Second NBA Awards Show predictions

By Tom Burton

The 2017-18 NBA season came to an end June 8 as the Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers to win its second consecutive NBA Finals. However, one event remains before the 2018-19 campaign can officially get underway.

The league will host its annual NBA Awards show 8 p.m. Monday at the Barker Hangar Theater in Santa Monica, California, where upwards of a dozen awards will be given out for individual and team achievements from this past season.

This is the second annual NBA Awards show. Major awards, including the KIA NBA Most Valuable Player, used to be announced in the midst of the playoffs, but was changed to this postseason event in 2017.

The Northern Star makes its predictions for who should win six major awards from the 2017-18 NBA season.

Coach of the Year– Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Five-year head coach Brad Stevens has earned this award because of the adversity the Celtics faced throughout the season.

Stevens and the Celtics had a tougher season than expected, as forward Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending foot injury Oct. 17 in the first game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Guard Kyrie Irving also missed the remainder of the season dating back to March 11 after multiple knee surgeries.

While many people wrote off the Celtics as underdogs, Stevens coached one of the youngest teams in the NBA to a 55-27 record and a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Boston made it farther than some expected as it forced Cleveland to a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors is a popular vote for this award, but he had a healthy team for the majority of the year and didn’t make much noise in the playoffs, even as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Honorable mentions include Dwane Casey, Quin Snyder and Brett Brown.

Rookie of the Year– Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

Rookie guard Ben Simmons was a main cog in the 76ers making an expected leap as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this season.

Philadelphia finished with 75 combined wins in four seasons before this year and didn’t finish better than No. 14 in the standings. This season, they tallied a 52-30 record and a No. 3 seed, a lot of that having to do with the play and leadership of Simmons as a rookie.

“Who would I pick? Me, 100 percent,” Simmons said in an April 9 ESPN article. “I think I have been playing solid all year. If you look at the numbers, you will see.”

Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game as a rookie, according to ESPN. His 12 triple doubles ranks him No. 2 in NBA history among rookies, dating back to Oscar Robinson tallying 26 triple doubles in the 1960-61 season, according to an April 9 ESPN article.

Utah guard Donovan Mitchell has a legitimate case for the award, but Simmons was too dominate and deserves the recognition, even though he wasn’t a true rookie.

Honorable mentions include Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum and Lauri Markkanen.

Defensive Player of the Year–Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Jazz center Rudy Gobert has been in the running for Defensive player of the Year for the last few years, but has earned the award this time around.

Gobert averaged 2.8 blocks per game, which ranked No. 2 in the NBA. He returned from injury on Jan. 19 and arguably uplifted the Jazz. They finished the season at a 30-8 clip and allowed an impressive 97.5 points per 100 possessions in the span, according to ESPN.

76ers center Joel Embiid is the most competition for the award, but he missed more games than Gobert and Utah was a better overall defensive team.

Honorable mentions include Joel Embiid, Draymond Green and Paul George.

Sixth Man of the Year– Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers

The choice is obvious: Clippers guard Lou Williams has undoubtedly earned this award.

Williams poured in a career-high 22.6 points a game, primarily off the bench, and provided a scoring punch for the Clippers, whose offense ranked No. 9 in the league in scoring at 109 points a game, according to ESPN.

Williams was the primary ball handler off the bench for the Clippers and also dished out a team-high 5.3 assists per night.

Rockets guard Eric Gordon has been a great sixth man for several seasons recently, but was forced to start 30 games because of injuries to guards Chris Paul and James Harden throughout the season. Nevertheless, Williams has the edge.

Honorable mentions include Eric Gordon, Fred Van Vleet and Wayne Ellington.

Most Improved Player– Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

Pacers guard Victor Oladipo made the most of his opportunity to be the No. 1 option on a team and proved he was ready to lead.

Oladipo increased numbers across the board, as he averaged career-highs of 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals, according to ESPN. He also became an all-star for the first time.

Oladipo led the Pacers to a game seven of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, but fell to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Oladipo averaged 22.7 points, 8.3 assists and 6.0 assists in the series.

After the Pacers were swept by Cleveland in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, Oladipo has put Indiana back on the map as a potential Eastern Conference threat in the near future.

Honorable mentions include Jamal Murray, Spencer Dinwiddie and Terry Rozier.

Most Valuable Player– LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

This pick is sure to stir up controversy as Rockets guard James Harden also has a strong case for the Most Valuable Player.

Different players seem to win this award every year, but the truly best player in the game is universally recognized.

LeBron James seemed to be the only reliable player for Cleveland throughout the season, as the team underperformed and made several personnel changes .

The ‘best player on the best team’ narrative for MVP needs to be dropped, especially considering the argument can’t be made for Harden. Technically, the best player on the best team is Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors.

Calling a player ‘the most valuable’ should mean their presence on the court is recognized and missed if they don’t play.

James’ durability was notable this season; he played and started in all 82 games for the Cavaliers for the first time in his career, according to ESPN. If James didn’t play for a significant portion of the season, Cleveland may have not even made the playoffs.

James Harden missed 10 games during the regular season, but the Rockets went 6-4 in his absence. Harden is definitely valuable, but numbers don’t lie. In the grand scheme of things, James is more valuable to his team, which earns him the award by definition.

Honorable mentions include James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant.