be a toss up between any four of these guys but I give Kanter the edge.
Rookie of the Year
#3 Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)-
Booker’s stats should be higher. As the months went along and the injuries piled up for Phoenix; Booker got his shot and ran away with it. His first couple of months were unspectacular. October he averaged 7.0ppg. November he averaged 4.5ppg. December he averaged 7.6ppg. Here’s where it gets interesting. In January, he averaged 17.3ppg. March he averaged 13.5ppg. March was his month where he averaged 22.4ppg. Then he averaged 18.1 in April. The Suns season was terrible. Injuries demolished this Suns squad. You can say it was a complete disaster for the Suns but this kid was not a disaster. The injuries opened an opportunity for him and he gained the team’s confidence as a future piece for this Suns squad. He is only 19! Booker finished the season playing in 75 of them. He averaged 27.7mpg and put up averages of 13.8ppg, 2.5rpg, and 2.6apg. He shot .426% from the field, .342% from the three point line, and .839% from the free throw line. This season he gained tons of confidence, in himself, and from the coaching staff that will be used for next season.
#2 Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks)-
Porzingis went from being booed to being beloved in New York. Phil picked well when they drafted Porzingod, as he has been called. Porzingis was solid all season. He’s had his share of struggles, as all rookies do. The fact that most likely made him struggle is when they had Porzingis start to try to score in the post by backing people down. That is not what made him explode in the NBA. The ferocious putback dunks and the range that he showed is what made him popular. Keep to his strengths and be rewarded. Porzingis finished the season appearing in 72 games for the Knicks. He averaged 28.4mpg, 14.3ppg, 7.3rpg, 1.3apg, and 1.9bpg. He shot .421% from the field, .333% from the three point line, and .838% from the free throw line. Porzingis definitely should be talked about in the Rookie of the Year conversation because of the season he had, but, ultimately, he should not beat out #1.
#1 Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)-
This Timberwolves squad is exciting. This squad has Wiggins (Rookie of the Year 2015), LaVine, Muhammad, Towns (my pick for Rookie of the Year 2016) (etc.). This team is an up-and-coming team that has people excited. Even if you are not a Wolves fan, this team’s future is still exciting. Wiggins is a tremendous talent, as well as Towns. Both are #1 overall picks and should be Rookie of the Year winners once Towns’ wins it. LaVine has been taking the NBA by storm with his dunks in the past two dunk contests. Let’s focus on Towns. He playeed in 81 games this season and averaged 32.0mpg. He also averaged 18.2ppg, 10.4rpg, 2.0apg, and 1.7bpg while shooting .540% from the field, .337% from the three point line, and .810% from the free throw line. Keep an eye on this guy’s career ladies and gentleman.
Defensive Player of the Year
#3 Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)-
The biggest reason why Draymond is such a great defender, is that he can guard the 1-5 position. That is an amazing piece to have as the Warriors attempt to go back-to-back. Draymond is only 6’7″ and could be considered undersize for the power forward position, but do not tell him that. At 6’7″, he still averaged 9.5rpg with 7.8 defensive rpg. That’s some big numbers from him. Green also has a defensive rating of 99.9, which ranks him at #11 in the league. He’s responsible for 5.1 defensive win shares, which ranks him 6th. He scores 1.7 points off of turnovers. He’s a big part of the equation that makes the Warriors tick. He’s a big part of why the Warriors went 73-9 this season. He has a resume that should make him considered to win this award.
#2 Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat)-
Hassan Whiteside was a force on the defensive side this year for the Miami Heat. He’s back on my list as he appeared earlier on my Most Improved list. There is still no award for him though as he is #3 on my list. Let’s look at some of his defensive stats. He averaged 11.8 rebounds per game and 8.6 defensive rebounds per game. He’s a force on the glass. Whiteside led the league with 3.7 blocks per game! That is a huge stat. He scored 1.6 points off of turnover this season. Another stat that shows that his presence in the post affects people is opponents field goal percentage less than 6 feet from the rim. When his opponents play some other team, they shoot 60.6% from less than 6 feet. When they face Whiteside, those same opponents only shoot 49.6% from less than 6 feet on 7.4 attempts per game. That is a 11% difference. He has a Defensive Rating of 94.5, which puts him at #1 in the league. He also had 5.3 defensive win shares, good enough for 3rd. Whiteside blocks and defends the paint. He will be a big key in the Heat’s playoff run.
#1 Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)-
The quiet superstar! Usually, the Defensive Player of the Year award is saved for big men. I have Kawhi Leonard winning back-to-back titles for being Defensive Player of the Year. Kawhi had another tremendous season as the Spurs somehow went under the radar with the Warriors season taking up most of the media headlines. The Spurs finished with a 67-15 season and snagged the second seed in the tough Western Conference. Kawhi is the biggest reason why they did so. His offense has taken off and his defense is still smothering. Kawhi, as a small forward, collected 6.8rpg with 5.5 being defensive rebounds. He also finished with 1.8spg and 1.0bpg. He finished with 3.4 points off of turnovers. He had a 96.0 defense rating, sitting nicely at #3 in the league. Lastly, he accounted for 5.5 defensive win shares, which has him sitting at #2. That is why Kawhi is my #1 pick for Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach of the Year
Dwane Casey (Toronto Raptors) – 56-26 record, 107.0 Offensive Rating (5th), 102.7 Defensive Rating (11th).
Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics) – 48-34 record, 103.9 Offensive Rating (13th), 100.9 Defensive Rating (6th).
#3 Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers)-
I could of easily put Dwane Casey or Brad Stevens here but I did not. The Trail Blazers finished with a 44-38 record with an Offensive Rating of 106.1 (7th) and a Defensive Rating of 105.6 (20th). The Defensive Rating is not good and the record is decent so why is sitting at #3? One word: expectations. Let’s rewind to when LaMarcus Aldridge had a new team, Robin Lopez had a new team, Wesley Matthews had a new team, Nicolas Batum had a new team, and Arron Afflalo had a new team. Right then and there, if you would of told me that the Blazers would make the playoffs and sit at #5, I would of laughed hysterically. I am not the only one that thought the Blazers would be a bottom dweller, especially in the tough Western Conference. C.J. McCollum stepped up big for the Blazers and really helped Damian Lillard lead this team. I think Stotts deserves some recognition for leading this young team in a tough 82 game season.
#2 Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)-
Steve Kerr and his Warriors team set the record for 73 wins in a season and I have him ranked #2?!?!? Why yes, yes I do. He missed 43 games this season. While I am sure he still helped Luke Walton a lot while he filled in, he still missed 43 games which is enough for me to say no to being the award winner. His team won 73 games yes, but they still had a very good record when Luke Walton was their interim head coach. If Steve Kerr was on the sidelines the whole season, there would be no question he’d be #1. The Warriors finished the season with a Offensive Rating of 112.5, good enough for 1st. They finished the season with a Defensive Rating of 100.9, which was good enough for 4th. They had a excellent season record wise and offensive/defensive season too. That is why I’ll still put Kerr at #2.
#1 Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)-
The greatest interviewee of all-time! Pop is famous for his interviews and even more famous for his coaching. Pop is arguably the greatest coach of all-time. Yet again, the Spurs are amongst the top teams in the Western Conference. Pop and company finished with a record of 67-15, #2 in the West. They tied the 1985-1986 Boston Celtics record of 40 home wins. The Spurs finished 40-1 at home. They showed complete dominance at home. The Spurs finished with a 108.4 Offensive Rating, good for 3rd in the NBA. They also finished with a 96.6 Defensive Rating, which was good for 1st. I would not be surprised if Pop wins his 4th Coach of the Year award. Does he care if he wins the award? No. He wants that ultimate goal of winning the NBA championship. If he wins that, winning Coach of the Year would be that much sweeter.
Most Valuable Player
#3 Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)-
Kawhi is showing up in my list again! Leonard is the future and the present of the San Antonio Spurs. He has been so huge for this Spurs team and he has been improving every year since the Spurs acquired him from the Pacers. Let’s look at his resume for his MVP candidacy. Leonard played in 72 games and averaged 33.1mpg. In those 33.1 minutes, he scored 21.2ppg, collected 6.8rpg, and dished out 2.6apg. Is that it? Nope. He had 1.8spg, and 1.0bpg as a small forward. He shot .506% from the field, .443% from the three point line, and .874% from the free throw line. On offense and defense, Kawhi Leonard was absolutely lethal. He may not win MVP of the league, but he is easily the MVP of the San Antonio Spurs.
#2 Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)-
Russdiculous! Russell Westbrook is such a talent. Teams just do not know how to handle his explosiveness. You can talk about the turnovers all you want but you can not refute that he has a tremendous season that is MVP worthy. The man averaged 23.5ppg, 7.8rpg, 10.4apg, 2.0spg, and yes, 4.3tpg. You can knock his turnovers all you want but that is a near triple-double average for Russell Westbrook. Oh yeah, speaking of triple-doubles, Westbrook finished the season with 18 of those, the most since Magic Johnson. That’s some good company to be included in. Westbrook finished the season with 54 double-doubles as well. He shot .454% from the field, .296% from the three point line, and .812% from the free throw line. Westbrook played in 80 games this season and averaged 34.4mpg. He was 2nd in the league with his 10.4apg and 5th in the league with his 2.0spg. Westbrook and Durant led this Thunder squad to a 55-27 record, good for the third seed, after not making it to the playoffs due to injuries last season. Westbrook will not win MVP, but could possibly steal some votes from my #1.
#1 Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)-
Amazing. Stunning. Crazy. Historic. Those are some words that come to mind when I think about the season Stephen Curry just had. Curry has been electric and absolutely mind blowing all season. I can talk about adjectives to describe Curry’s season all I want, but the stats show everything I want to say. In 79 games played and 34.2mpg, he averaged 30.1ppg, 5.4rpg, 6.7apg, and 2.1spg. He sat out numerous 4th quarters and still averaged those kinds of numbers. One thing I want to bring up is that Westbrook averaged 4.3tpg. Curry still averaged 3.3tpg, so that is why I do not like to knock Westbrook too much for his turnovers. Curry was first in the league for his 30.1ppg and 2.1spg. Not only did the Warriors make history for going 73-9, but Curry made history for being the first player to reach 400 threes, as he made 402. The numbers say it all, Curry will win MVP this season.