1. Who is your pick for Rookie of the Year? Why?
Vahan Shakhpazyan – Andrew Wiggins: Averaged nearly 17 points and five rebounds a game, Wiggins led all rookies in scoring and was the most consistent of them all. Nikola Mirotic made a late push for this award, but Wiggins improved his numbers every month and showed that he has the potential to be a superstar in this league in the near future.
Talar Kahwajian – Andrew Wiggins: With another rough season for the Timberwolves, Andrew Wiggins was a bright spot. The rookie averaged 16.5 points along with 4.4 rebounds and one steal a game. If Jabari Parker had remained healthy, this race would have been much tighter.
Josh McSwain – Nikola Mirotic: I know this will likely not be a widespread opinion, but I believe since he has actually seen the results of his work show up in the win column, he should get the award. Andrew Wiggins struggled so much to start the season that he was on the waiver wire in my fantasy league, and I didn’t bother to pick him up. I came to regret that choice, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that even though Mirotic only played 20 minutes a game, he did more with him time on the floor than Wiggins does. Mirotic averaged 10.2 points and 4.9 boards per game while Wiggins, though he averaged 16.9 points per game, plays almost twice the minutes.
Cody Dover – Andrew Wiggins: He has been consistently good throughout the whole year, and he carried a huge load considering all of the Minnesota Timberwolves' injuries.
Torkil Bang – Andrew Wiggins: For good reason there has been a lot of hype around Nikola Mirotic lately, but he was eased into big minutes on a very good team. Wiggins has been the focus for Minnesota for a full season, and he has been the ONLY rookie, who has done everything all the time. He hasn't been that effective, but he hasn't had a lot of help either with all the injuries on the Timberwolves roster.
Tom West – Andrew Wiggins: It has to be Andrew Wiggins. Whilst Nikola Mirotic has been excellent for the Chicago Bulls and has shown signs of great potential, Wiggins has been performing all year long. He's emerged as, not just a good defender, but as a go-to offensive threat, and his average of 16.9 points per game will soon surpass 20.
Sean Slaughter – Andrew Wiggins: He leads all rookies in scoring and has shown he has the most potential as a rookie.
Blake Hesser – Nikola Mirotic: If you had told me before the season the rookie of the year would be a Chicago Bull, I would have believed you. If you told me that it would be Nikola Mirotic, and not Doug McDermott, that would take home that award, I would have called you nuts. According to ESPN’s Hollinger player statistics, Mirotic has been the most efficient rookie this year with a 17.60 player efficiency rating. He had a good start to the season but he really took his game to another level when Derrick Rose went out in late February. In March, Mirotic averaged 20.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Mike Tews – Andrew Wiggins: He averaged 16.9 points per game and has improved every month, averaging 12.3 per game in November to 23.3 in April. Plus, most of his competition has been sidelined with injuries (Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid).
Nate Mann – Andrew Wiggins: Andrew Wiggins, no doubt about it. His competition is Nerlens Noel, Nikola Mirotic, and Elfrid Payton. Noel picked it up at the end of the year, as did Elfrid Payton, but Wiggins' consistency gives him the advantage. As for Mirotic, he only shined when someone was hurt, which is quite often on the Chicago Bulls. If he played for a lower echelon team like Minnesota or Philadelphia, I believe Mirotic could've been a much stronger candidate.
Jose Rosas – Andrew Wiggins: Leading all rookies in scoring, Wiggins has been one of the few bright spots for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season. He has logged in many minutes this year and has backed it up with piling up a solid stat line.
Brandon Awadis – Andrew Wiggins: Hands down. There has not been a more consistent rookie from this, might I add, underachieving draft class. Second tier is loaded with Nerlens Noel, Nikola Mirotic, Jordan Clarkson, and Elfrid Payton, but nobody touches Wiggins for this award. Averaging nearly 17 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists at age 20? Impressive.
Bryan Castillo – Andrew Wiggins: Wiggins had a lot to prove as he was traded to Minnesota and has shown large flashes of his immense potential. He leads all rookies in scoring and has improved over the season while at the same time showing Cleveland what they've lost out on.
