NBA Awards Predictions
by: Derek Li
The NBA regular season is coming to a close, and several things are clear to players, fans, and front offices alike. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ season has been a disappointment to say the least, but at least free agency season in the summer should give them some hope. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his supporting cast on the Milwaukee Bucks have the offensive firepower and defensive prowess to reach the finals and give the Warriors a shot for the trophy. Zion Williamson is undeniably going to be the first pick in the upcoming draft, and if the Knicks don’t get him, the organization will once again disappoint its fans for what seems like the millionth year. What’s not as clear, however, are the definitive answers as to who will receive the awards and accolades come June.
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. James Harden
My Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Both the Greek Freak and the Beard are having phenomenal and historical individual seasons. The former is averaging 27 ppg, 13 rpg, and 6 apg while shooting more than 57% from the field and carrying his team to the number one seed in the East. The latter is averaging an absurd 36 ppg and 8 apg. The reason I think that Giannis will come out victorious in the battle for the most valuable player is his playstyle and rise to stardom. He plays with an unselfish attitude and locks up on the defensive end by blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. Harden, however, isolates nearly every possession and doesn’t exactly get his teammates involved. His clever yet infuriating foul-drawing tactics have also garnered him a lot of hate.
Most Improved Player (MIP): D’Angelo Russell vs. Pascal Siakam
My Pick: D’Angelo Russell
No one imagined that D Lo, a former Laker let go after a few underwhelming seasons, would the go-to man and leader of a surging Brooklyn Nets team that is on track to making its first playoff appearance in 4 seasons. Since last year, he is averaging 6 more ppg and 2 more apg while shooting better from the field for a drastically improved organization. Even more impressive, however, is the fact that he only really ramped up his production near all-star break. Although Pascal Siakam on the Toronto Raptors has arguably seen a more significant statistical improvement, his impact on the team isn’t as obvious as that of Russell.
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
This year’s sixth man award isn’t much of a contest. Lou Williams continues to prove his worth as a pure scorer and go-to clutch offensive option for the surprisingly good Los Angeles Clippers. He’s averaging 20 ppg and 5 apg while playing slightly over 26 minutes per game. Just watching Clippers games show that just his presence on the floor has opened up an abundance of pick and rolls and open shots for other teammates such as Montrezl Harrell and Danilo Gallinari. If Lou Williams takes home the sixth man trophy this year, he may ultimately go down as the best bench player to ever play in the NBA.
Rookie of the Year (ROTY): Luka Doncic vs. Trae Young
My Pick: Luka Doncic. The NBA has arguably never seen a rookie as talented and mature as Luka. The 20 year old Slovenian small forward possess the vision, IQ, and scoring ability of an elite guard such as James Harden but also has the size to dominate smaller guys in the post; it seems as if the game comes effortlessly to him. Although the Mavs currently have a mediocre record (they’re tanking for the 2019 draft), Luka is averaging over 21 ppg, 7 rpg, and 6 apg. His shot selection may be his weakest attribute, but part of the blame should be diverted towards the entire Mavs team for lacking consistent offensive weapons. Trae Young has also stepped up his game recently. However, his shot selection is even worse than Luka and he is often terribly inefficient from the field. The rivalry between these two will continue far longer than just the ROTY award, and is that should excite fans worldwide for years to come.