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SQ NBA Awards Roundtable Part 1

Via Fansided

Four SQ NBA writers make their awards picks

A few of our NBA writers got together and brainstormed their NBA end of season awards lists. We present them below:

Most Valuable Player


SQ NBA Senior Writer Matt Blum:

1. James Harden

2. LeBron James

3. Anthony Davis

4. Damian Lillard

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo 

While I understand the temptation to vote for LeBron, Harden has earned this MVP. This season, Harden joined Michael Jordan as the only players in NBA history to average 30 points and eight assists with an eFG% of 54 percent over an entire season. He just had one of the best offensive seasons in league history on the team with the best record in the league. He is the MVP, it’s that simple. 

That being said, James is a very deserving runner-up. He finished the year with career-highs in both rebounds and assists per game while averaging 27.5 points a night, but a severe dip in defensive effort and a lackluster team performance keep him comfortably below Harden. Davis, Lillard, and Antetokounmpo were all great this season and would usually be in consideration, but they don’t have nearly the complete case that Harden does.

SQ NBA Staff Writer Austin Ryback:

1. LeBron James

2. James Harden 

3. Anthony Davis

4. Damian Lillard 

5. Russell Westbrook  

The powers that be decided after the 2012-13 season that they couldn’t simply hand the MVP to LeBron James anymore, regardless of whether he rightfully deserved the award. This season, however, might have been LeBron’s best campaign yet, as he played in all 82 games for the first time in his career. James led his team to 50 wins even though the Cavaliers had only one constant this season: James himself. LeBron averaged 27.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 9.1 assists per game with a 28.65 PER and a 14.0 win share. Compared to Harden, LeBron was statistically better across the board. Aside from the team record (which don’t get me wrong, is incredibly important), LeBron is the most valuable player to his team.

SQ NBA Contributor Henry Ettinger

1. James Harden

2. LeBron James 

3. Anthony Davis 

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo

5. Damian Lillard

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Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The MVP race is much clearer this year. Harden has been the most efficient player in the league this year with a PER of 29.7 and also has the highest usage in the league at 36.1%. What seals his case for MVP, however, is that he hasn’t killed the Rockets on defense. With Harden on the floor, the team still has a 104.7 Defensive Rating, which would be good enough for 10th in the league.  

LeBron James’ best statistical argument for MVP this year would be his clutch performance. He has a 64% true shooting percentage on 48% usage. As a result, the Cavs have won 7.4 more games than projected, according to Basketball Reference. Of course, there is also the intangible argument that he won 50 games with a Cavaliers team that had a boatload of injuries and a rotating cast of characters. The issue is he has not been nearly as good on defense this season due to a clear lack of effort. The Cavs have a 110.9 defensive rating with James on the court, which puts them near the bottom of the league as a team. 

Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo had similarly outstanding seasons. I had Damian Lillard fifth because he has had an excellent year and has played more than 1,000 minutes more than Steph Curry and more than 500 minutes more than Jimmy Butler. 

SQ Head NBA Writer Mac Trammell

1. James Harden

2. LeBron James

3. Anthony Davis

4. Damian Lillard

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Harden, I think in everyone’s eyes, is the clear MVP. He checks every category needed:

  • Statistical leader (leads in PPG, PER, WS, WS/48, Box +/-, third in assists per game)

  • Leader of a great team (best record in the league, #1 seed in the West, legitimate chance to dethrone the Golden State Warriors)

  • MVP moment (60 triple double, Wesley Johnson crossover)

  • Paid his dues (would have won twice if not for two of the greatest single seasons in NBA history — Stephen Curry unanimous MVP, Russell Westbrook averaging a triple double)

He’s going to win this year and he deserves it.

LeBron has a legitimate case. He’s having arguably his best season in his 15th campaign. However, because of the turmoil in Cleveland, he can’t be placed above Harden.
Davis, Lillard, and Antetokounmpo all had incredible surges during the season but not throughout the entirety of the season. They fall into the third tier as a result.


Coach of the Year


Matt Blum

1. Brad Stevens

2. Dwane Casey

3. Quin Snyder

This was Casey’s award a month ago, but what Stevens has done these past few weeks changed my mind. Stevens did a marvelous job keeping the Celtics competitive after losing two All-Stars for the season. Boston managed to get the two-seed and finish the year with the league’s top defense and while Stevens shouldn’t get all of the credit, he would be a very deserving COY

What Casey did to revamp his entire offense and propel the Raptors to the top seed in the East was remarkable. He rejuvenated a team that looked to be on their last legs and while he would be a good choice for COY, I feel Stevens would be a slightly better one. I voted Snyder third because of how good a job he did reworking the team after Gordon Hayward’s departure and developing Donovan Mitchell, but he was a bit below the top two.

