There were a number of top tier players that were lost throughout the season due to catastrophic injuries, but there were a few that distinguished themselves from the rest of the pack. Those will be the individuals we focus on as we give out our annual awards for the standout players for the 2017-2018 season.
We embrace debate here are Virile, so let us know if you agree with our picks.
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell
Not since the 1999-2000 NBA season has there been co-winners of this award (it has happened only three times in NBA history), but Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell will make it the fourth time that this award is split between two players.
Ben Simmons was heavily favored to win this award prior to the season starting. He missed all what would have been his rookie season in 2016-2017 due to injury, but he was considered to be a once in a lifetime type of player who many see as the one guy who would carry the torch after LeBron James eventually retires.
Add to the fact that he is paired with exceptional big man Joel Embiid, the expectation was that Simmons would make a huge splash in the league, and did he ever!
A 6’10 point forward, it’s easy to see a combination of Magic Johnson and LeBron James mixed in his game. He impressed with a stat line of 16/8/8 while shooting well over 50% from the field. And more importantly, he led the Sixers to the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s starting to be some rumblings that the Sixers may be equipped to end LeBron James’s reign in the Eastern Conference, and a lot has to do with Ben Simmons’s play.
On the flip side, Donovan Mitchell entered this season with not a lot of hype. The expectations weren’t very high for the Utah Jazz after losing their best player, Gordon Hayward, to the Boston Celtics in free agency. But it became apparent very quickly that the Jazz would be fine with Hayward no longer in the picture.
Mitchell not only asserted himself as the team’s best offensive player with an impressive stat line of 20.5 points per game to go along with four rebounds and four assist, but he led the Jazz to the 5th seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. That speaks volumes on his impact.
Both players displayed season long growth that resulted in both of their teams exceeding expectations, and it’s fitting that they both get the award for the best rookies in this year’s class.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni
Never has there been a back-to-back winner of this award, but Mike D’Antoni will become the first in the NBA’s long history.
D’Antoni led the Houston Rockets to the NBA’s best record, second best scoring offense, and improved defensively by allowing five fewer points per game to their opponents than the 2016-2017 season.
All this while their two best players, James Harden and newly acquired Chris Paul, missed over 30 games due to injury combined. The Rockets have cemented themselves as a serious threat to end the Golden State Warriors run as Western Conference champs, and have a legitimate shot to win the franchises 3rd NBA Championship.
Most Improved Player: Victor Oladipo
The blockbuster trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder was seen as a move that put the Thunder in the championship conversation, and pretty much signaled that the Pacers were in rebuild mode.
Well there was no rebuilding going on in Indiana. The Pacers in the deal received Victor Oladipo; a player with a lot of potential but hasn’t quite shown what he could do in his previous stints in Orlando and Oklahoma City.
Oladipo unleased his full potential and established career highs in points per game (23.1), rebounds (5.2), assist (4.3), and lead the league in steals (2.4). And he put any rebuilding talks on halt as he led the Indiana Pacers to the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference surprisingly.
Life without Paul George may not be so bad after all for the Pacers.
6th Man of the Year: Lou Williams
Lou Williams is no stranger to this award as he won it during the 2014-2015 season as a member of the Toronto Raptors. Always known to be an explosive scorer, Williams set career highs in scoring with 22.6 points per game, and was the clear number one option for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers narrowly missed the playoffs this year, but with Williams as part of their nucleus we can expect the Clippers to be back in the playoffs in the seasons to come.
Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis
We’ll be completely transparent here and admit that our initial choice for this award was Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, but Gobert missed significant time this year due to injury so that essentially eliminated him.
With that being said, our second choice for Defensive Player of the Year was Anthony Davis. Davis is without question one of the best players in the league, and is one of the few players that makes his presence felt both offensively and defensively.
The Brow put up outrageous stats across the board, but his defensive stats were impressive as he led the league in blocks (2.6 per game), and added 1.5 steals.
Most Valuable Player: James Harden
Before we start let’s get the most obvious objection to our pick out the way. Yes, you can argue that LeBron James deserves to be this season’s MVP. This is one of King James’s best seasons of his career. But James Harden is due for this award.
When you lead the league in scoring, are third in the league in assist, and your team has the best record in the league……….yeah I think it’s safe to say that you deserve to be MVP.
Harden has been runner-up in the MVP race several times before but this year his play has made it to where he won’t finish second anymore. The Beard has already made a case that he is one of the most prolific scorers this league has ever seen, but he has put together a string of seasons that show he is as close to an offensive total package that there can be.
The pressure will be on The Beard to carry his regular season success over into the playoffs, but he has the Houston Rockets in a prime position to make a run to the NBA Finals.