2016-17 NBA Awards Roundtable

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2016-17 NBA Awards, Russell Westbrook

It’s that time of year again. The regular season has wrapped up and the postseason is on its way. So, the most popular topic in between is who will be receiving all of the hardware. There have been plenty of debates over the 2016-17 NBA Awards, and they’ll continue well after the winners are announced. We’re entering our hat into the debate with our thoughts on who should win these awards.

Writers:

1.) Russell Westbrook was the most popular vote for MVP, what player has the best chance to take it away from him?

John-Baptiste: The obvious answer here is James Harden. Barring Westbrook’s historic season, Harden had the chance to become the second player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring (29.1 ppg) and assists (11.2 apg). His team finished with the third best record in the entire league and they’re poised to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Rockets finished with a 36-16 record in conference play, and a 25-16 road record. Now that’s ballin’!

Fischbein: Have to go with James Harden. This has been a two-man race for the MVP for quite a while now. Sure, you can make cases for Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, but with the kind of seasons that Harden and Westbrook had, it’s a bit of a reach for anyone else. The Rockets were projected to be the same, if not worse, than the Thunder this year. Harden was also moved from shooting guard to point guard, and he lead them to win 55 games and grab the 3 seed in the West.

Kirkland: The Beard for sure. Up until a few weeks ago the race was pretty much 1a and 1b in terms of who should win MVP. LeBron should win every year in my opinion but as we all know the NBA does not do that. The man learned to run point guard for a team that has a chance to make a serious run in the playoffs. He has had an incredible season.

Allen: There’s no debate here that the closest runner-up is James Harden. I believe their quest for the MVP award is neck and neck. Russell’s 42 triple-doubles may have put him first but what Harden has overdone can not be overlooked. He has the numbers and the wins to make him a more than valuable candidate.

Cortes: James Harden for sure. He’s nearly averaging a triple-double (2 rebounds away) and has led the Rockets to the 3rd seed in the very tough Western Conference. He has the stats of an MVP for sure, and also the outstanding record that is essential for most of the MVP races. In most seasons, he’s the runaway favorite for MVP.

2.) Does anyone have a chance at beating Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Most Improved Award?

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

John-Baptiste: The names Kawhi Leonard, Isaiah Thomas, and even Nikola Jokic come to mind. But when I think of going from ‘good’ to ‘great’, it doesn’t get much better than the Greek Freak. He went from 16.9 ppg/7.7 rbg/4.3apg last season to 22.9 ppg/8.8rpg/5.4apg this season. He’s a legit triple double threat on a nightly basis, and if he ever develops a three point shot similar to Kawhi, look out!

Fischbein: My top three candidates for this award are Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, and Rudy Gobert. Leonard exploded on the offensive scene this year when no one really thought it would be possible. Gobert, meanwhile, was in the top two in the league in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. However, this award still has to go to the Greek Freak. He’s gone from good to great, and now shooting for superstar.

Kirkland: No one has a shot. Greek Freak is only the 5th player in NBA history to lead his team in every major statisitcal category (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.) He can do it all and will only get better as time goes on. Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic get honorable mentions.

Allen: In my eyes, there’s no one who can take the Most Improved Award from Giannis. I have fallen in love with his game and everything that he brings to the table. I saw a stat today that stated that Giannis is in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks which are mind boggling to me. He’s the first player to ever accomplish this type of statistical effort which goes to show how hard he’s been balling this season. The award is called the most improved and if you look where he was last year to now, there’s no one more deserving.

Cortes: Giannis is definitely the most deserving of the award, but if there are players that could challenge the Greek Freak, it would be Kawhi Leonard or Nikola Jokic. The case for Kawhi Leonard has simple, the Klaw has elevated his play overall to a point where he’s a legit MVP candidate in the League. We know him for his defense, but Kawhi has emerged as a premier scorer in this league, averaging nearly 26 points a game. As for Nikola Jokic, he has turned into one of the best young bigs in the league, showcasing his all-around game, even posting a couple of impressive triple-doubles. These two are very deserving, but Giannis is on another level in terms of what he was the previous season. After all, it is the MOST-improved.

3.) Despite limited playing time, should Joel Embiid win Rookie of the Year, or is someone else more deserving?

John-Baptiste: This is a tricky question. I like to refer to the phrase “the best ability is availability”. However, the talent level displayed on the court in his short 31 game stint was nothing short of spectacular. This dude dominated the paint with his “dream-esque” shakes, was willing to play defense on anyone, kept the entire arena engaged, and even showed off a 3-ball that no one even knew he had. Needless to say his presence on the court was a breath of fresh air. If the award must go to the most talented rookie then this is a no brainer. Otherwise we can consider the field.

