Now that the NBA season is over, we turned our attention to the NBA Draft that took place on Thursday, June 20th. Now that the draft is over, we’ll focus on all the players who will be entering free agency on July 1st. On Monday, June 24, I will give the first of five articles leading up to the free agent period. Each article will be scheduled once a daily for five straight days as we look ahead to that.
Monday is also the night we found out who wins the 2019 NBA Awards. It’s been a long season full of debates on who wins Most Valuable Player or Rookie of the Year, along with several other awards.
Unfortunately, we can’t just say Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse and superstar Kawhi Leonard win, because they aren’t candidates, but surprise forward Pascal Siakam is a nominee for most improved. We at Fourth Quarter Sports have come together again and gave our predictions of who we think will win this year’s awards.
Most Valuable Player
Candidates: James Harden (HOU), Paul George (OKC) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)
Rahim’s Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Mickayeen’s Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Joel’s Prediction: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Why: Although James Harden had another great year with the Houston Rockets as he set a career record for consecutive 30+ points games with 32, I don’t think Giannis can be beaten for this one. Regardless of how successful of a season it was for Harden, he didn’t lead his team to the Conference Finals.
Of course, he had to do a lot of it by himself with injuries to Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, but they finished fourth in the West and got eliminated in the second round by the Golden State Warriors.
Despite Harden’s career-high 36.1 points per game this season, Antetokounmpo led his team to the best record in the NBA. They were the only team to win 60 games this season. Antetokounmpo averaged career-highs in points, rebounds and assists per game (27.7,12.5, and 5.9). He also proved to be a team leader, as he led his team to the Conference Finals against the NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
Rookie of the Year
Candidates: DeAndre Ayton (PHO), Luka Doncic (DAL) and Trae Young (ATL)
Rahim’s Prediction: Luka Doncic
Mickayeen’s Prediction: Luka Doncic
Joel’s Prediction: Luka Doncic
Why: There’s no surprise here either. Coming into last year’s draft, Doncic was listed as the best player, and he did not disappoint, starting off strong with the Dallas Mavericks and making big play after big play. In his first season with Dallas, Doncic averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists in 72 games played.
Of course, the same could be said about Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young. Unfortunately, Young started the season slow and started to pick up late in the season around the All-Star break. Young played in 81 games, averaging 19.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 8.1 assists. Had he started getting hot earlier in the season, it might be a different story, but we expect to see these two be the best players in their draft class.
Candidates: Domantas Sabonis (IND), Lou Williams (LAC) and Montzell Harrell (LAC)
Rahim’s Prediction: Lou Williams
Mickayeen’s Prediction: Lou Williams
Joel’s Prediction: Lou Williams
Why: Lou Williams seems like the clear-cut winner for this award every year. This year is one where he really deserves it, especially since the Clippers weren’t even supposed to make playoffs this year. Williams was the team’s leader in both points and assists per game (20, 5.6).
Williams’ teammate, Montzell Harrell, could’ve made a case for himself too, but it’ll be hard to beat Williams out of this award. Let’s be honest, Lou Williams will go down as the best 6th man in NBA history.
Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis had a nice campaign off the bench, especially when All-Star guard, Victor Oladipo went down for the season. I wanted to give this honor to Sabonis because he helped energize the team into the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Of course, that wasn’t a hard thing to do with the conference being weaker than the West. Sabonis is coming along as a great addition to the Pacers rotation and a good piece from the Paul George trade.
Coach of the Year
Candidates: Mike Budenholzer (MIL), Mike Malone (DEN) and Doc Rivers (LAC)
Rahim’s Prediction: Mike Budenholzer
Mickayeen’s Prediction: Mike Malone
Joel’s Prediction: Mike Budenholzer
Why: With the Milwaukee Bucks being the only team to win 60 games this season, why wouldn’t you consider Mike Budenholzer as the coach of the year? Not only was it a 60 win season, but the best season of the Milwaukee franchise since 1974, and they have an MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
For Mike Malone, it was about proving that the Denver Nuggets are a team that should be taken seriously. In the 2017-18 season, the Nuggets came only one win shy of making the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. They weren’t going to be denied the playoffs this year, as they started off strong and battled the Golden State Warriors for the top spot in the conference. Malone’s Nuggets finished with the second best record in the West, so he deserves to get a few votes. However, coach Budenholzer will win.
Most Improved Player
Candidates: D’Angelo Russell (BKN), Pascal Siakam (TOR) and De’Aaron Fox (SAC)
Rahim’s Prediction: D’Angelo Russell
Mickayeen’s Prediction: Pascal Siakam
Joel’s Prediction: Pascal Siakam
Dan’s Prediction: D’Angelo Russell
Why: This is where things start to get interesting. If this award was based on the playoffs alone, I would clearly say Pascal Siakam because of what he did for the NBA Champions. Siakam had one of the best performances in the NBA playoffs, even though we didn’t expect him to have a nice season.
D’Angelo Russell has grown in his time with Brooklyn. Russell was traded to the Nets because of his off the court issues with a few teammates and coaching staff. The Lakers also wanted to go in a different direction, but Russell fell into his role as the star guard in Brooklyn well, as he led them to the 6th seed in the playoffs and a shocking game one win over the Philadelphia Sixers. Russell even became an All-Star for the first time.
I do expect to see Siakam as an All-Star soon too, but this one has to go to Russell for now. He was the best player on his team. He has a huge free agent decision to make, but first, let’s watch him take home this honor.
Defensive Player of the Year
Candidates: Rudy Gobert (UTAH), Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) and Paul George (OKC)
Rahim’s Prediction: Paul George
Mickayeen’s Prediction: Paul George
Joel’s Prediction: Paul George
Why: This is another one that is interesting because we have seen the careers of all three of these guys excel to new heights. Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1974.
But we will focus on Paul George and Rudy Gobert. Since being traded to Oklahoma City, George has been able to work on his defensive game with teammates Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook. George leads the league with 2.2 steals a game and brought the intensity to the court.
However, he didn’t have more rebounds or blocks than either one of the other two guys. I think this is George’s year to win it based off the numbers he’s been putting up compared to the rest of the guys. George’s quick hands were the difference maker in several games for the Thunder this year, and he deserves this one.
Don’t forget to share what you think about these picks! Who really deserves to win these awards? Comment in the section below to let us know your thoughts!
*All stats courtesy of basketball reference