Richard Anselmo – Nikola Mirotic: On a playoff team, he had to earn his minutes. It's easier to get minutes on a bad team. Since mid-season, Mirotic has played as well as any rookie, if not better.
Chris Robbins – Nerlens Noel: Rookie of the year for me goes to Nerlens Noel. I understand the argument with Andrew Wiggins because of his offensive production, and I also understand Philadelphia as a team was not the best. However, Noel is actually doing just as good defensively as likely defender of the year DeAndre Jordan in Los Angeles. He's allowing only 102 points over 100 possessions, while DeAndre Jordan actually allows 103. Not much, but still impressive.
Parker White – Andrew Wiggins: My NBA Rookie of the Year is Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins led all rookies in scoring at 16.9 points, and is in the top-10 in rebounds (4.6), assists (2.1), and steals (1.05). Defensively, Wiggins is already NBA ready, but his offense has continually improved throughout the season. We thought Wiggins would be a superstar at the next level, and he is proving everyone right based off his rookie campaign.
Richard Stayman – Andrew Wiggins: His offensive skill is more advanced than a lot of people expected coming out of college and has been able to score at ease since January.
Elijah Ackerman – Nerlens Noel: Since March 1st, Noel has averaged 13.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.9 blocks per game. Andrew Wiggins has been great for Minnesota, but he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet quite like Nerlens, who was close to becoming the first rookie since 1973 (when the NBA began counting blocks) to average at least two blocks and 1.5 steals in a season since David Robinson.
2. Who is your pick for Coach of the Year? Why?
Vahan Shakhpazyan – Steve Kerr: As good as Mike Budenholzer was for the Atlanta Hawks this season, Kerr deserves this award. Sure, Kerr has more talent on his team, but he maximized that talent and coached his team to the best record in the NBA at 67-15. Along the way, he broke many records as a rookie head coach.
Talar Kahwajian – Mike Budenholzer: The Atlanta Hawks exceeded every expectation this season, and it was because of their coach. Budenholzer comes from the depths of the San Antonio Spurs organization and knows how to coach his players. Steve Kerr took the Golden State Warriors to a whole other level this season. While he should be recognized for his amazing achievement in the tight Western Conference, Budenholzer managed to top his conference without any superstars.
Josh McSwain – Mike Budenholzer: He’ll get a huge debate from Steve Kerr on this one, but with the team Budenholzer took over, there is no doubt he deserves it. Atlanta had a losing record last season, and now he has built them into the beast of the East, without any real star player. Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are all solid players, but he has made them into a great team.
Cody Dover – Quin Snyder: Pulling the homer card here, Quin Snyder is my Coach of the Year. With his crazy basketball mind, he has got the Jazz to 38 wins, which is 13 more than last year.
Torkil Bang – Mike Budenholzer: Another obvious candidate is Steve Kerr, but Budenholzer has made a bigger transformation of his Hawks team, without any superstar players.
Tom West – Mike Budenholzer: He's taken a team that no one considered as a threat in the East to being the best the Conference has to offer. The team-minded style he's employed wins championships as the Spurs have proved, and the ball movement he's implemented has created four All-Stars. The award can't go to anyone else.
Sean Slaughter – Steve Kerr: He turned the Warriors around and made them the best team in the NBA. Last season, they were not even a top five team under Mark Jackson with relatively the same roster.
Blake Hesser – Mike Budenholzer: Last year, the Atlanta Hawks went 38-44 and lost a closely contested first-round series to the Indiana Pacers. A year later, the Hawks, with basically the same roster but with a healthy Al Horford, are 60-21 with one game left. The Hawks have clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference and won the Southeast division for the first time. What this all means is that Mike Budenholzer is really good at his job and deserves to be recognized as the Coach of the Year.
Mike Tews – Mike Budenholzer: Steve Kerr already had plenty of talent, while Budenholzer has maximized players often taken for granted, turning Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Kyle Korver into title contenders. He has developed Atlanta into a pass-happy, defensive-minded, sharp shooting unit, going from eighth in the East to the top.
