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2018 NBA End of the Year Award Roundtable

We dole out our awards for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year

Utah Jazz v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On the 10th anniversary of our Seattle Supersonics leaving we are going to a roundtable to talk about award season. We give you a breakdown of all the regular season awards. A few former Sonics and people who grew up in the 206.

What do your awards look like?

1. Who is the Rookie of the Year?

Phil Naessens: I really, really, REALLY want to say the award should go to Utah Jazz shooting guard Donovan Mitchell. Unfortunately, I can’t do that with a straight face. Not even on April Fools Day. The Rookie of the Year belongs to Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons. Averaging 15-8-8 with a couple of steals is no joke. Leading the 76ers to a 50 plus win season and who knows how far they can go in the playoffs is a big deal. Good on him too!

Chris Meirose: No, Ben Simmons is NOT the ROY. Donovan Mitchell is. I don’t care that the NBA will give the award to Ben Simmons. Simmons is NOT a rookie. If you were paid by the NBA last year, that was your rookie year. If you spent all of last year with an NBA team, that was your rookie year. If you spent all of last year with the strength coaches, learning the offense, bonding with teammates, working with the nutritionist, flying on the team plane, staying in the team hotel room, learning from the team coaches, that was your rookie year. Donovan Mitchell IS the Rookie of the year for 2017-18. /rant

Kevin Nesgoda: I think it should go to Donovan Mitchell as Ben Simmons is not really a rookie. He lost the rookie denomination when he accepted his first paycheck from the Sixers back in the summer of 2016. Simmons had a lot of good pieces around him while Mitchell led a team of nobodies to the playoffs.

Miles DeCaro: Ben Simmons. Despite missing last season due to injury, Simmons has been historically good in his first NBA season even without shooting beyond 15 feet. His size and passing ability are a rare combination that puts his first year up there in the rarefied air of Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and LeBron James. Donovan Mitchell has had a great year in Utah and is one of the only rookies in NBA history to lead his team in scoring and make the playoffs, but Simmons is the right pick.

Dontae Delgado: It was nice to include Donovan Mitchell in the conversation based on his role as the lead ball-handler and scorer for a Utah team that many thought would be in the lottery when Gordon Hayward left. Yet, Ben Simmons, not only has the Sixers as a 3rd seed in a season where most picked them to win maybe 30-40 games (let me point out the Sixers had a .500 record, 25-25, on Feb. 3), but he’s averaged a ridiculous 16/8/8 for the season. I know any detractors will point out Joel Embiid’s impact and maybe even Markelle Fultz’s return, but it’s Simmons that has had a steady hand on the ship since day 1.

2. Who is the Defensive Player of the Year?

Phil Naessens: There are a few names I could give this to but for my money and even though he missed a bunch of games this season Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert wins this one by a nose over Draymond Green. The Jazz have a defensive efficiency rating of 97.5 when he is on the floor. Without Gobert’s defense, the Jazz go fishing again.

Chris Meirose: I’m going to agree with Phil here. Gobert just changes the game when he’s on the floor at a level nobody else is doing. He is more than just a big body, though his physical presence is part of it. He’s smart in his positioning and erases a lot of teammate’s mistakes.

Miles DeCaro: Rudy Gobert aka the Steiffel Tower is the DPOY. Utah’s surprise run to the playoffs in the West is directly tied to his health. His defensive real +/- and impact on the Jazz defensive rating is amazing. He just missed leading the league in, both, Defensive Real Plus/Minus and Win Shares being narrowly edged by the feel-good story of the last week of the NBA, Andre Ingram.

Kevin Nesgoda: I have to go with Rudy Gobert as well. He anchored the defense that got Utah got into the playoffs and also statistically the second best defense in the league behind Boston. He’s not top five in any major category, but his overall defensive play has been the best in the league.

Dontae Delgado: Rudy Gobert. The Jazz are 2nd in the NBA in DefRtg, 9th in Blocked shots (of which Gobert would be 2nd in the league if he had played enough games), and 2nd in opponents points in the paint. The only other team that can boast of a better defense is a Boston Celtics squad that doesn’t have one stand-out defender (hello Brad Stevens).

3. Who is the Most Improved Player of the Year?

Phil Naessens: After much thought, I am giving this one to New York Knicks SF Michael Beasley. He’s had a few “comeback” attempts over the years but this time he looks focused and for real. Played the most minutes since 2012 and best ppg since 2011. Had four games this season with 30 points or more. I would absolutely call this comeback of the year worthy..

Chris Meirose: Victor Oladipo is where I want to go here, but his is more improvement over what was already pretty good than comeback over something. I think he wins it because there isn’t a second category. Lou Williams gets the 6th man, so he’s probably out here too. But my vote goes to Clint Capela. His game has really come a long way, and the stats bear that out. He still has plenty of room to grow, and with CP3 and the Beard already, that’s frankly frightening if he keeps improving at his pace. I used to cringe when I watched Capela on offense, and that is no longer the case. Fred VanVleet gets an honorable mention here, but can’t and won’t be close to winning.

Miles DeCaro: I want to say, James Harden, because improving just that small amount when you are already that good is harder than moving from being the 8th man to a starter, but the award is Most Improved.

