COACH OF THE YEAR: NICK NURSE, TORONTO RAPTORS
This one was a no brainer, although some might have argued that Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan deserved a nod for the award. Still, what Nick Nurse has done this year with the Toronto Raptors has been absolutely shocking. Not often do you win an NBA Championship then lose one of the top players in the league, followed by having an almost identical year when it comes to wins and losses. Nurse and the Raptors have been one of the shocking stories in the NBA this year, as they have been just as tough as a team to deal with.
WAS IT RIGHT THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Yes, as stated above Billy Donovan deserved some love for this award but what Nurse did this year after losing Kawhi Leonard to free agency has been simply outstanding. Toronto was a force this year defensively and you can tell the team came back motivated to send a message to the league. Nurse will continue to rise as one of the top coaches in the NBA and he deserves the nod with this award.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, MILWAUKEE BUCKS
There was no doubt about this one as well. I know Lakers fans, we will get to you in a minute, just take a deep breath and count to 10. The Milwaukee Bucks were on the war path throughout the regular season and their defense was a major part of their overall team success. In the heart of that smothering defense, was last year's (and this year's) MVP. Milwaukee statistically would rank as the best defensive team in the NBA this year, and would go on to average 13.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, and 1.0 steals in just 30.4 minutes per game. The Bucks as a team would only allow 96.5 points per possession this year when Giannis was on the floor. That would rank as the lowest defensive rating in the NBA among players who played at least 15 minutes per game.
WAS IT THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Yes it was. Look Lakers fans, just like every other fan base in the NBA...I'll always love you. But this award was going to Giannis no matter what you want to argue. There's simply just too many factors here that are putting Giannis in the lead when it comes to the AD/GA debate for DPOY. Anthony Davis would end up coming in second place when it came to the voting perspective, with 14 first place votes (200 points). Giannis would also give up the lowest field goal percentage (36.3%) in the NBA as the closest defender, according to Second Spectrum.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: BRANDON INGRAM, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
This was, in my opinion, the most interesting award on the "slate" this year in the NBA. There was a serious argument that a number of players in consideration for the award could have been selected. Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram was quickly becoming a popular pick in basketball worlds, but I thought there was serious debate that Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo could have won the award as well. Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic was also in the running. The thing with Luka is I tend to personally be on the fence when it comes to the argument of should a second year player really be considered a most improve candidate. I get both sides of the argument, and I'm glad the voters went in another direction here.
WAS IT RIGHT THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Although at first I thought this was going to be Bam Adebayo, the answer is yes...this was the right choice. If you take a look at Brandon Ingram's spike in production from his previous year with the Los Angeles Lakers, there's a lot of numbers that shock you. First of all, Ingram made 137 3-pointers this year for the Pelicans which is more than his previous three seasons in the NBA combined. Ingram also saw a ridiculous spike at the free throw line, jumping from 66.2% over his first three years to 85.8% this year. The young Pelicans wing would earn 326 total points in the voting. Bam Adebayo finished second with 295 points and Luka Doncic finished with 101 points.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: JA MORANT, MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Stop it, don't begin to start with me if you even thought there was a remotely serious chance that Zion Williamson would win this award. For the one individual in the media that voted for Zion to win, I am coming for your vote. You've been warned.
On a serious note, this wasn't even close in my opinion. Yes, I understand the production that Zion had WHEN he played during this season and if Williamson had a longer slate of production...I'd definitely be more inclined to lead towards him having a serious shot. We wrote about this exact situation earlier in the year, as it happened previously in NBA history. In our previous "Catch Me If You Can" segment, in which we talked about how Ja Morant was going to win this award and we had seen this exact same situation happen before (humble brag), we talked about how Malcolm Brogdon won Rookie of the Year despite not having the production that Joel Embiid had during the same year. The common problem? Games played. Ja Morant played a lengthy season and had the Grizzlies destined for the NBA Playoffs before the season ended.
WAS IT RIGHT THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Yes, don't be crazy. We enjoy people being a little crazy, but not THAT crazy. Ja Morant was sensational this year for the Grizzlies and 100% deserved the award.
6TH MAN OF THE YEAR: MONTREZL HARRELL, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
While some considered this a bit of a "curveball", I absolutely love that Harrell won the recognition for this award. The candidates for this award included Clippers teammate, and Sixth Man legend, Lou Williams as well as Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder. While many thought that Schroder was the obvious choice for this award, I thought that Harrell had proved more than enough to be the choice. Harrell would receive 58 first-place votes and earned 397 total points. Dennis schroder would finish in second with 328 points.
WAS IT RIGHT THE RIGHT CHOICE?
Yes and allow me to tell you why ladies and gentlemen (cracks fingers to get ready to type with authority). Harrell went on to average 18.6 PPG, and 7.1 RPG for the Clippers while shooting 58.0% from the field. Those are absurd numbers for a big man off of the bench. The more impressive feature is that Harrell had that type of production in almost 3 minutes LESS per game compared to Thunder guard Dennis Schroder. Harrell has been absolutely fantastic for the Los Angeles Clippers ever since he arrived from Houston, and this award was well deserved with his play this season.