Nate Mann – Steve Kerr: He set the record for most wins by a rookie coach and the outcome of this Warrior team is amazing. Yes, he had a lot of help from the Splash Brothers, but Kerr's adjustments to the team once Mark Jackson was fired played out incredibly. They're currently the top seed in a tough Western Conference and appear to be, not only the favorites in the West, but in the whole league.
Jose Rosas – Steve Kerr: Being a rookie coach in the NBA is not an easy challenge. Kerr, however, has found a way to grant the Warriors a first seed despite being in the Western Conference. The team has put their trust in him and the strong team chemistry they share is sure to make them go on a deep playoff run.
Brandon Awadis – Steve Kerr: Tough decision between Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr, but I've got to go with Kerr. Sure many people expected the Warriors to be good, but NBA History good? Breaking top records good? Leading the league in most stats on the offensive and defensive side of the ball? This is coming from a rookie head coach. The team is poised for a long run in the postseason, and they bought into exactly what Steve Kerr was trying to implement. You really can't go wrong with either coach, but my pick is Steve Kerr.
Bryan Castillo – Mike Budenholzer: Mike Budenholzer deserves coach of the year because he took a sub-.500 Hawks team to 60-plus wins and the best record in the Eastern Conference. He's re-demonstrated the concept of team basketball much like his mentor Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, and that's a beautiful thing.
Richard Anselmo – Mike Budenholzer: Taking a team without a true superstar to the best record in the East (and the second best record in the league) is no small feat. Playing team ball with unique defensive concepts, it's fun to watch Budenholzer match wits with other coaches.
Chris Robbins – Mike Budenholzer: Coach of the Year in my opinion is going to be the Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. They've put together an unbelievable season, and the only real competition he should have is from Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.
Parker White – Steve Kerr: My Coach of the Year goes to rookie head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr. Now Kerr did inherit a very good team from former coach Mark Jackson, but under Kerr’s tutelage, they have become the best team in the NBA by far. From start to finish, the Warriors have been the best offensively and defensively efficient team. Obviously, having Stephen Curry, who could be this year’s MVP, helps Kerr look good, but this team is not just fun to watch. They are the best team to watch and Kerr has a lot to do with that.
Richard Stayman – Mike Budenholzer: Nobody expected the Hawks to be this good, and when guys like DeMarre Carroll called themselves the "Spurs East", people laughed. Budenholzer has been able to work with less talent than the likes of Chicago and Cleveland, and guide them to a better record.
Elijah Ackerman – Mike Budenholzer: It should be either him or Steve Kerr (or even Gregg Popovich), yet while the Warriors’ incredible emergence was certainly surprising, the Hawks’ 2014-15 performance was even more so. Coach Bud has turned a roster that, to a casual NBA fan, may be missing a few pieces, into a fast passing, defense dominating contender. To me, Kerr’s roster has more talent, and while his coaching has proved historically good, Coach Bud’s 60-plus win season has been even more impressive.
3. Who is your pick for Sixth Man of the Year? Why?
Vahan Shakhpazyan – Isaiah Thomas: Yes, Lou Williams was a potent scorer off the bench for the Raptors all season, but Isaiah Thomas was just as strong of a scorer and then some. Not only was Thomas a strong scorer, averaging 16.4 points, he was also a solid play maker for both the Suns and Celtics, averaging 4.2 assists per game this season. He also sparked Boston’s playoff push and ultimately helped them secure the seventh seed.
Talar Kahwajian – Isaiah Thomas: Lou Williams has been a big help for Toronto off the bench throughout the season, and his shot making ability has made him a top candidate for sixth man. However, Isaiah Thomas has been lights out since his arrival in Boston. While he had success in Phoenix in the same role, Thomas has stepped in seamlessly for the Celtics and most recently logged 34 points off the bench against the Pistons. His production off the bench has been unmatched, and he’s responsible for giving Boston new life.