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Getty Images

Austin Ryback

1. Quin Snyder

2. Brett Brown

3. Dwane Casey  

Lets go back to Jan. 24, where the Jazz were sitting near the basement of the Western Conference at 19-28. They were seemingly lost without their former star forward Gordon Hayward, who departed for Boston this past summer during free agency. The Jazz went on to finish 48-34 and in the fifth-seed in the Western Conference. 

Snyder took a team led by the 13th overall pick in the draft and completely turned it around midseason in a conference where the 46-36 Nuggets didn’t even make the playoffs. The Jazz went 17-4 in March/April, and led the league in net rating (13.2), defensive rating (95.9), opponents’ scoring (95.4), and opponents’ field goal percentage (42.5) throughout that stretch. Not bad for a team that was staring at 19-28 and a lottery pick on Jan. 24. 

Henry Ettinger

1. Brad Stevens

2. Greg Popovich 

3. Dwane Casey  

Brad Stevens has outdone himself this year. He won 55 games after losing Gordon Hayward five minutes into the season,and even put together a six-game winning streak at one point this year without Kyrie Irving as well. Also having the No. 1 defensive rating in the league with Irving as his point guard is nothing short of a miracle.  

Popovich coached the Spurs to 47 wins when Kawhi Leonard played barely over 200 minutes this season, enough said. Dwane Casey revamped the Raptors offense and has them as the No. 1 seed in the East when most people thought they would regress from last season’s performance. I want to give honorable mentions to Quin Snyder and Brett Brown as well in what was one of the most competitive years ever for coach of the year. 

Mac Trammell


1. Dwane Casey

2. Quin Snyder

3. Nate McMillan

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AP

The changes Casey has implemented in Toronto (getting his stars to play outside their comfort zones, enabling his bench) vaulted a perennially second tier Raptors squad into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. There’s a legitimate chance Toronto makes the Finals this year, and I think for that reason alone, Casey should be considered for this award.

What Quin Snyder has done in Utah in the absence of Gordon Hayward has been remarkable. In addition, his team changed dramatically midseason when it traded Rodney Hood for Jae Crowder. Snyder slid Crowder in seamlessly and now the former Cavalier is playing better not only than he was in Cleveland, but better than Hood was in the same role.

Nate McMillan gets my final vote over a number of other qualified candidates like Terry Stotts, Brad Stevens, Mike D’Antoni, Brett Brown, and Gregg Popovich. He took a team everyone predicted to be one of the NBA’s worst and turned them into the fifth seed in the East. That’s unusual and impressive.

Defensive Player of the Year

Matt Blum

1. Rudy Gobert

2. Joel Embiid

3. Anthony Davis 

DPOY was the toughest decision for me, with both Embiid and Gobert deserving recognition. While Gobert is the slightly better center in the traditional rim-protection sense, Embiid is a fantastic interior defender in his own right and a superior one when he gets switched onto smaller players. 

This was effectively a tie in my mind, but I gave Gobert the edge because I view him as slightly more vital to Utah’s defensive success than I do Embiid to Philadelphia’s. Utah’s defensive rating improved from 105.0 to 97.7 when Gobert was on the floor, versus Philly’s jumping from 104.0 to 99.7 with Embiid. It really is splitting hairs between two fantastic defensive players, but that marginal edge in Gobert’s favor was enough for me to vote for him.

Austin Ryback

1. Rudy Gobert

2. Anthony Davis

3. Joel Embiid 

Behind the Utah Jazz’s midseason turnaround was their man in the middle: Rudy Gobert. In March/April, where the Jazz led the NBA in defensive rating and opponents’ scoring and field goal percentage, Gobert was their defensive anchor. He averaged 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, and upon him returning to the lineup on Jan. 15, the Jazz finished the season 29-7 and fifth in the Western Conference. 

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Fansided

Henry Ettinger

1. Rudy Gobert 

2. Joel Embiid 

3. Al Horford 

Gobert and Embiid played a similar amount because Embiid missed time at the end of the season. The Jazz had a crazy low 97.7 defensive rating with Gobert on the floor versus the Sixers having a 99.7 rating with Embiid on the floor. Gobert also forces fewer shots in the restricted area and forces more misses in the restricted area when opponents take those shots. Boston had the best defense in the league this year, and so I chose to give Al Horford the most credit for that.

