*All numbers accurate as of the morning on March 21, 2019
MVP– Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Runner up- James Harden, Houston Rockets
This year’s MVP should be pretty obvious. It isn’t going to be Harden again, even if he did go on a scoring tear in the middle of the season. The Bucks are first in the Eastern Conference, and Antetokounmpo has been doing it all this year. The All-Star captain is averaging 27.5 points, 6 assists, 12.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting .580 from the floor.
We’re at a point where league MVPs are being spread around each year now, and that’s part of the reason why I don’t see Harden repeating. Even though Harden is averaging a league-high 36.1 points per game to go along with 7.7 assists, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.2 steals, his field goal percentage is down and he’s not on the defensive level of Antetokounmpo.
Rookie of the Year– Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Runner up- Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
This year’s rookie class has several future All-Stars, and Doncic is leading the pack. The Slovenian recently turned 20 but is still averaging 21.1 points, 5.8 assists, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals despite his young age. Doncic has improved over the season but he had a quicker start than Young and that has really helped him in this race, especially since Young has turned it on as of late. Young is averaging 18.5 points, 7.8 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game. He’s only shooting .416 from the field though.
Sixth Man of the Year– Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Runner up- Derrick Rose, Minnesota Timberwolves
Yes, Rose has an inspirational basketball story, but Williams will win this award for the second consecutive time this year. Williams is averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 assists, and three rebounds on an overachieving Clippers team. The Timberwolves are out of playoff position right now, despite Rose averaging 18 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.7 rebounds per game. If Rose has anything going for him in this race, it’s that he’s shooting .482 from the field and .370 from three.
Defensive Player of the Year– Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Runner up- Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
George is having the year of his life and will have his name tossed around in the MVP conversation when the season ends. While I don’t see him winning the MVP, George deserves to win the Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s leading the league with 2.2 steals while being charged with guarding the best scorers in the world, such as Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James.
Gobert won this award last year but he won’t be repeating. His name will be tossed around in the conversation along with Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Leonard, but none of them should approach George this year. Gobert is averaging 2.2 blocks per game and 12.9 rebounds, but centers are naturally advantaged when it comes to blocks and rebounds. Plus, Gobert is just fifth in blocks and fourth in rebounds this year. That’s good but not as high as most top candidates for this award usually are.
Most Improved Player– Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors
Runner up- Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls
Siakam has gone from scoring 7.3 points per game last season to scoring 16.6 this year and being a full-time starter. His field goal percentage has increased from .508 to .545 and his three-point percentage jumped from .220 to .348. Siakam took a huge jump from being an average role player to being one of the brightest rising stars in the NBA.
LaVine missed most of last season but he has been lighting up the league this year. In his second season with the Bulls, LaVine is averaging 23.7 points, 4.5 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game. His field goal percentage is up to .467 and he looks like he’ll compete for an All-Star slot next year.
Coach of the Year– Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets
Runner up- Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
While Budenholzer has a strong case for this award, his team has the future MVP, Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez, and Nikola Mirotic. The Nuggets roster is less top-heavy, with Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap as the top scorers. To me, the Nuggets being 47-22 and second place in the Western Conference is more impressive than the Bucks going 53-19 in the weaker East.