Predicting the 2019 NBA Awards

Michael Harms, Courier Staff

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As the first round of the playoffs begin to wrap up, we are getting closer to giving out the end of the year trophies in the NBA. So here are my takes on who should win these exclusive awards.

The Most Valuable Player award should go to James Harden. This conversation is between two players in the first place. I expect the MVP voting to be quite close between these two with the rest of the votes dwindling down amongst Stephen Curry, Paul George and Nikola Jokic. Meanwhile, the offensive numbers are staggering for Harden. He scored 25 or less points in only eight games he played this year. He also had nine 50 or more-point performances and 32 consecutive games of scoring 30 or more points. Phew, let me catch my breath. Don’t get me wrong, Giannis Antetokounmpo puts up a good fight. His league best record at 60-22, averaging 27.7 points per game, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals, proves Antetokounmpo to be a mighty foe. His prowess on both sides of the court with his unique figure allows him to destroy opposing teams at will. The biggest difference to me is Harden did it all himself. Chris Paul missed 24 games this year, Clint Capela missed 13 and played injured throughout the year. Harden was a one-man wrecking ball in a tougher conference and a more difficult travel schedule. It’s a close call, and no one will be mad if you choose either player for the award.

Next award, the Rookie of the Year, has had several strong candidates for this category throughout the season. When the season began, the Rookie of the Year candidates ranged from DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic and Trae Young. After the All-Star break only two names remained, Doncic and Young. The two players were involved in a draft night trade, as the Mavericks seized the third overall pick from the Hawks to trade Doncic over Young. Although both point guards have promising talent and are fun to watch, Doncic rose above to claim the best rookie of 2019. Outperforming all rookies in points per game with 21.2 and helping transform his team back into contention. Not to mention 7.8 rebounds per game and a few game winning shots to go along with that. Of course, all rookies have potential to improve. Will Doncic’s rookie year be the highlight of his career, or will someone else try to claim the throne as the best player from the 2018 NBA draft class?

The last one, is the Coach of the Year award. This debate is more time consuming and detailed. There’s a long list of qualified coaches relatively known and unknown throughout the nation. First is the obvious candidate, the NBA best record, Mike Budenholzer. Coaching MVP talent to the best record in the NBA. Enough said.

Second, would be Mike Malone. The Denver Nuggets have missed the postseason by one game for two-straight seasons. At the start of the season, the Nuggets had the youngest roster in the NBA and with the young budding duo of Jamal Murray and Jokic, Denver is slowly becoming a unique team capable of winning night in and night out. One point that proves this point is their 54 game winning season, which they clinched the second best record in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors.

Next would be the second best record in the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors with Nick Nurse. To list the challenges Nurse overcame is daunting. He’s a first year head coach, with multiple star players leaving. A new star player with a different playing style arrived, and having to deal with competing egos amongst a team desperate for playoff success due to many early exits. Basically, he took Kawai Leonard and changed the Raptors, by putting in a new coaching scheme that the players bought into. Not to mention helped coach a much improved player of the year candidate with Piscal Siakim. He elevated talent and frankly got the job done.

The fourth is Greg Poppovich. The West is quite a competitive conference, and for a lot of the reasons Nurse is a candidate, Poppovich should be too. Not to mention he has dealt with numerous roster turnovers from retirees to season ending injuries to trades. But of course like “The Old Man and the Sea,” he weathered the storm finished with 48 wins and an entrance into the NBA playoffs.

Last but certainly not least, Doc Rivers. Last year he received one vote. This year he has a chance to win the award. Speaking of roster turnover, let’s list the amount of players that went through the Clippers locker room in the past three years. Giving up Blake Griffin, Deandre Jordan and Tobias Harris, the team has not gained a star talent in return. Rivers doesn’t care and neither does the rest of the Clippers, as they slipped into the last spot into the Western Conference finals and are taking on Golden State to game six.

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