MVP: This season, the MVP award is inextricably linked to that of Coach of the Year. Why? Well, the San Antonio Spurs have candidates eligible for both, and they have been the team that has hit above its weight the most all year. Look at their roster-- outside of Kawhi, they have a fringe (and fading) star in LaMarcus Aldridge, an above average wing starter with Danny Green, and a few solid role players: Patty Mills, Dwayne Dedmon, Pau Gasol, and David Lee. Their wing depth is non-existent, and their big men are old, slow, and couldn’t play a lick of defense before this season. Somehow, the Spurs have won 60+ games. Again. Because of this, they deserve one of the two awards, maybe even both. In the end, however, a couple of things knocked Kawhi out of the top spot for me. The Spurs are 7-0 when he sits, and he just doesn’t have the same volume of scoring and shots created as the other guys. Therefore, I gave Pop the greater portion of the credit for the Spurs season, which meant he won Coach of the Year for me (see below). But if Kawhi didn’t win MVP, who did?
LeBron James was eliminated right off the bat. He is spectacular, but his inconsistent levels of play on both ends of the court along with Cleveland’s disappointing regular season means he’s a tier below the other guys. At the last, then, it came down to Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Westbrook is having the season people will remember—his ferocity, his clutch shots, his triple-doubles. Yet at the same, his team isn’t having a season on the same magnitude. The Thunder are exactly where people thought they would be: a mid-40 win team with no shot at doing anything in the playoffs. The Rockets, on the other hand, were projected to be a low 40 win team that would miss the playoffs entirely or scrape in. Instead, they have won 50+ games, and are by most estimations the greatest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference. Westbrook has been clutch, true. But all those great comebacks are just another indicator that the Thunder aren’t very good. Two of those victories were against an absolutely awful Orlando Magic roster that the Thunder shouldn’t have been down big to in the first place! Nobody on the Thunder is having a career year outside of Westbrook, nor have they improved in any notable way. Compare that to the Rockets, a team on which several players are experiencing career renaissances. Harden has unlocked that roster in ways Westbrook hasn’t with his, and that matters a lot. Add in the extra wins and added efficiency, and James Harden is my final MVP.
2nd: Kawhi Leonard
3rd: Russell Westbrook
4th: LeBron James
5th: Steph Curry
Coach of the Year: Greg Popovich is the best coach in NBA history in my humble opinion, and this season is one of his master performances. He has shaped an aging and thin Spurs team into the 2nd best team (in the regular season, anyway) in the NBA, even though at least six or seven teams have more pure talent on their roster. He is my clear winner for coach of the year.
2nd: Erik Spoelstra- Wheedled every last bit of effort and talent out of his players, and has received career performances almost across the roster.
3rd: Mike D’Antoni- Unleashed James Harden and helped revitalize several waning NBA careers.
Defensive Player of the Year: This was a two-man race between Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. While Green might be the best (or at least most versatile) defender in the NBA, I believe rim protectors still provide the most value on that end of the court, and Gobert is the best we have seen in that category since prime Dwight Howard. Green’s efforts in keeping Golden State afloat on defense are admirable, but he also had the help of an absolutely locked in and ferocious Kevin Durant for most of the season. The Jazz have dealt with more injury issues than the Warriors, and have less top-end defensive talent. All that makes Gobert the winner for me.
3rd: Paul Millsap- Sneakily one of the best defensive players in the NBA, Millsap helps Dwight protect the rim and is also a surprisingly effective perimeter defender when caught out on switches.
1st Team All-NBA:
G: James Harden- See MVP
G: Russell Westbrook- See MVP
F: Kawhi Leonard- See MVP
F: LeBron James- See MVP
C: Rudy Gobert- See DPOY and MIP
2nd Team All-NBA:
G: Steph Curry- Curry has had a season only slightly worse than his first MVP campaign in 2015, and his scorching stats with Durant out have kept the Warriors solidly in 1st place in the Western Conference.
G: John Wall- Wall is having a career year, powering the Wizards to their first homecourt advantage in the playoffs in nearly 40 years. He’s capable of taking the game over on both ends, something few players can say.
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Despite severe injuries to the 2nd and 3rd best players on his team, Giannis has pushed the seemingly mediocre Bucks into the playoffs. He leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, a truly incredible statistic.
F: Kevin Durant- Durant was just as good as the four leading MVP candidates when healthy, so the only thing knocking him down was missing around 20 games due to injury. He’s on a different enough tier from the forwards below him that I feel comfortable putting him here.
C: Anthony Davis- Davis has been spectacular this season after a bit of a stagnation in 2016. He’s also played (by far) a career high in games, a great sign to see for the otherwise hapless Pelicans. They weren’t particularly close to the playoffs, but that has less to do with Davis than it does his GM and coach.
3rd Team All-NBA:
G: Isaiah Thomas- Thomas might be having the most magical season of anyone not named Russell Westbrook. The Celtics’ offense doesn’t function when he isn’t in the game, and his 4th quarter scoring (especially early in the season) was the stuff of legend. Sadly, basketball involves defense as well, and Thomas is one of the worst defenders in the NBA. That matters a lot, and its why he’s this far down.
G: Chris Paul- When healthy, Paul has been the 3rd best guard in basketball. His missing 20+ games pushes him below players having (slightly) worse seasons, but he still merits a placement on the third team. His improvement at three -point shooting bodes well for his aging process, yet he remains fully capable of getting by players off the dribble.
F: Draymond Green- See DPOY
F: Jimmy Butler- If the Bulls make the playoffs, they will have done with so with by far the most poorly constructed roster of any of the 16 teams playing extra games. Almost all the credit for their push goes to Butler, who has carried this Chicago team on his back with virtually no support. His defense has fallen off somewhat, but his offensive game continues to improve.
C: DeAndre Jordan- DJ has been a bit inconsistent, yet his overall numbers are still fantastic. He is a vital piece to the Clippers, probably the 4th or 5th best team in the entire NBA when healthy and clicking. Heck, DJ has even improved his free throw shooting, limiting the unbearable hack-a-DJ.
What do you guys think? Share your opinions on my choices and yours in the comment section!