Josh McSwain – Isaiah Thomas: Since arriving in Boston he has been the catalyst of a turnaround for that team. They were supposed to be rebuilding but now they have made the playoffs with a deep frontcourt and now solid backcourt play courtesy of Thomas. They may not go far since they will play the Cavaliers in the first round, but this young team won’t go down easy, in large part because of Thomas.
Cody Dover – Isaiah Thomas: He has been a good bench player for both the Suns and the Celtics. I wonder if the sixth man award has ever been given to a player that played for at least two teams in one year.
Torkil Bang – Isaiah Thomas: Thomas has been remarkable for both the Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celtics. And for the Celtics, he might have been the difference between “tanking” and the playoffs in under 40 games.
Tom West – Lou Williams: Through DeMar DeRozan's injury and the turbulent season the Toronto Raptors have had, Williams has been one of their most consistent players. He's had a resurgent season and is now averaging a career best 22.2 points per 36 minutes. Out of all the candidates, Williams has been key to his team all year.
Sean Slaughter – Isaiah Thomas: He leads the NBA in bench scoring and is a great play maker off the bench as well.
Blake Hesser – Isaiah Thomas: The Boston Celtics were considered a long shot to make the playoffs, but now with the addition of Isaiah Thomas off their bench, the Celtics will make a playoffs appearance after all. Thomas averaged 19.0 points per game in his 21 games with Boston. While he was being used as the sixth man in Phoenix with the Suns, Thomas averaged 15.2 points per game. He led both teams in Player Efficiency Rating. He could be the fourth guard in the past four years to take home the Sixth Man of the Year honors.
Mike Tews – Lou Williams: Williams led all NBA reserves in total points (1226), field goals made and attempted (372/915), three-point field goals made and attempted (152/443), and free throws made and attempted (330/384).
Nate Mann – Isaiah Thomas: Although he had a tough time on the Suns, his play since moving to Boston has been outstanding. He's still playing the sixth man role despite the Celtics’ relatively weak backcourt, but that doesn't matter. Everything has improved for him after the trade and even beforehand for Phoenix, Thomas made a strong case for Sixth Man of the Year.
Jose Rosas – Lou Williams: Similar to the season J.R Smith had in 2013, Williams has been an instant offensive for the Toronto Raptors off the bench. He averaged nearly 16 points per game this season, and was consistent offensively.
Brandon Awadis – Isaiah Thomas: There is no clear-cut favorite to win this award, but I am going to go with Isaiah Thomas. Say what you want about his defense, there is no denying he puts the ball in the bucket. Simple. Isn't that what you ask from your sixth man? Ever since being moved to Boston, he has averaged 19.0 points off the bench, and he has only played over 30 minutes four times in 21 games. Oh, and Boston is in the playoffs. Nearly 20 points per game in under 30 minutes? Give this man the award.
Bryan Castillo – Isaiah Thomas: Isaiah Thomas because he's excelled in the sixth man role on two teams now, Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns, in two different conferences. He was traded at the trade deadline to Boston, and he helped Boston make the playoffs.
Richard Anselmo – Lou Williams: As hard as it is to not pick Jamal Crawford, no bench player has had the impact Williams did this season. A great scorer off the bench, he has made clutch baskets all season long.
Parker White – Lou Williams: My Sixth Man of the Year goes to Toronto Raptors guard Louis Williams. On the season, Williams averaged 15.5 points in 25.2 minutes per game. When Toronto needs a huge bucket, Williams has been the go-to guy late in games because of his ability to knock down perimeter shots and get to the free-throw line. In years past, this has been known as the “Jamal Crawford Award,” but with him being out most of the year with injury, he is not in the running, giving Williams the fast track to this award.
Richard Stayman – Andre Iguodala: Outstanding defense, good passing, and playmaking are exactly what a coach wants from his bench, and Iguodala brings just that.