Mac Trammell

1. Andre Drummond

2. Rudy Gobert

3. Anthony Davis

I was prepared to give this award to Rudy Gobert. But upon checking this season’s defensive statistics on Basketball Reference, it became clear that Andre Drummond was this season’s best defender. Drummond, who I have seen on several Most Improved Player lists, leads the league in defensive rating, defensive win shares, defensive box +/-, and rebounds per game. He is second in defensive rebound percentage and sixth in blocks per game. His incredible rebounding should be highlighted here as those rebounds are equally, if not more effective than blocks in snuffing out opponents’ offensive possessions.

Gobert again misses out on the award although he is probably the most feared defensive player in the league. His length and shot blocking presence scare players away from the rim, allowing Utah to have the lowest opponents’ points per game average in the league this year.

Steven Adams could have snagged that last spot, but Davis’s versatility gave him the slightest of advantages.

Most Improved Player

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USA TODAY Sports

Matt Blum

1. Victor Oladipo

2. Spencer Dinwiddie

3. Jamal Murray 

Most Improved was the easiest vote for me, and Oladipo should easily win this award. His seemingly overnight jump from a miscast role player in Oklahoma City to a legitimate star in Indiana has been remarkable. It is incredibly difficult to make that type of improvement in just one season, but Oladipo did so masterfully and may very well earn himself a spot on an All-NBA team this season. 

Dinwiddie finished second for me for jumping from a guy nearly out of the league a couple seasons ago to one almost single-handedly keeping Brooklyn (or more accurately, Cleveland) out of the top-five of the lottery, and Murray finished third for developing into one of the best young guards in the league. While they, and others, should get credit for improving, this will be an extremely deserved win for Oladipo.

Austin Ryback

1. Victor Oladipo 

2. Clint Capela

3. Steven Adams  

When Victor Oladipo was traded to Indiana with Domantas Sabonis for Paul George this past offseason, no one expected him to turn into an All-Star guard for the Pacers. Heck, even Pacer fans were calling for Kevin Pritchard’s job. Nevertheless, Oladipo finally broke out this season with career-highs across the board with 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and a league-leading 2.4 steals per game while leading the Pacers to a 48-34 record (a six-win improvement on last season’s mark with Paul George). Oladipo attributed his 180-degree improvement to getting in shape and learning from Russell Westbrook’s work ethic. It’s definitely fair to believe that Brodie certainly rubbed off the right way on him. 

Henry Ettinger

1. Victor Oladipo

2. Spencer Dinwiddie

3. Andre Drummond 

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Photo by Abbie Parr-Getty Images

This wasn’t close. Oladipo went from an average starter to an all-NBA player on a playoff team. Dinwittie came out of nowhere for this season in Jeremy Lin’s absence. Drummond’s improvement in free throw percentage was unprecedented for such a poor shooter. He went from a deplorable 38.6% last season at the line to a respectable 60.5% this season. 

Mac Trammell

1. Victor Oladipo

2. Terry Rozier

3. Spencer Dinwiddie

This is arguably an even easier category to pick than MVP. There’s no one else who deserves this award more than Oladipo, who has transformed himself into an All Star in Indiana after being a role player last year in Oklahoma City. His scoring jumped five points per game higher than his previous best effort while shooting 3.5 percent better from the floor in doing so. His three-point shooting is up, his rebounds and assists are up, and he leads the league in steals for the first time in his career (it is the first time he has led the league in any category).

Terry Rozier has been incredible both in backing up and filling in for Kyrie Irving. His numbers are also up across the board, and he’s been a dynamo for Boston when it’s needed it.

I gave my last vote to Spencer Dinwiddie because he emerged as an excellent role player and borderline starter for the Brooklyn Nets this year after being cut previously by the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.

Rookie of the Year

Matt Blum

1. Ben Simmons

2. Donovan Mitchell

3. Jayson Tatum 

While Rookie of the Year might be the most contentious award race, it isn’t as close for me as it is being made out to be (sorry, Utah). Mitchell had a fantastic rookie season and has the look of a perennial All-Star, but Simmons looks like a future MVP. Mitchell is the better scorer, but Simmons is the far superior passer, rebounder, and defender. In eight out of 10 seasons Mitchell would win this award handily, but this isn’t one of those years. Tatum has been great and would have a shot in some seasons, but he deserves his third place vote and is a far cry from the top two.


