NBA: My regular-season MVP, ROY and everything in between

Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond (0) and Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) go for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond (0) and Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) go for a loose ball during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

The NBA season has come to a close and playoff games are in full swing. There are a lot of tight races for the awards this year: “The Greek Freak” vs “The Beard” for MVP, Luka Doncic vs Trae Young for Rookie of the Year or the large pool of players up for Most Improved Player. Here are my choices for who should win each award and why.

Most Valuable Player choice — Giannis Antetokounmpo:

This really was a tough one. Anyone who knows me knows I cannot stand Harden and the way he plays, but that does not mean I don’t understand and respect what an incredible season he has had from an offensive standpoint. Thirty-two consecutive games of at least 30 points and the first to average 35 points per game since Kobe in 2006 are incredible feats only a truly special player can accomplish. But when all is said and done, the award for Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the season has to go to the Greek Freak. This man somehow just keeps getting better. In his sixth season, Giannis averaged career-highs across the board, ending the year with 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists per game.

Only seven other players have averaged 20-10-5 during a season: Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Russell Westbrook, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley. Giannis is the most dominant player in the NBA right now and even Shaq has noticed, giving the Greek phenom his nickname of Superman and saying Giannis is even better than he was at 24. The Greek Freak also led the Bucks to the best record and best defense in the NBA and could give them a real chance at winning the title. Hats off to Harden on a historic season of his own, but the MVP should go to Giannis for his pure dominance and continuous improvement of both himself and his team. Oh yeah, and he is only 24.

Rookie of the Year — Luka Doncic:

Trae Young really gave it his best shot down the stretch, but the rookie of the year is, without question, the 20-year-old from Slovenia. Doncic had one of the best rookie seasons to date, ending the year with incredible averages of 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and six assists per game. He is only the fifth person to average 20, five and five in their rookie year, joining elite company like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Oscar Robertson and Tyreke Evans. While the team’s overall season wasn’t pretty, Doncic did lead the team to eight more wins and broke several records while doing so. Doncic became the first teenager to record multiple triple doubles, while also being the first to get a 30-point triple double. Young put up a good fight, averaging an impressive 25 points and nine assists per game since the All-Star Break, but the award needs to go to the player that was exceptional the entire year, and that is Doncic. 

Sixth Man of the Year — Lou Williams:

Another year, another outstanding season from the ageless Williams, who is in line to win his second-straight sixth man award and third overall. There is simply no one better at coming off the bench and putting up points with ease. Williams scored 20 points per game this season, the second highest total of his career. The 32-year-old also had his best season to date as a facilitator, averaging a career-high 5.4 assists per game. But Williams’ career year did not only lead to his success, it also translated to a huge season from the team as a whole. The Clippers, who were thought to be having a rebuilding season, clinched the eighth seed with a strong 48-34 record, their best since the 2016 season. This was a great season for sixth men like Montrezl Harrell, Spencer Dinwiddie and even Jamal Crawford, but the award should be given to one of the best at that spot of all time: Lou Williams.

Most Improved Player of the Year — D’Angelo Russell: 

This is a tough one. So many players stepped up and had incredible seasons for their teams, including D'Angelo Russell, Pascal Siakam and De'Aaron Fox. Hell, even JaVale McGee had a great year for the Lakers, but there can be only one. For this season, D’Angelo Russell earned the award, based on his own improvement as well as the impact he had on his team. A full season of “D-Loading” must have been all the Nets needed to flip the switch, as they looked like a completely different team compared to the Nets of just one year ago. Russell’s improvements statistically weren’t huge — a six-point increase, two-assist increase and slightly improved percentages — but his intangibles were on full display and are clearly what he has worked on the most. 

Russell always had the talent to be an All-Star, which is why he went with the second pick in the 2015 draft, but he was never able to step up as the leader for the Lakers. Now on the Nets he was the clear leader of the season and was the player the Nets would look toward whenever they needed a big bucket. His leadership led the Nets to their first playoff appearance since the 2014-2015 season and their first winning record since the 2013-2014 season. Russell finally developed into the player everyone expected he could be under Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and has earned the award for most improved player of the 2018-2019 season. I personally cannot wait to see what his future has in store. 

Defensive Player of the Year — Rudy Gobert:  

At this point you can’t have the DPOY conversation without putting Gobert in it. They don’t call him the Steifel Tower for nothing. Gobert once again finished the season in the top three in blocks, ending the year by rejecting 2.3 shots per game, but that wasn’t all. Gobert also tallied a career-high 66 double-doubles on the year, putting up new bests in points (15.9) and rebounds (12.9) through 81 games. Gobert also put up a career-best win shares total of 14.4 and led the Jazz to their third straight playoff appearance. I bet you’re sensing a theme. Gobert’s defensive prowess has also led to team success. The Jazz’s defense ranks second in the league behind Giannis and the Bucks. The Frenchman is the biggest reason for this, ending the season in the top six of the league in block percentage and defensive rating, while finishing at the top of the league in defensive box plus/minus. Players who have as big an impact defensively as Gobert are few and far in between, so he should be able to retain his title as defensive player of the year again after the 2018-2019 season. 


Conner Gilson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at conner.gilson@uconn.edu.