Elijah Ackerman – Isaiah Thomas: I don’t have such a preference for this award, but I think the way Thomas has come off the bench to spark Boston’s offense, propelling them to a playoff spot, is worthy of the award. Even though he was traded mid-season, Thomas’ run with the Celtics has been the most impactful among NBA sixth men.
4. Who is your pick for Most Improved Player? Why?
Vahan Shakhpazyan – Jimmy Butler: From a role player to an All-Star, Jimmy Butler has arguably been the best player on the Chicago Bulls this year. He jumped from 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game on 39.7 percent shooting from the field and 28.3 percent from three-point distance to 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists on 46.2 percent shooting from the floor and 37.8 percent from threes. If that is not a major improvement, then I don’t know what is. He has become one of the best two-way players in the league. Remember when the Bulls were looking for a consistent shooting guard scorer? Well, not anymore.
Talar Kahwajian – Jimmy Butler: Butler’s jump from 13.1 points per game to 20.1 is a staggering statistic, and he’s improved in every category this season. He helped keep the Bulls going once Derrick Rose went down with another injury. With an expiring contract this summer, Butler might have earned himself close to a max deal with his outstanding play.
Josh McSwain – Nikola Vucevic: I’m sure not many people know of Vucevic because he gets lost in the purgatory known as Orlando, but he has really come on this year. He has always been a solid rebounder but he nearly became a 20-10 guy, as he averaged 19.3 points per game this season. That’s 5.1 points per game increase from last season.
Cody Dover – Rudy Gobert: Rudy has gone from a bench warmer from last season, to the starting center on one of the best defenses in the league, and a franchise cornerstone. Can you improve much more in one year?
Torkil Bang – Anthony Davis: It is very close between Davis and Jimmy Butler, but Davis' leap is harder and has less to do with a changed role with the team. One other candidate needs to be mentioned: Rudy Gobert (though part of it is the second year leap).
Tom West – Rudy Gobert: He's gone from never starting an NBA game last year, to taking over as the Utah Jazz's best center since the departure of Enes Kanter. Not just that, but he's become arguably the best rim protector there is, with the best block percentage in the league. His point production per game has nearly quadrupled, his rebounds per game have nearly tripled and his field goal percentage has increased by 12 percent. Gobert deserves this.
Sean Slaughter – Jimmy Butler: He went from a decent player last year to an All-Star.
Blake Hesser – Hassan Whiteside: In 2013, he was playing in China and Lebanon. In 2014, he returned to China before spending months working on his game at his local YMCA in North Carolina. In 2015, he is the starting center for the Miami Heat and averaging a double-double. Hassan Whiteside might not have come into this season as a household name, but he certainly did enough to change that. Only guys named Davis, Westbrook, Curry, Durant, and Harden have better player efficiency ratings and Whiteside is ahead of guys like Chris Paul and LeBron James in that category. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game, which is only second to Anthony Davis, and he is shooting 62.8 percent from the field. To call Hassan Whiteside the league’s Most Improved Player might be an understatement.
Mike Tews – Jimmy Butler: He has gone from being a defensive stopper into a versatile, two-way star who will likely command a max contract this summer. He’s also raised his scoring and three-point percentage significantly while playing a league-high 38.7 minutes per game. Draymond Green is another candidate but he hasn’t had to bear the same level of offensive responsibility as Butler.
Nate Mann – Jimmy Butler: Not only is he one of my new favorite players, but Butler is well deserving of this award. The transformation from last year to this year for the young star is incredible. Last season for Chicago he averaged 13 points and four rebounds in 39 minutes of play. This season, in the same amount of floor time, he's averaging 20 points and nearly six rebounds. It will be interesting to see if he can fight off injuries and lead the Bulls through the playoffs.
Jose Rosas – Klay Thompson: Playing for the USA team last summer has paid off for Thompson. He has transformed into a two-way player, and his offensive never fails to impress. Thompson also became a first time All-Star this season.