Victor Oladipo won this award handily. Oladipo averaged career highs in scoring in points (23.1), rebounds (5.2), assists (4.3), steals (2.4, which leads the league), field goal percentage (47.7), and 3-point percentage (37.1).

Moving from being a guy that was borderline unplayable for OKC last year to a top 20 player is unheard of. There is something about playing in Indiana that brings out the best in Oladipo.

Kevin Nesgoda: This is Victor Oladipo’s going away then coming back and picking up the crumbs. He never lived up to the hype in Orlando, fell flat on his face in Oklahoma City and here we are. He played his best overall season, led a lottery bound Pacer team into the playoffs and I would not be shocked if they upset the Cavs in the first round.

Dontae Delgado: Victor Oladipo. First of all: watch that. Secondly, he improved by 7 points per game, doubled his steals, doubled his assists, improved his Free Throw shooting by 4% points, increased his 3PT shooting by a percent, increased his FG% by 3 points…….I mean you get my point, there is literally not one standard or advanced stat that Oladipo did not improve, except for TOs (and I literally looked at every stat…..I’m talking VORP, PER…..WAR, OPS+, +ERA, BABIP…..wait, wait…..yeah probably those too).

4. Who is Coach of the Year?

Phil Naessens: I am giving this to Utah Jazz Head Coach Quin Snyder. See my notes as to the reason why.

Chris Meirose: It should be Gregg Popovich. What he has done with that roster is nothing short of miraculous. Truly one of his very best years of coaching. But we’ve become so accustomed to Pop doing just that that it has become blasé. So I’m going with Dwayne Casey and his great year in Toronto.

Miles DeCaro: A lot of deserving candidates this year, but I’d go with Dwayne Casey. He completely overhauled his offensive system to fit the modern NBA, going from 22nd in 3pt field goals attempted last season to 3rd this season. His team won the conference and they are the only team in the top 5 for both offensive and defensive efficiency. He did one of the hardest things a coach can do. Casey stopped using an approach that was working for him and went with something even better.

Runners up: Nate McMillan in Indiana, Quin Snyder in Utah, Brad Stevens in Boston and Gregg Popovich as usual.

Kevin Nesgoda: There are a lot of deserving coaches this year; Nate McMillan, Gregg Popovich, Brad Stevens and Dwane Casey. The award belongs to Quin Snyder though. I do not want to take anything away from the other coaches, but Quin Snyder got a team with zero All-Stars into the playoffs and was in contention for the third seed in the West up until the last three hours of the season. An unbelievable job the man from Mercer Island did.

Dontae Delgado: Quin Snyder. It boils down to Gregg Popovich, Brad Stevens, Doc Rivers (double-take), and Quin Snyder. I’m not including Dwane Casey, because though I like his moves to play the young players, he didn’t acquire said players and he didn’t improve DeMar DeRozan’s offensive variety in shot selection. Quin Snyder did more with less. Pop, gets overlooked way too often, but he does have LaMarcus Aldridge and they still ended with the 7th seed in the West. Snyder lost 26 games of Rudy Gobert, suffered a mid-season trade of two key rotation pieces (Joe Johnson and Rodney Hood for essentially a slumping Jae Crowder), and his franchise player (Hayward) in the summer. Utah ended up as the 5th seed out West. That is amazing.

6. Who is the MVP?

Phil Naessens: James Harden is the people’s choice but I am voting for San Antonio Spurs PF LaMarcus Aldridge. He went from darn near traded to having a career year seemingly overnight. I don’t think the Spurs make the playoffs without him and to me, that’s what makes an MVP.

Chris Meirose: Can I vote for Pop here? No? Well then, it’ll be Harden. Giannis Antetokounmpo and King James both can lay claim to it, but Harden will get the hardware, and frankly, I can’t argue against it.

Miles DeCaro: LeBron James deserves this for the decade, but for this single year, it’s James Harden by a mile.

D’Antoni Ball inflates total numbers, but Harden’s efficiency numbers are staggering. Harden scored 1.24 per possession in isolations this season. This is better than any team has scored in TRANSITION during the past four seasons, per Synergy Sports.

In addition to efficiency, he is also huge in volume. Harden has also scored more total isolation points (868) than any other TEAM this season (the Cavaliers are next closest with 801).

Harden has more makes (79) and takes (176) on step-back 3-pointers than any team in the NBA; the next closest teams are Portland (45 makes) and Denver (122 takes). No team is featuring those shots in its arsenal, while Harden is hitting them at a 44.9 percent clip. Wow.

He is the leading scorer and the most efficient scorer in the league. He is the Most Valuable Player.

Kevin Nesgoda: As Miles said, this award belongs to LeBron James until he retires, the dude should have 10-12 of those awards on his mantle right now. That’s not how the media works though. The media works on what have you done for me lately and James Harden has taken the Rockets to the best team in the league and he’s the best player. And he doesn’t pad his stats either, wins are more important to him.

Dontae Delgado: James Harden. Don’t look at the dreaded “Kobe Bryant - but he should have got it last year” or the “Karl Malone - we’re tired of voting for the best player in the league” vote attached to this pick. Harden has been the best player on the best team and has consistently destroyed the NBA this season. My personal/emotional pick would be LeBron James, but I can’t snub a guy that took his game to a higher gear this year over the consummate pick for every year.