Fischbein: I want to give this award to Joel Embiid as bad as any other Sixers fan out there, trust me, but the fact he only played 31 games makes me hesitate. The least amount of games a Rookie of the Year has played was 50. So, when I look at it, a Rookie of the Year should at least play half of the team’s games. In that case, my pick for Rookie of the Year will go to Embiid’s teammate, Dario Saric. “The Homie” put up 12.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists on only 26.3 minutes per game.

Kirkland: As talented as I think Embiid is I cannot give him my vote for the award when other guys have also been impressive while playing more minutes. Malcolm Brogdon won’t win because his stats don’t jump off the page (10.2 points 4.2 assists 2.8 rebs). However he lead all rookies in assists on a playoff bound team. There is something to be said for production that actually helps your team win and isn’t “empty.” The Bucks lacked steady point guard play off the bench and needed better perimeter shooting and Brogdon answered the bell for both (40.4 % from 3). The Bucks are 4.4 point per posession better with him on the court than off it so the “old” rookie 24 year old second rounder should get some love here.

Allen: Joel Embiid was probably the best rookie this season but being that he only played 31 games, he has to take the back seat. With that being said, I’m not sure who deserves the rookie of the year award. This season has been a huge letdown for rookies with no one really taking the realm as the top rookie of the year. I guess by default you would have to give it to Dario Saric who has decent numbers to back his case.

Cortes: Joel Embiid was the most impressive rookie for sure, but he had a small sample size to show for. If he played a little more, he should be the Rookie of the Year but that isn’t the case. If I could give the award to any rookie, it would be Dario Saric. During the month of February, Saric averaged around 17 points and 8 rebounds on 44% shooting. He continued his solid play during the month of March, averaging around 18 points a game and 7 rebounds on around 43% shooting from the field.

4.) Will this be the year that Draymond Green wins Defensive Player of the Year?

John-Baptiste: I think so. Although I think a really strong case (perhaps even more deserving) can be made for Rudy Gobert, I think Green ends up with the award. His versatility on defense is bar-none as he can defend every position on the floor. He won’t have the highest block total or average due to his height, but the ability to stay in front of his defender is an immeasurable metric. Not to mention Green has made it known to the public and media that he was going after it from the beginning of the season. We’ve seen those vocal athletes get that slight nod in the recent past (re: Derrick Rose 2011 MVP – “why not me?”).

Fischbein: Draymond Green obviously has a great case for Defensive Player of the Year. He can defend a multitude of positions, and he’s the reason why the Warriors small ball team can work on defense. That being said, I still have to give the nod to Rudy Gobert. Gobert averaged 12.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game with a 99 defensive rating, 4.5 DBPM, 6.0 defensive win shares, and a 23.3 PER. In comparison, Kawhi Leonard, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year, had a 2.8 DBPM, 5.5 defensive win shares, and a 26.0 PER. Green put up a 4.9 DBPM, 5.4 defensive win shares, and 16.5 PER.

Draymond Green
Credit: Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group

Kirkland: I think he should and will. He constantly and will continue to draw the toughest assignment and is the closest I have seen to LeBron James’s ability to cover 1 through 5 on a nightly basis. He isn’t scared of anyone and has the length and quickness to stay in front of most players. He provides a tough bruising identity to a team that otherwise would severely struggle without him.

Allen: Absolutely and I don’t think there’s a question about it. I’ve been on record saying I believe he should’ve won it last season as well. He’s the defensive anchor to the 2nd best defense in the NBA. His defensive presence is felt on the perimeter and in the paint. Top 3 in deflections, the league leader in steals, and one of the best to defend the rim – I don’t see a better candidate.

Cortes: I originially had Gobert winning this award, but after thinking about it more, Draymond Green absolutely deserves the award. It’s long overdue for Green who definitely deserved one a couple of seasons ago. The fact that Draymond can guard not only the interior, but also the perimeter is a big deal. His versatility on the defensive end of the floor made the Warriors even tougher and that’s enough to make Green a worthy DPOY winner.

5.) Who’s your 6th Man of the Year and why?

