Executive of the Year: Lawrence Frank
This has to go to Los Angeles Clippers General Manager Lawrence Frank. It seems like an eternity ago, but don’t forget that he was able to take a playoff contender and add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Rookie of the Year: Ja Morant
Ja averaged 17.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in his first year. He looks like a future All-Star and is incredibly entertaining. He may be winning this award because Zion only played in 19 games compared to Ja’s 59, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. Morant is also doing something that’s rare for a rookie, he’s leading his team to a playoff berth. I expect great things from Morant and look forward to watching him during the restart.
Sixth Man of the Year: Montrezl Harrell
The default for this award is to vote for either Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams. Since Jamal Crawford hasn’t played a second of basketball, we’d like to congratulate Lou Williams! The player who earned this award is Montrezl Harrell. He’s putting up 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists off the bench for the Clippers this year. He provides a much needed jolt of energy off the bench. He’s full of passion and borderline rage on the court. He’s a player you love to watch until he’s tearing up your team. Dennis Shroder had a case for this award, but Trez has had the better year.
Most Improved Player: Bam Adebayo
Adding Jimmy Butler isn’t the only reason the Heat have improved this year. Bam Adebayo’s minutes have increased and the Heat parted ways with Hassan Whiteside. They made both of these moves because of the talent Bam showed last year. Last season, Bam averaged 8.9 points, 2.2 assists, 7.3 rebounds, .9 steals, and .8 blocks. He’s increased his numbers in every category this year resulting in 16.2 points, 5.1 assists, 10.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game.
Coach of the Year: Nick Nurse
Last year, the Raptors won 70.7% of their games on route to a title. After losing Kawhi Leonard in the off-season, the Raps increased their winning percentage to 71.9%. They have a talented roster, but a lot of credit should go to Nick Nurse being able to move on from Kawhi without missing a beat. Toronto is now 2nd in the East and is expected to make a run at defending their title despite losing their best player.
Defensive Player of the Year & Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis and the Bucks have been tearing through the league this year. The Bucks have won 81.5% of their games this year, which would’ve translated to 67 wins had this been a full season. Giannis is only playing 30.9 minutes per game because the games are already out of reach by the time the 4th quarter rolls around. The Bucks tout the leagues highest scoring margin at +11.3, ahead of the 2nd place Lakers by almost 4 points.
Giannis is averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 5.8 assists on 30.9 minutes per game. Those are incredible numbers regardless of time played, but to do it in minimal time (for a star player) displays his efficiency and effectiveness on the court.
Giannis is the obvious choice for MVP and for Defensive Player of the Year, too. It kind of boggles my mind that there’s not an Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year Award, but it goes to show that the league doesn’t honor defense in the same way it does offense.
Giannis leads the league in defensive rating, defensive win shares, defensive box plus/minus, and anchors the best defense in the league. What do you expect? He’s a 7-footer who moves like a guard. He can defend every position and he can do it well.
If Giannis is awarded both the MVP and DPOY awards, he’ll be joining elite company. This has only been accomplished twice in NBA history, once by Michael Jordan in 1988 and once by Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994. This would also be Giannis’ second straight MVP, which would put him in a legendary group of players. The list of players to be awarded back to back MVPs is incredible:
Kareem (twice): ‘71, ‘72 & ‘76, ‘77
Steve Nash: ‘05, ‘06
Steph Curry: ‘15, ‘16
Tim Duncan: ‘02, ‘03
Magic Johnson: ‘89, ‘90
Larry Bird (three in a row): ‘84, ‘85, ‘86
Moses Malone: ‘82, ‘83
LeBron James (twice): ‘09, ‘10 & ‘12, ‘13
Wilt Chamberlain (three in a row): ‘66, ‘67, ‘68
Michael Jordan: ‘91, ‘92
Bill Russell (three in a row): ‘61, ‘62, ‘63
Every player on the list, with the exception of Steph Curry and LeBron James, are solidly in the Hall of Fame. Curry and James will obviously join them when they retire, but Giannis is already solidifying his case for enshrinement.