Austin Ryback

1. Ben Simmons

2. Donovan Mitchell 

3. Kyle Kuzma  

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Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As the petty-war between Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell continues, and while Mitchell had a tremendous season leading the Jazz, this award has been Simmons’ to lose for a while. Simmons helped lead the Sixers to 50, yes, FIFTY, wins in his first season in Philly. Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists per game, seemingly playing every position on a nightly basis. Defensively, Simmons was able to guard anyone on the court, as he averaged 1.7 steals and a block per game and a defensive rating of 101.4. His defensive win share was .055, good for top-five in the entire NBA. Because of his overall game on both ends, combined with the rise of the Sixers, it’s hard to justify anyone else winning this award.

Henry Ettinger

1. Ben Simmons

2. Donovan Mitchell

3. Jayson Tatum  

It was splitting hairs between the top two guys, but I chose Ben Simmons because of his versatility on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. He is the primary ball-handler and has actually been slightly more efficient as a scorer than Mitchell this season. 

Mac Trammell

1. Ben Simmons

2. Donovan Mitchell

3. Jayson Tatum

Whether you think it’s Donovan Mitchell or Ben Simmons, you can’t argue that these three were the best three rookies in the league this season. I’m giving the nod to Simmons because unlike Mitchell, he transported Philadelphia from being a fringe playoff team to a dangerous threat in the Eastern Conference. Mitchell showed a more nuanced game with expert dribbling, finishing, and athleticism. He also doesn’t have the gaping hole in his game that Simmons does (shooting). But Simmons’ vision, strength, and rebounding give him the edge here.

6th Man of the Year


Matt Blum

1. Lou Williams

2. Eric Gordon

3. Will Barton

Williams was outstanding this season and really kept a beleaguered Clipper team afloat. He posted new career-highs in points (22.6 per game), assists (5.3), and rebounds (2.5) all while putting up his highest eFG% of 50.5 percent since he was a Sixer in 2010. While Williams’ All-Star campaign may have been slightly far-fetched, it wasn’t without some grounding in reality given just how important he was to the Clippers.

Gordon won this award last season and while his numbers are very similar to those he put up last year, Williams raised the bar. Gordon’s shooting dipped slightly and his role shrunk with the addition of Chris Paul, but he is a deserving runner-up. Barton barely made the cut, starting 40 of 81 games this season, but he was an outstanding offensive player for the Nuggets. He averaged 15.7 points per game on a passable 52.8 eFG%, and frequently created good looks for teammates with 4.1 assists a night and was key in the Nuggets recovering to come within one game of making the playoffs.

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Frank Gunn-AP

Austin Ryback

1. Lou Williams 

2. Eric Gordon 

3. Fred VanVleet

The Clippers came into this season with lackluster expectations, to say the least. While at the time the team was still led by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the loss of Chris Paul to the Rockets was certain to mitigate any chances the Clippers would have of making it near the upper-eschilon of the Western Conference. These expectations declined even more once the team traded Griffin to the Pistons in January, as the Clippers were looking at the basement of the West. 

Nevertheless, while the Clippers didn’t end up making it to the playoffs, they made it pretty darn close thanks in large part to Lou Williams. “Sweet Lou” basically carried the Clippers offensively throughout the second half of the season, scoring a career high 22.6 points per game to go along with a career high 5.3 assists. He posted a 12.6 Estimated Wins Added (EWA), good for 19th in the NBA and tops among non-starters. While Gordon and VanVleet played major roles for their teams, both of which went on to the playoffs, neither took on a load nearly as large as Williams did. He definitely figures to add a second Sixth Man of the Year Award to his arsenal (he won his first in the 2014-15 season for Toronto). 

Henry Ettinger

1. Lou Williams

2. Fred Van Fleet

3. Will Barton  

Lou Williams averaged 22.6 points per game this year on 57% true shooting. The only reason you could argue for why he should not win this award is that he should have started more for the Clippers. 

Mac Trammell

1. Lou Williams

2. Fred VanVleet

3. Eric Gordon

If it were possible to give this award to the entire Toronto Raptors bench, that’s what I would do. Unfortunately you can’t do that. And as no individual on Toronto’s bench outplayed Lou Williams this year, the best I can do is give a second place vote to Fred VanVleet. The reigning 6MOY winner comes in a tidy third this year, mostly because the Rockets’ bench was much deeper and less reliant on Eric Gordon.


Edited by Emily Berman.

SQuiz
Who was the winner of the inaugural NBA MVP award in 1956?
Created 4/18/18
  1. Bob Cousy
  2. Bob Pettit
  3. Bill Russell
  4. Wilt Chamberlain

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