John-Baptiste: Eric Gordon. His most stiff competition is Lou Williams, however while Lou was performing on a high level, his team wasn’t necessarily reaping those benefits from a winning perspective. Eric Gordon has remained consistent all year on that Houston bench, and has provided an explosive firepower in the second unit. He allows Harden to rest, and can create in the offense for himself and his teammates. We’ve seen him suffer over the course of his career with injury after injury and it’s time the game has given something back.

Fischbein: The top three candidates, in my book, are Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, and Zach Randolph. Iguodala doesn’t have the kind of stats that jump off the page, but he continues to be the swiss army knife off the bench for Golden State. Zach Randolph, who has just accepted the bench role recently, stepped in as the 6th man with ease. ZBo averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds per game while helping the Grizzlies to a handful of wins on his own. In the end, the award has to go to Eric Gordon. He’s been the most consistent out of all of the candidates this season.

Kirkland: Its gotta be Eric Gordon. He is a primetime scorer in this league that just happens to come off the bench. His ability to stretch the floor and score at the rim makes it so that no team facing Houston gets to see a unit that does not have an elite scorer in the game. Playing against the Rockets because of Gordon is an intense 48 minute affair defensively. They will be a tough out in the playoffs because of it.

Allen: Eric Gordon. For a guy who’s dealt with injuries year after year, I honestly feel like he has revived his career this season. Playing alongside James Harden has been a blessing for Gordon who has taken advantage of a lot of open threes. He was one pace to take the “three point champion” crown early one during the season but Stephen Curry quickly came and took that back. However, I have liked what I have seen from Gordon this season and in my opinion, he’s the pick for 6th Man of the Year.

Cortes: Eric Gordon deserves the award based on how can he can affect the game with his bucket-getting ability. I would put Lou Williams in that conversation too, but since he played on a rebuilding team like the Lakers, those stats didn’t translate to wins very often and wins are definitely needed in most NBA awards. Eric Gordon has shot 37% from 3-point distance and contributed around 16 points a game, helping the Rockets become one the the League’s most high-powered offenses.

6.) Who’s your Coach of the Year and why?

Mike D'Antoni
Credit: Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

John-Baptiste: Wow. You have Scott Brooks who captures the 4th seed in the East after starting the season 2-8. Brad Stevens who claimed the number 1 seed in the East with lower expectations. Pop who wins 61 games in the post-Duncan era, and D’Antoni who leads his team to 55 wins. I’m going to go with Coach D’Antoni here. It seems as if the Rockets had the lowest expectations out of the bunch coming into the season. The Wizards were expected to have a good season, however just stumbled out of the gates. Pops system has been proven over the years to be consistently great. Brad Stevens’ Celtics were expected to have one of those top seeds in the East and was able to make it happen. So I’m sticking with the 3 and no D coach!

Fischbein: I’m going outside of the box for my Coach of the Year selection. I think that Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz should get the award. The Jazz are loaded with up-and-coming talent, but no superstars or MVP candidates. They don’t have guys putting up huge triple-double numbers or being named to numerous All-Star games. What they do have is one of the best defenses in the league, and a balanced attack on offense. Looking at almost any team defensive stat, you will find the Jazz at or near the top. That doesn’t happen by accident. Oh, that doesn’t even count the fact that this is the first time the Jazz have made the playoffs since 2011-12, and the first time they’ve won their division since 2007-08.

Kirkland: Mike D’Antoni has the Rockets rolling and has done a great job of acclimating James Harden to a new system and position. Managing superstars and their egos is not always easy but Harden has seemed to buy in and everyone around him has benefited because of it. They are firing 3s and are super fun to watch. D’Antoni has proven before when he has the pieces success follows and he has done it again.

Allen: I have to go with Mike D’Antoni in this category. He moved James Harden to the point guard position, introduced his system and now he has the third best team in the NBA. Everything that he has done with this team this season screams Coach of the Year. The improvement of the Rockets as a whole along with Harden encompassing his playmaker ability to make him an MVP candidate has been fun to watch.  Mike D’Antoni took this team to a new level and I like him as the winner for this award.

Cortes: There are so many worthy candidates for COY, but no one might be more deserving than D’Antoni based on expectations. A lot of people wrote off the Rockets before the season even started, having them finish out of the playoffs or just barely in the playoffs. D’Antoni made one of the best coaching moves in the season when he moved James Harden to the “PG” position. That translated to James Harden becoming an MVP candidate yet again and making their offense much more efficient. He made their players play to their potential and as a result led to the third-best record in the Western Conference. Mike D’Antoni should be the Coach of the Year based on what he has done for this team, in a season where not much was to happen for them.

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