Brandon Awadis – Hassan Whiteside: Does anybody know how hard it is to accomplish what Whiteside has accomplished? He went through months of free agency without receiving a contract from any team, and even spent the beginning of the season, not overseas, not in the D-League, but playing pickup games with folks like you and I at a YMCA gym. Now? He is the starting center of a near-playoff team. He owned nightly averages of 11.8 points, 10 rebounds, and almost three blocks. Can you argue Jimmy Butler wins this award? Sure. But he turned down a huge contract from Chicago last summer, so you knew something big had to be coming. Whiteside had a game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 blocks.
Bryan Castillo – Hassan Whiteside: Hassan Whiteside, for a guy that wasn't in the NBA a year ago to averaging a double-double is astonishing. He has had four 20-plus rebound games this season and was one of the few bright spots for the Miami Heat this season.
Richard Anselmo – Giannis Antetokounmpo: Last year, Antetokounmpo was a raw rookie, loaded with potential. This season he has blossomed into a solid all-around player who can make the spectacular play. He is only going to improve and the sky’s the limit.
Chris Robbins – Reggie Jackson: Most improved player in my opinion is Reggie Jackson. He was big for Oklahoma City before he got traded, and without him, it could be argued that Oklahoma City would have been out of the playoff race earlier rather than the final game of the season. He then came to Detroit to replace Brandon Jennings after injury, and he was fantastic, putting up numbers I don't remember seeing since Chauncey Billups back in the 2004 championship days.
Parker White – Jimmy Butler: This year’s Most Improved Player has to be All-Star shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler. Butler has missed some games this year, but he averaged 20.0 points and made his first All-Star team this season. Aside from his improved offense, Butler is still one of the better perimeter defenders and leads the league in minutes at 38.7. So when he is not out he is on the court making an impact on the game in several areas.
Richard Stayman – Hassan Whiteside: Whiteside went from a careless athletic freak, and was cut in the preseason from Memphis. He has made tremendous strides to becoming one of the best centers this season.
Elijah Ackerman – Jimmy Butler: When you check out his stat line, Butler’s stats actually haven’t changed much since last season; he plays the same amount of minutes, and his rebounds and assists are about the same, but he averages seven more points and 20 per game, and his shooting has improved nicely. Last year, Butler was really a solid starter and a dynamite defender. The defense is still there, but Butler’s offensive game has taken a significant leap, and he was an All-Star this year too.
5. Who is your pick for Defensive Player of the Year? Why?
Vahan Shakhpazyan – Draymond Green: There is a reason why Golden State’s defense is number one in the NBA, and Green’s finger prints are all over that. His versatility is the main reason the Warriors are such a great defensive team. Green can defend all positions and tends to stick the best players on opposing teams. He has the physicality to defend fours and fives in the paint and enough speed to defend the wing. You don’t believe me? Take a look at this chart:
Talar Kahwajian – DeAndre Jordan: The Clippers big man may not be a good free-throw shooter, but he locks down the paint with some of the best. Not only has he been averaging 15 rebounds a game this season, but he also had 2.2 blocks. Jordan makes guards alter their shots and forces offenses to work around him.
Josh McSwain – Anthony Davis: This is a hard choice, but he already leads the NBA in blocks per game and will do so for years to come. He has lifted the Pelicans from an also-ran into a playoff contender. Even if they didn’t qualify for the postseason, there’s no doubt Davis deserves some sort of award for what he has done this season.
Cody Dover – Draymond Green: He has been known as "swiss army knife" which totally fits. He can guard positions 1-5 very well. He has been the best defensive player on the best defensive team, not much argument here.
Torkil Bang – Draymond Green: He is the heart of the best defense in the league, and his versatility and ability to switch is huge for the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard has probably played the most impressive individual defense since the All Star-break and he's a close number two in my book. Rudy Gobert, Tony Allen, and DeAndre Jordan also deserve attention.
Tom West – Draymond Green: He's the most important individual to the league's best defense and has the ability to guard every position from 1 to 5. Whenever he's on the floor, the Warriors lead by an average of plus-16 points. When Green is on the bench, that number falls to plus-one. That's because of his defense.
