Can you guys feel that in the air? The air has slowly begun its change from the insane summer heat to a crisp fall breeze. To some people, that means fall drinks and cute Halloween socks are back in style, but really matters is that the NBA is right around the corner. Personally, I can't wait.
If you guys rewind a little, last spring I wrote an NBA Awards article for this very site. So, with the season almost set to start, I figured we could do a preview this time. Writing the award article last year was a lot of fun, and I need something to scratch my NBA itch. With that being said, let's get started. Strap in because here are my NBA Award picks for the 2018-2019 season.
This is the year that Giannis fully establishes himself as The guy in the NBA. I think the race for MVP is going to be really close this year. There is just so much talent that can make a run for it. From Lebron to Steph, to AD and KD. To be honest, this award was the hardest to pick. Last year Harden was the clear front-runner all year. The year before Russ and his triple-double took the crown. That all changes this year, but it will end with Giannis holding the hardware.
The thing about Giannis and why he is my pick this year, is that every year he somehow manages to get better. The scary thing is that he is only 23 and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. This is his year. Giannis finally has the coach he needs to take his game to that truly MVP elite level. Mike Budenholzer left Atlanta and I’m sure has been salivating about the thought of running his offense through The Greek Freak.
Another point that will help Giannis is that Lebron is finally out of the East. This opens the chance for Milwaukee to have a better win/loss record and make the statement that this is Giannis’ conference now. That is no easy task as the Bucks were a bit of a disappointment last year, and it appears that the new leaders of the pack will be Boston and Philly. But with Budenholzer paired up with a player at the level Giannis has been playing at, maybe it is time to finally “Fear the Deer.”
I think if Giannis can guide the Bucks to a division crown, and around 48 wins he can take it home. Last year he set a career high for Free Throw Attempts with 8.5 He had a solid Free Throw Percentage that hovered around 76%. It will be crucial for his M.V.P. campaign if he can still hover around that mark. With his size, skill, and speed, Giannis relies heavily on getting to the line, and he needs to continue to make that his top priority this year. The key for Giannis taking home M.V.P. this year will be if he can round out his game with his 3-point shooting. Last year, Giannis averaged 1.9 threes a game, and only made them at a 30% clip. That needs to improve if he truly wants to ascend to the level that M.V.P. means. Personally, I think he can do it. The value he brings to his team on both ends of the floor should be enough for him to take it home this year, and that is why he is my pick for the 2018-19 season.
Defensive Player of the Year- Joel Embiid, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
The M.V.P award was hard to pick, but this one came much easier for me. Last year, Joel Embiid would have won this award if he did not miss the last few weeks of the season. Much like Giannis, Embiid is still so young, and only seems to be getting better. The main thing for him taking home this award this year is health. If Embiid can stay on the court and be the defensive anchor behind the 76ers excellent defense, this award is his. Embiid really benefits from other great defenders on his team like Simmons and Covington, but he is the key behind Philly being one of the best defensive team in the league. For Embiid, it really is simple. If he puts up identical numbers to last year, and just stays healthy, he is bringing home his first of many Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
Rookie of the Year- Luka Doncic, Guard, Dallas Mavericks
Just like M.V.P., this award maybe a little crowded with competition. From Deandre Ayton to Collin Sexton, this award can go a lot of ways, but it's Luka Doncic’s to lose.
Doncic was taken 3rd in the draft this year, and was immediately traded from Atlanta to Dallas, and for the rest of his career, he should be thankful that the trade was made. Although Ayton was taken number one overall, Doncic, to me, was the best player in the draft. That perception will show as he is in a really good situation in Dallas. He will have the ball a lot and will compliment Dennis Smith Jr. extremely well.
Doncic also benefits from coming into the NBA having already played against a higher level of competition than his fellow rookies did in college. Last year, Doncic and his skill was on full display in the EuroLeague, and his game looks to translate really well here in America. He has the potential of being the first option on his Dallas team, and if his stats reflect that in a positive light, he should be walking away from his first year in the league as the best player in his draft class.
Coach of the Year-Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics
Hopefully the handling of this award goes better than last year, which just goes to show how bad the N.B.A screwed up making the announcement of the awards long after the Finals is over. Case in point to last year when Dwane Casey was the award winner, and was long fired by his former team, the Toronto Raptors. I don't think Brad Stevens has to worry about that fate, as it appears he is firmly set as the coach for the Celtics long-term.
I felt Stevens deserved this award last year too. He led the Celtics to another solid season with the loss of Gordon Hayward and losing Kyrie for a good portion of the season as well. In that time, we saw the growth of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and the greatness of Al Horford on display throughout the year. Unfortunately, for the East, it appears that the Celtics are the new kings of the conference. With Lebron gone, and Hayward coming back, it appears the Celtics should surpass their win total from last year. If they wrap up the number one seed, and secure home court for the playoffs, Stevens will finally win his long-awaited Coach of the Year title.
Not gonna lie to you guys, it’s hard to predict the 6th Man of the Year, and Most Improved during the offseason. We can address those down the line, but for now I hope these picks satisfy the need for some hoops talk. Here's to another great year of NBA action!