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BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 25: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks carries the ball against the Boston Celtics during the first quarter at TD Garden on February 25, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

[OPINION] Who Deserves Each NBA Award After The 2018–19 Season

While fans and players allied to Golden State or Toronto remain locked into their team’s ride to the NBA’s championship series, the league’s remaining population can only watch the season’s concluding events unfold from their couches.

While not ready to burry this year’s season entirely just yet, June 24, 2019 remains a date circled for many players fitting this description. The NBA Awards, which recognize individual players and coaches for their efforts during the regular season, arrives on that day and stand as a final chance for players to receive appreciation in regards to their play. While numerous NBA participants warrant acknowledgement in response to their seasons, only a few players will walk away with the cherished legacy–building hardware available once the NBA’s curtain closes.

MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo 

While James Harden followed up his MVP season with exceptional fashion, Antetokounmpo eventually outshined the Houston guard. Antetokounmpo stood as the undoubted team leader in Milwaukee, leading the franchise to a top place finish among all NBA teams during the regular season’s end. Although Harden averaged more points with 36.1 per game in comparison to Antetokounmpo’s 27.7, the “Greek freak” grabbed 12.5 rebounds per game, towering over Harden’s 6.6 per game. Most notably, Antetokounmpo finished the year with a +3 plus/minus score, while Harden’s descended to -10. As a player’s +/- score reflects their effect on and off the floor, its importance in determining a player’s value cannot go overlooked. The MVP awards both offense and defense, two skills Antetokounmpo wielded at a high level this season, while Harden only proved exceptional when playing offense. Finalist Paul George challenged Antetokounmpo early on, however, his injury during the season’s closing months unfortunately diminished his effectiveness, therefore removing him from the discussion.

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Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic

Despite an impressive second-half surge by Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, Doncic whol heartedly deserves the award bestowed to the season’s best performance from a first-year player. Doncic averaged 21.1 points per game, with 7.8 rebounds per game, and 6 assists. These numbers generally surpass Young’s which total 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game. Young remains just a few notches behind Doncic again when looking at each player’s FG %, three–point %, and turnover totals. It’s close, but Doncic just barely ascends Young no matter what statistics come into play. Although first overall pick Deandre Ayton received a nod as finalist, he warrants no debate as his numbers dwarf both Doncic and Young’s.

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams

Looking to earn his third Sixth Man of the Year award, Williams should walk away victorious despite a close three-man race between Williams, Domantas Sabonis, and teammate Montrez Harrell. Harrell pilled up points and rebounds off the bench for LA all season, averaging 16.5 and 6.6, while Sabonis gathered 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Williams stands out, however, as over the last ten years no winner of the award averaged more points per game than Williams’s 20 this year other than Williams himself, who averaged 22.6 when he took home the award last year. The Clipper, who also hit a season–highlighting, buzzer-beater three-pointer against the Brooklyn Nets in route to the team’s unexpected yet gratifying playoff berth, averaged 5.4 assists as well.

Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam

Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell wrote perhaps the league’s best revenge story this year, after enjoying a career year in which the guard received All–Star honors, led Brooklyn to the playoffs, and personally knocked the Los Angeles Lakers and now resigned GM Magic Johnson out of playoff contention. This occurred just two years after the Lakers traded Russell and while claiming his leadership proved inadequate. Kings point guard De’Arron Fox files an impressive season into the mix as well, as his totals laster year jumped from 11.6 points and 4.4 assists per game up to 17.3 and 7.3. However, Siakam deserves this honor above all, as the player once scavenging for minutes in Toronto now stands as an extremely essential element apart the Raptor’s ongoing championship quest. Siakam’s numbers blow away his prior stats, as this year Spicy P averaged 16.9 points, 3.1 assists, and 6.9 rebounds, easily surpassing last year when he averaged just 7.3 points, 2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per contest.

Defensive Player of the Year: Paul George

Although George no longer contended for an MVP award after an injury derailed his offensive numbers, George has displayed his finest defensive season yet, earning him the Defensive Player of the Year Award. While leading the league with 2.21 steals per game, George defended against both guards and big men this season, as his size and flexibility often subject him to defend the opponent’s best player no matter their position. Rudy Gobert offers an intriguing case with 2.31 blocks per game while Antetokounmpo’s defensive skills also grant his name relevance regarding the award. Still, George’s versatility on the defensive end ultimately proved him as the league’s top defender during the 2018-19 season.

Coach of the Year: Michael Malone

The Denver Nuggets, who not too long ago possessed zero relevance, turned 46 wins and a ninth place finish out west into a 54-win season while finishing second behind Golden State, all thanks to Coach Malone. The makeover transforming Denver into a contender during this season warrants further recognition, as the Nuggets’ quiet rise as Western juggernaut occurred without turmoil. Star players such as Nikola JokicPaul Millsapand budding star Jamal Murray all bought into Malone’s scheme, leading the franchise to their first playoff berth since 2013. Despite their inability to surpass Malone regarding this award, Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer both turned in well–rounded performances as well by leading their squads to playoff berths.

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Written by Collin Helwig

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