Every year, the NBA announces the finalists for the awards for these awards about a month before they are awarded. Ever since the awards started, there has always been at least one finalist or winner that the fans have not agreed with. I will be going over all the awards finalists, who I believed got snubbed, and what I believe all the finalists lists should be.
Finalists: James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Paul George
Biggest Snub: Kawhi Leonard
Statistically, Paul George had a better season than Kawhi Leonard, but Kawhi was a better player overall. He is a better defender, he has a higher PER, and has a higher true shooting percentage. Kawhi Leonard is also on the better team as his team was the second best team in the East, and George’s team – the Oklahoma City Thunder – was sixth in the West and got eliminated in the first round by the Portland Trail Blazers. Based on the fact the Kawhi has a more successful team, better advanced stats, and affects the game in ways that Paul George does, I would rather have Kawhi as a finalist for MVP over George.
My Finalists: James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard
Rookie of the Year
Finalists: Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Deandre Ayton
Biggest Snub: Collin Sexton
Collin Sexton was taken eighth overall in the 2018 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He quickly turned into one of the league’s most discussed rookies as he broke records that were set by Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. In his rookie season, Sexton averaged 16.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game for the 19-63 Cavs. He became the first rookie in Cavs history to have 5 straight games where he scored over 20 points, beating James’ record of 4 straight during his rookie season. He also set a Cavs rookie record for 3-pointers made with 90, smashing Kyrie Irving’s record of 74. Sexton was also third in total points scored in the season by a rookie, behind only Luka Doncic and Trae Young. Meanwhile, Deandre Ayton scored 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game for the Suns. Ayton also battled injury throughout the season as well. He never really had the chance to shine throughout the season as either teammate Devin Booker would have a better game, or he would get going and then he would get injured. With the pure scoring ability of Sexton as well as Ayton’s early injury concerns, I would take the Young Bull over Ayton any day.
My Finalists: Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Collin Sexton
Sixth Man of the Year
Finalists: Lou Williams, Domantas Sabonis, Montrezl Harrell
Biggest Snub: Jordan Clarkson
Call me a traditionalist here, but it’s called the 6th man for a reason, as they’re always the first guy off the bench. I don’t believe it’s possible for a team to have two of those guys. Harrell had a monster season for a bench center, but Clarkson managed to be one of the highest scoring members of the Cavs roster while coming off the bench. While yes, Clarkson is not knows for sharing the ball too much, and often can be found chucking up shots for no reason, he actually started to make them this season. Clarkson also showed much improvement this season as well, as he managed to have his best year in points per game at 16.8, his highest free throw percentage at 84.4%, and tied his second best year for true field goal percentage at 50.9%. With a higher points per game total, his improvements from last season, and the fact that he isn’t on the same team as another candidate, I would take Jordan Clarkson as a finalist over Montrezl Harrell.
My Finalists: Lou Williams, Domantas Sabonis, and Jordan Clarkson
Defensive Player of the Year
Finalists: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Rudy Gobert
Biggest Snub: Myles Turner
When looking at a good defender, I personally look at a few different things. First, I look at stats such as blocks per game and steals per game. Second, I look at personal fouls per game. The last thing I look at is if they are a defensive presence. While I believe that Giannis is a presence on defense, he doesn’t match up statistically to the other 2 finalists, as George led the league in steals per game, and Gobert was second in the NBA in blocks per game. I believe this is just a case of NBA writers being too hyped on a player and thus, they want to give him pretty much every accolade that they can. If you don’t award somebody an MVP finalist spot because they’re just a presence, why would you award somebody a Defensive Player of the Year finalist spot because they’re a presence? Myles Turner, on the other hand, has statistically been one of the best defenders in the NBA this season. He led the league in blocks per game, and averaged almost a steal a game as a center. The only thing defensively that Giannis has over Turner is that he can guard more positions than Turner, but that shouldn’t be a basis for being a top 3 defender in the NBA this year.
My Finalists: Rudy Gobert , Paul George, Myles Turner
Most Improved Player
Finalists: De’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell, Pascal Siakam
Biggest Snub: Julius Randle
De’Aaron Fox has turned into one of the best things to come out of the surprisingly disappointing 2017 draft class. But, he’s only been in the NBA for 2 seasons. He showed a lot of promise and is just starting to break out a little bit sooner than people expected him to. Julius Randle turned into an absolute force this year as he jumped from averaging 16.1 points per game in 2018, to 21.4 in 2019. This can be heavily attributed to Davis being heavily sat during the last half of the season, but it’s proven if Randle has the chance to be a starter, he can rack up the points in a hurry. Randle also showed improvement with his 3-point shooting as well, as he shot 34% from deep as opposed to just 22% in 2018. He did all of this at the right time, too, as he built a strong case for free agency if he were to decline his player option this year. Did it turn into wins for the Pelicans? No, it did not. But the Pelicans are a slew of under-performing draft picks, aging players that are overpaid, and a star that has little interest in the organization. It’s gonna be hard to win games when you don’t have an identity as a team.
My Finalists: D’Angleo Russell, Pascal Siakam, and Julius Randle
Coach of the Year
Finalists: Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee Bucks), Michael Malone (Denver Nuggets), Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers)
Biggest Snub: Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers)
Nobody really talked about Portland as much as they should have this year, as they became a sleeper pick to win the championship this year before they were swept in the Western Conference Finals. The Clippers, while they were a surprising team, were only the 8th seed in the the West. Stotts has to manage two star guards and make sure that they are both happy with their roles, while Doc doesn’t have to manage any stars anymore since the Clippers traded Tobias Harris. The Blazers also had to deal with a major injury to one of the main pieces of their offense in Jusuf Nurkic, and the Clippers were fully healthy when they went off into the playoffs. Stotts was able to become the 3rd seed in a Western Conference had teams like the Rockets, Jazz, and Thunder. All of which ended up below them in the standings. Stotts also knew how to ride the hot hand during the playoffs as well. This was shown perfectly with players like Myers Leonard, Rodney Hood, Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Collins, and Maurice Harkless. Doc Rivers was too reliant on the same rotations, no matter if they were hot or cold. So, with a better record, a willingness to change rotations, and ability to balance two star players, I think Terry Stotts has shown he is a better coach than Doc Rivers.
My Finalists: Mike Budenholzer (Milwaukee Bucks), Michael Malone (Denver Nuggets), and Terry Stotts (Portland Trail Blazers)