Here are our picks for the remaining NBA awards in what was a very exciting season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
This man finally gets the award that he’s been ever so close to getting this past two years and it’s very well deserved. You can almost tell that he was on a mission to win the award this year as he gave us his best season yet.
Draymond averaged career highs in steals (2.0) and blocks (1.4) and these are numbers that everyone loves to look at but these only just scratch the surface of how important he is to the Warriors’ defense which was 2nd in the NBA. He is a match up nightmare for every position on the floor with his incredible combination of speed, strength, positioning, and hustle. Rudy Gobert has been incredible and downright impenetrable (2.6 blocks per game) this season and more comfortable on the perimeter, but this is definitely Green’s award.
Green averages around 7 contested shots per game which is on par with players like Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan, only Green is 6′ 7″. After Green gets done contesting the rim he can turn around and guard players like James Harden and John Wall and hold his own. Although, Gobert has been dominate and Kawhi as solid as always, Green’s versatility and ability to hold down own of the league’s best defense gives him the edge.
Green is only 2nd in the NBA in steals behind only John Wall and is always a lock down post defender. His anticipation and defensive IQ is second to none, he not only anticipates plays, but is there before they even happen.
Again, this race is extremely close, Green is 1st in Defensive Win Shares, Gobert is 2nd, Golden State is 2nd in Team Defensive Rating, Utah is 2nd. Him losing this award is not a knock on Gobert, he can turn 8-foot floaters into 2-foot floaters and does a great job of affecting shots but avoiding fouls. But, Green just does too much on the floor for him not to get the award.
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
I mean, this race isn’t really as close as the other ones have been. Giannis improved his FG%, 3PT%, FT%, Points, assists, steals, blocks, and rebounds, the only player in the NBA to do this. He can do it all now on the offensive end while being the only player other than Draymond Green with 100 steals and 100 blocks.
Draymond can’t do this though….
Giannis is a no-brainer All-NBA and All-Defensive pick and came very close to averaging 2 blocks and 2 steals per game this season. You put a big guy on him he blows by them and you put a small guy on him and he destroys them in the post. He lead the Bucks to a 6th seed after struggling early and put them in a position to do plenty of damage in the playoffs.
The Greek Freak has improved his play making this season and can whip passes around all over the court. He is one of the best transition players in the NBA and can guard all 5 spots on the floor. This man will be in the running for MVP and DPOY for many years to come.
James Johnson, Rudy Gobert, and Nikola Jokic all put up fantastic seasons and could’ve won this award any year, other than the Greek Freak’s year.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
After tumultuous runs with the Knicks and Lakers, the hiring of the Pringles Man for Houston was anything but a sure thing. After putting the ball in James Harden’s hands and instantly making him an MVP candidate, this is D’Antoni’s award.
Threes, threes, threes, and more threes. This was Houston’s philosophy this season and it worked to perfection as they went on to win 55 games and earned the 3rd seed in the vaunted Western Conference. D’Antoni is always revolutionizing the way offense is played as everyone saw with his 7 seconds or less offense in Phoenix and now in Houston. D’Antoni took what the Golden State Warriors were doing and turned it up a few more notches.
There was no qualms about playing time or who got the ball which plagued Houston for the past few years (Howard leaving may have helped too). Everyone bought into the system and played loose and together. Houston was projected by Vegas to win 41.5 games this year and safe to say they exceeded that, and most of the credit has to go to D’Antoni, and maybe Harden.
If the Heat would’ve squeaked into the playoffs, Erik Spoelstra may have won this award. After starting the season at 11-30 most teams would’ve completely fallen apart, but Spoelstra would not allow this and the Heat kept plugging away. Spoelstra pushed his dribble-drive offense into overdrive and would not stop until his final vision would become a reality. The Heat just missed the playoffs but Spoelstra deserves tons of credit for what he did.
Obviously, if this award was named Best Coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich would win this award every year. His continued success even as he loses the pieces from the first dynasty is not really surprising, but expected. People would’ve understood if the Spurs would’ve lost a little steam this year, but instead they finished with 61 wins, 5th-most under Coach Pop. His ability to balance minutes for the playoff run while still molding his younger players into what he wants for the future is incredible and if he were to win this award it would be very deserving.
Sixth Man of the Year: Andre Iguodala
Iggy definitely isn’t the flashy or prototypical pick for this award, but he is most definitely deserving. Scorers, Lou Williams, Eric Gordon, and James Johnson are all deserving of the award but what Iggy does for his team is unmatched.
He is 4th among bench players in defensive rating (101.1) and embraces his role as a pressure release play maker and occasional scorer. His most important stretch came when Durant was out for 16 games and he stepped in, averaging 11 points on 60% shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. Golden State went 15-4 during that stretch.
Iguodala’s most impressive stat is he led the league in assist-to-turnover ratio by a wide margin. He can be counted on with the ball in his hand at any moment in the game and is miles ahead of any other candidates with his defense and passing and covers more gaps than almost any player in the NBA
Iggy is one of the most important players on the best team in the NBA and this fact alone gives him the edge.
Check back in for our picks for All-NBA, All-Defensive, and All-Rookie teams.