Sean Slaughter – DeAndre Jordan: He leads the NBA in rebounds and is top-five in blocked shots. He protects the rim so well on defense.
Blake Hesser – Anthony Davis: Any other year, if Anthony Davis puts up the numbers he’s put up this year, then he’s MVP, runner-up to the MVP, or second runner-up to the MVP. But this year, he’ll most likely finish fourth or fifth. But those numbers haven’t gone to waste. Davis led the Pelicans to the playoffs in a tough Western Conference. He could also be receiving hardware in the form of the Defensive Player of the Year award. Davis leads the entire NBA in blocks per game and averaged over 10 rebounds per game.
Mike Tews – DeAndre Jordan: He can rebound like no one else, bang in the post and provide some rim protection as well. Jordan led the NBA in total rebounds per game (15.0), defensive rebounds (10.1) and finished fourth in blocked shots (2.23).
Nate Mann – Draymond Green: His season averages for steals and blocks might not scream out Defensive Player of the Year, but after watching him shut down LaMarcus Aldridge last Thursday, I couldn't help but give him the award. Green's bump into the starting lineup boosted his numbers immensely, and on the defensive end, this guy is a beast. His post defense is great, and he's bulky enough to keep other big men from getting into the paint and scoring easy buckets.
Jose Rosas – DeAndre Jordan: Jordan averaged a double-double this season and averaged 2.23 blocks per game. While Blake Griffin missed a big number of games, Jordan did an excellent job being a paint protector.
Brandon Awadis – Kawhi Leonard: Draymond Green is the clear-cut favorite here, and rightfully so, but has anyone paid attention to Kawhi? Since returning from his 15-game absence due to injury, the Spurs have only lost consecutive games one time. He is averaged nearly three steals in the month of April and San Antonio has reeled off 11 straight wins. He has 29 games with three or more steals, which, I might add, is non-human. Stats do not tell all. His hands are incredibly large, and he sticks the best ball-handler night in and night out. He has engineered the Spurs back to last year's status.
Bryan Castillo – Draymond Green: Draymond Green, although he's a bit undersized at the power forward position, he has been a big reason why the Warriors are so good on defense. His one-on-one defense is suffocating and he makes up for his size with his speed and tenacity against the best of them.
Richard Anselmo – Draymond Green: This was the most difficult award to give out. Through most of the season, I would have picked Kawai Leonard, but Green's two-game absence proved how important he was to the Warriors and their defensive principles.
Chris Robbins – Draymond Green: Defensive Player of the Year is hard this year, due to all the good candidates. There are always the LeBron James' and Kevin Durant's and all the big time players, but this year it looks like it might not go to the biggest name. DeAndre Jordan looks to be the most likely to win, but personally I think Draymond Green is the better candidate. He has helped Golden State's defense out immensely this season, and on a team that is built around offense with Curry for the most part, you have to have someone who can prevent the points just as well.
Parker White – Rudy Gobert: My Defensive Player of the Year goes to the “Stifle Tower” Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. He is fourth in the league behind Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside, and Serge Ibaka in blocks per game with 2.30. The difference is he has played in every game this season and is second behind Davis in total blocks with 186. What makes his season even more impressive is the fact he only averaged 26.3 minutes and has started only 37 games. He has been so great for Utah, they shipped former top-three pick Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City.
Richard Stayman – Marc Gasol: The Grizzlies would be nowhere without Gasol, and it all starts on defense.
Elijah Ackerman – Draymond Green: This a no-brainer. Green is the most valuable player on the defensive side of the ball for any team in the league. You might not see it in his statistics, but on the court, Green can guard anyone at any position, and he’s the reason the Warriors are also the NBA’s best defensive team.
6. Who is your pick for Most Valuable Player? Why?
Vahan Shakhpazyan – James Harden: Stephen Curry will probably win this award being the best player on the best team, but I think James Harden deserves it a little more. As much as I love Curry’s game, there is no denying what Harden has done all season long. He carried the Rockets to second place in an ultra-competitive Western Conference without their second best player, Dwight Howard, for half the season. Starters Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley have also missed 49 and 26 games, respectively. All season long, Harden has had limited talent around him, but he has got the job done. He has also become a better defender and averaged 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds, which is quite impressive for a two guard. Sometimes we tend to forget what the V in MVP stands for. Harden has definitely been extremely valuable for Houston. Take him out of the equation, and the Rockets are easily a lottery team.