MVP: GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO, MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Giannis will go down as one of the first players to win MVP and DPOY in the same season since Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan. That company is not too shabby. For all of the Lebron lovers out there, I get your frustration but there was simply no way he was going to win this award. In the words of Drake, Giannis officially goes "Back-to-back" when it comes to MVP awards. (Please don't hurt me for a hip-hop reference). The Milwaukee Bucks star would finish with 962 voting points (88 first place votes). Lebron James would finish with 753 points (16 first place votes).
WAS IT RIGHT THE RIGHT CHOICE?
The answer is yes, and I hate to become public enemy number one with Laker nation but sometimes you got to be the villain. Giannis won MVP in 2018-19 while averaging 27.7 PTS, 12.5 REB, and 5.9 AST while playing 32.8 minutes per game. During the year, he put up shooting splits of 57.8/25.6/72.9. This year? Giannis improved almost entirely across the board, in 9 less games and 2.4 minutes per game LESS. The fact that Giannis went from averaging 27 and 12 to almost 30 and 14 while improving his three point percentage from 25 to 30% is remarkable in itself.
It's honestly really hard to argue from any of these picks for first team All-NBA. Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and Giannis were mortal locks for 1st team. It's hard to argue against James Harden recently just because he's an absolute terror on the offensive side of the ball. Luka Doncic making 1st team All-NBA in only his second season is just incredible. For those that don't know, and I'm sure you most likely do by now, it took Lebron three years to make the 1st team. Still, the league and it's voters got this group right. Look at it this way, 4 out of the 5 players on the first team this year are most likely the first four in the MVP voting. Or they should be...
This is where things start to get a little interesting...I don't have any problems with the first four on this list. By that, I mean Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Kawhi Leonard (Clippers), Damian Lillard (Blazers), and Chris Paul (Thunder). BUT, Let's talk about Pascal Siakam. You'll see below that there was some serious contenders for that forward spot that you could really put up a good argument in which saying they deserved the nod over Pascal. Ben Simmons (Sixers) and Jayson Tatum (Celtics) are going to be the two most discussed players in this argument, but it's also mind puzzling to me that Milwaukee Bucks wingman Khris Middleton didn't make a single All-NBA team after the year that he had. (Bradley Beal rant coming below...)
So let's have "the talk" folks. No, not the talk that your parents likely gave you awkwardly while you were a child sitting on your bed listening to George Michaels records, I'm talking about the "Why in the world did Bradley Beal not make it on this list" talk.
Your guess is as good as mine. Look, I LOVE Russell Westbrook. I understand he has his fair share of criticism over the years, but he plays with the mentality that I love, so I'm always going to be a Westbrook supporter. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Westbrook really deserved to be on this list. Westbrook went on to average 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists for the Rockets this year, while shooting 47.2% from the field and 25.8% from 3. On the other hand, Bradley Beal (who would also be considered a guard on this list @NBA Writers), went on to average 30.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.1 assists while shooting 45.5% from the field and 35.3% from 3.
Did you know that Bradley Beal is the only NBA player EVER to average at least 30 points per game and 6 assists and NOT make an All-NBA team...Please re-read that entire sentence, because it is a heavy one. Now I understand that most people will first point out "well Westbrook's team had more success," yes that is true. But aren't these awards supposed to give nod to the best season performances by an individual? There were points this year that anyone would turn on a Wizards game just to see how incredibly dominant Bradley Beal was. There wasn't one point this year in which you texted a friend and said "Westbrook is going off, turn on the Rockets game." Keep grinding Bradley, we're behind ya.
There's no surprises here with the First Team when it comes to the Rookies. The only cool part about this...notice a trend? Besides Ja Morant and Zion Williamson, the Draft range for the remaining three players on this list is all over the place. Eric Paschall (Warriors) went 41st in the 2019 draft, while Kendrick Nunn (Heat) went undrafted. Memphis Grizzlies forward Brandon Clarke went 21st overall, and I still haven't figured out why in the world he fell so far in the draft I WANT ANSWERS NBA. Never the less, this is always a huge nod to the fact that it's not only the players you draft, but the spot they land in that can bring out such immediate success for some young talent.
Thought both of the NBA Rookie teams were spot on. Although some might have argued that RJ Barrett (Knicks) could have received the nod on the second team, I'm a big fan of all of the choices above. Washington and Hachimura were fantastic for the Hornets and Wizards this year, and Coby White might have had a shot at the first team if he had been starting the entire year. Also great to see Terence Davis II (Raptors) get some recognition as well after going undrafted. Much like Brandon Clarke (Grizzlies), I'm still a bit surprised that Davis wasn't selected on draft night.
ALL DEFENSIVE TEAMS
While the All-Defensive and All-NBA teams are usually highly in debate each and every year, I personally have no problems with the results of the All-Defensive teams. The first team seems to be perfectly constructed, as all of the choices were incredibly deserving of their spot. Each player on the first team deserved the recognition this year as one of the top defenders in the league at their respective position. I also like that Ben Simmons was eligible for recognition as a guard in this situation. Marcus Smart gets another nod on the first-team as he's quickly becoming one of the best defenders in the NBA. Davis, Giannis, and Gobert (to a degree) seemed to be locks for this team as well.
Not a lot of surprise when it comes to the second team, but it is humorous that two pairs of teammates from two of the most successful teams this year in the NBA found their spot on this team. Not taking anything away from the choices, they all deserved it. Most pleased personally to see Miami Heat rising star Bam Adebayo get some recognition here.