After another whirlwind season, it is time to look at the top performers from the 2017 NBA season. As teams start the playoffs, writers and officials from around the league will be choosing their picks for the top awards. Unlike the past few years, there were no clear cut choices for any of the awards, making it a more difficult process. After much deliberation, here are my picks.
MVP: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder –
Look, James Harden and Westbrook probably deserve to share this award. Westbrook averaged a triple-double per game and broke Oscar Robertson’s record for most triple-doubles in a season. Harden had close numbers to him, but led a better team to a better record. Remove them from their respective teams and they both drop off, but the difference for me is that the Thunder become a bottom-three team without Westbrook. They don’t have any other playmakers and his high usage-rate this season is because the team hasn’t surrounded him with anyone worth passing the ball to.
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors –
Green had another year as the anchor of a defense that was tops in the NBA. The Warriors collapsed on defense without Green in the Finals last year, and should he be able to keep his legs in check, they are the best bet to win the title with his versatile play. He can guard all five positions and does so very well. He is also the emotional base of this team and has lost the award out to Kawhi Leonard the past two years, it is time he gets his due. Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets – Before this season, Gordon played in only 19 games that he didn’t start in his nine-year career. But the guard reinvented himself as the Rockets’ top player off bench, slinging three pointers with the rest of his team at a historic rate. He averaged 16.2 points per game (his highest in four years) and made 3.3 threes a game to help to Rockets create a dynamic duo with him and James Harden. He is also the first player to come off the bench and hit 200 three pointers in a season.
Most Improved Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks –
There is a chance Giannis could have won this last year, but this year he made an even bigger leap to possibly a top-10 player in the league at just the age of 22. He increased his point average from 16.9 to 22.9, raised his blocks and steals by half a point per game, and increased his rebounds, assists, and shooting percentages. He is also the first player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. Last year he made the leap from average to good, but this year he made the leap from good to great. He is now a player that they can build around and on his way to a top player in the league. He is a special player and poised to help his team made a deep run in the playoffs.
Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers –
Despite only playing in 30 games, there is no other clear choice. When he played, Embiid dominated. He was a physical force, a seven-footer who could dribble the ball and shoot from distance, but he could also take it inside and dominate over any other player in the post. The question is whether he can stay on the floor. It took him two years out of college just to get healthy, so the 76ers are hoping their potential franchise player wasn’t just making a quick trip only to be out another year.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets –
D’Antoni took a broken Rockets team and fixed them with his high- speed offense. After a sad season last year in which they stumbled in and faded out of the playoffs, the Rockets were reignited. Despite already having a reputation as a three-point shooting team, D’antoni took their sharpshooting to new heights this year. He installed James Harden as their floor general and took off from there. He won this award with the Suns nine years ago, and he has done it again, with his high flying offensive attack.
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