Over the past couple weeks I have realized that I have generally unpopular opinions. People rip me apart when I explain why Fox won’t be a star, and most fans still think Demarcus Cousins is cancer to a team. That is why for the NBA awards, I will use two categories: what I think WILL happen, and what I think SHOULD happen. If you don’t understand, keep reading and you will eventually.
Who Should Win – James Harden
Who Will Win – Russell Westbrook
If we can all be honest at this point, the award is definitely between James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Russell Westbrook did average a triple double this season, a feat that had only been put on one other time by Oscar Robertson. Let’s imagine a world where the triple double never existed. People could still score over 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists but it wasn’t recognized as a stat. Westbrook still had an unbelievable season, but the idea that he averaged a triple double is overrated in this conversation.
The stats to back it up are complex. If you don’t understand, don’t worry and just trust that I’m right. James Harden averaged 29.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists while taking 18.9 shots per game. Russell Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists while taking just over 24 shots per game. Harden averaged 2.5 less points than Westbrook while taking 5.1 less shots. About half of Harden’s shots this season were three pointers, so if he would’ve taken those extra 5.1 shots, he would’ve averaged about 5.4 more points than what he did. Harden’s updated point total would be about 34.5 points per game, 2.9 more points than Westbrook. In my opinion, guards shouldn’t be too worried about rebounding, so even though Westbrook did average 2.6 more rebounds than Harden, those 2.6 rebounds probably didn’t affect the game in any way. Harden also averaged 0.8 more assists than Westbrook. While this number may seem small, that’s an extra 2-3 points per game that James Harden is directly responsible for.
It may seem tough to understand all of the stats to back it up, but Harden made a bigger positive impact on his team than Westbrook. The couple extra rebounds that Westbrook grabbed didn’t make as much of an impact on the game as Harden’s unselfishness. Though statistically Harden had a better season in my opinion, most NBA voters will be hypnotized by the triple-double. Russell Westbrook will win the 2017 NBA MVP award.
Rookie of the Year
Who Should Win – Joel Embiid
Who Will Win – Dario Saric
Wow. This season’s past rookie class may have been one of the worst in NBA history. With Simmons out for the year, the only player from the 2016 NBA Draft nominated was Malcolm Brogdon who was a second round pick for the Milwaukee Bucks. Brogdon will most likely be a solid starting guard for a while, but Joel Embiid and Dario Saric are the ones who are really being considered for this award.
The argument against Embiid is that he didn’t play enough games. That’s a fair point, as he only played in 31 games this season. Injuries are tough for players to deal with, and it’s unfortunate that Embiid is subjected to them so early on in his career. Nonetheless, in the games he did play, he averaged about 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists. Saric on the other hand averaged about 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Embiid’s numbers are clearly miles in front of Saric. Only five active players averaged over 20 points as a rookie: Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Tyreke Evans. Four of those five won rookie of the year. The only one that didn’t was Carmelo Anthony who was in the same rookie class as Lebron James. 20 points is too much for Saric to pass up, no matter how many games someone plays. NBA voters will take games played too far into consideration, and pick either Brogdon or Saric who both played more than Embiid.
Sixth Man of the Year
Who Should Win – Eric Gordon
Who Will Win – Eric Gordon
I don’t agree with others often, but I can’t imagine a world where Eric Gordon doesn’t win sixth man of year. Often times this award is given out for being a very high scorer off of the bench. Andre Iguodala averaged under eight points per game this season. Lou Williams was also a great scorer, but he was the second option off of the bench because he played on the same team as Eric Gordon. Technically, Williams shouldn’t be allowed to win this award because he played the majority of the season as a seventh man.
Eric Gordon averaged over 16 points per game this season, and I don’t hear too many people debating against him. Gordon is a perfect sixth man, and will most likely play a similar role next season in Houston.
Coach of the Year
Who Should Win – Erik Spoelstra
Who Will Win – Mike D’Antoni
Coach of the year is the most subjective award there is. There aren’t really stats I can use to promote any of the options; it really is all up to the eye test. Despite starting the season 11-30, Spoelstra was able to take one of the worst rosters in the NBA to a near playoff spot. Voters will see that he didn’t make the playoffs and immediately shy away from picking him, but he turned below average NBA talent like Dion Waiters and James Johnson into amazing role players.
To be honest, I won’t be entirely upset if D’Antoni wins this award. He did a great job with James Harden, turning him into an MVP candidate, and he also won a lot of games with a team who was also not expected to be great. Even Popovich is always a safe option when voting, but I think Spoelstra made a bigger impact on putting his guys in a position to win every night. Anyone of these options are great though.
Most Improved Player
Who Should Win – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Who Will Win – Giannis Antetokounmpo
This is by far the easiest award to give out. Nothing against Gobert or Jokic who each had great seasons of their own, but Antetokounmpo went from a guy who didn’t make the all-star team, to someone who not only made an All-NBA team, but also singlehandedly lead his team to the postseason. He averaged 6 more points, 1 more rebound, and 1 more assist while upping his field goal percentage by 15 percent.
J.E. Skeets of “The Starters” once said, “It’s much harder making the jump from being a star to being a superstar.” I couldn’t agree with that statement more. That is exactly what Antetokounmpo did this season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Who Should Win – Kevin Durant
Who Will Win – Kawhi Leonard
I know what you’re thinking. I don’t know basketball, I’m a bandwagon, etc. Kevin Durant makes a bigger impact on the defensive end of the floor than anyone else in basketball. When it comes to defense, stats don’t really matter. It really is what you see. Don’t get me wrong. Kawhi Leonard is great. I saw him strip Ben Mclemore on three possessions in a row, run down floor, and get an easy basket.
I remember one game of Kevin Durant however. This play was in the 2015-2016 Western Conference Finals. Stephen Curry was going crazy, hitting three after three. Russell Westbrook double-teamed him for the remainder of the game, so, Kevin Durant decided to defend two players at once! Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes were basically shut down for the rest of that game by only one player: Kevin Durant.
After Durant signed with Warriors, I knew they wouldn’t have any issues on defense like people said they were going to. Durant used his length and had a career high in blocks this season. Not only that, but he became a legitimate inside defender. He could stick around with some bigs in the post, and could actually defend them well.
Durant, unfortunately, wasn’t even nominated for this award. Kawhi Leonard won this award the past two seasons, and I don’t see why that would stop now.