The third annual NBA awards hosted by Shaquille O-Neal will take place on June 24th on TNT. Here are my predictions on who will take home the hardware.
Kia NBA Most Valuable Player
Nominees: Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Paul George
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis and Harden both had fantastic seasons, but the resurgence in Milwaukee led by “The Greek Freak” will allow him to win his first MVP. Giannis absolutely balled out this year averaging 27.7 points per game while also adding 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists. Giannis also helped lead the Bucks to the NBA’s best record of 60-22, which is a massive turn around from 44-38 a season ago. The fact that he is already this good at only 24 years old and can only go up from here is a scary thought for the rest of the NBA; a concluding reason as to why he should win MVP.
Kia NBA Rookie of the Year
Nominees: Trae Young, Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic
Winner: Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic is no question the runaway choice for 2019 Rookie of the Year. Doncic led all rookies with 21.2 points per game and ranks in the top 3 in both rebounds (7.8) and assists (6.0). Doncic is the only player in NBA history besides Oscar Robertson to average 20 points, seven rebounds, and six assists per game as a rookie. Doncic also has an advantage over Young and Ayton because of his professional experience overseas which allowed him to adjust to the NBA game faster. In a season for the Mavericks in which Dirk Nowitzki retired, and Kristaps Porzingis was acquired, Luka’s season and success continued to be the main story. Do not expect that to change when the league hands out the hardware to this year’s best rookie.
Kia NBA Sixth Man Award
Nominees: Montrezl Harrell, Lou WIlliams, Domantas Sabonis
Winner: Lou Williams
The NBA honestly might want to consider changing this award’s name to the “Lou Williams Award”. The two-time sixth man award winner will claim his third award after his stellar 2018-2019 campaign. Williams averaged 20.3 points per game and was third in fourth quarter scoring behind only LeBron James and James Harden. He also helped lead the Clippers to the 8th seed in the Western Conference and helped them take the Warriors to 6 games, a series in which many people thought they would get swept. Williams has embraced the sixth man role wherever he has played and will continue to ball out coming off of the bench for the rest of his career.
Kia NBA Defensive Player of the year
Nominees: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Rudy Gobert
Winner: Rudy Gobert
Utah’s defensive identity is built around Gobert, who once again ranked near the top of the league in shot blocking at 2.3 blocks per game. He won the Defensive Player of the Year award last year despite playing in only 56 games; but this year he was on the court virtually every game, acting as an intimidating rim protector who allows Utah’s perimeter defenders to stay at home on 3-point shooters. The Jazz have become one of the league’s best defensive teams, and it all starts and ends with Rudy Gobert.
Kia NBA Most Improved Player
Nominees: De’Aaron Fox, D’Angelo Russell, Pascal Siakam
Winner: Pascal Siakam
Odds are when you look up Most Improved Player in an encyclopedia, you may find a photograph of Pascal Siakam. In three seasons, he’s gone from a long-shot late-first-round pick to a high-energy reserve to an essential element in the starting lineup of an NBA Finals team. The Raptors needed one of their draft picks to flourish to maximize their potentially brief window with Kawhi Leonard; now Siakam is so good that he could keep it open even if Leonard were to depart. Siakam’s numbers have nearly doubled across the board from 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game last season to 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists this season. Siakam’s scoring efficiency has improved and his defensive effort hasn’t faded. He’s quickly become exactly what any team would want in a role player: he flourishes within his role and can play like an all-star.
NBA Coach of the Year
Nominees: Mike Budenholzer, Michael Malone, Doc Rivers
Winner: Mike Budenholzer
The quick turnaround for the Milwaukee Bucks rests on the shoulders of head coach Mike Budenholzer. He is one of the primary reasons why the Bucks finished with the NBA’s best record. Budenholzer took Giannis Antetokounmpo and made him the centerpiece of the Bucks offense. This led to Giannis’s best season as a pro and being a leading candidate for MVP of the NBA. Budenholzer allowed the Bucks to play faster, play smarter on both offense and defense. He also used the talent on their roster and fit that players into a scheme rather than forcing players into a scheme. He coached to the strength of his players, minimized their deficiencies, and caused the players to take ownership of the championship contending team they’re building in Milwaukee. Put simply, Budenholzer and his staff have made changes on both ends of the court that have made the Milwaukee Bucks one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. He’s completely redone the Bucks team and raised the profile of the organization as a whole.