Talar Kahwajian – Stephen Curry: This splash brother wins the MVP, his production has been unbelievable this season. While James Harden has made a very strong case down in Houston, Curry’s hot shooting along with his 7.7 assists a game make him the winner. Curry’s PER is also higher than Harden’s, reinforcing the idea that Curry is more efficient than his MVP opponents.
Josh McSwain – James Harden: I believe that Russell Westbrook should win the player of the year award for what he has done in the absence of Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, but Harden is my MVP. Without Dwight Howard most of this season, he has lifted them to the top of the ultra-competitive Southwest division. Considering all teams made the playoffs from the division, that’s saying something.
Cody Dover – Stephen Curry: I honestly believe that whoever plays the best last game will win the MVP. You watch Harden and say "He has to win the MVP", then the next night you watch Curry and say "He has to win the MVP". Being more of an analytic guy, I would give the edge to Curry, but you also can't go wrong with Harden who has been just as good.
Torkil Bang – Stephen Curry: It's easy to underrate Stephen Curry's value, because the Warriors have been outstanding, and Harden's run without Dwight Howard was just extraordinary. But I choose Curry, because in my opinion, it's not only about keeping your team afloat, but also about putting yourself in a position to win a championship. In the Eastern Conference, only LeBron James makes that kind of difference, but he fell behind too much in the beginning of the season.
Tom West – Stephen Curry: Simply put, he's the best player on the league's best team and he's the man who makes everything about the Golden State Warriors fire on all cylinders. He's the most skilled offensive player in the NBA right now, and arguably the best shooter we've ever seen. Take away Curry, and the Warriors lose the magic that's surrounded them all year. Not only that, he's been more consistent than the other candidates, too.
Sean Slaughter – Stephen Curry: He has contributed for the best team in the NBA, best scorer and passer combined in the NBA. He has really stepped up his defense this season as well.
Blake Hesser – Stephen Curry: This is by far the hardest award to make a decision on. LeBron James is the best player in the world, but statistically, his points, field goal percentage, and rebounds are at the lowest they’ve been since his first tenure with the Cavaliers. James Harden has been the best shooting guard in the NBA this year and it’s not even close. Harden is second in the NBA in points per game and put the Rockets in second place in the Western Conference despite missing Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones for an extensive amount of time. But his field goal percentage is not great and that’s about the biggest difference between him and my MVP pick. So process of elimination leaves us with Stephen Curry. Curry has become one of the top tier players this year and you can finally consider him elite. He broke his own record for three pointers made in a season, while shooting 48.7 percent from the field. He has been the best player on the best team in the NBA and that is why he should be the MVP.
Mike Tews – Stephen Curry: Not only does he play for the league’s best team but is in the top 10 in scoring, three-pointers, assists, and steals. He has transformed into the best point guard in the NBA and his defense has progressed to the point of deserving MVP honors.
Nate Mann – Stephen Curry: As much as I don't want to add another Golden State player/coach into here, Steph Curry is the most deserving of MVP. LeBron James, Westbrook, and Harden all make good cases for winning and their stats certainly look better on paper than Curry's. But what he's done with Steve Kerr to make the Warriors the best team in the league is what makes me choose Curry to win. They have the most wins in the NBA, and he just broke his own single season three-point record against Portland on Thursday. Can he continue this leadership into the playoffs? We'll have to wait and see.
Jose Rosas – Stephen Curry: A huge reason as to why the Golden State Warriors have been so dominant this season. He has made history by breaking his own record of most three pointers in a season and has become arguably the most challenging player to guard.
Brandon Awadis – James Harden: The Houston Rockets lost two role players and arguably their third best player last summer in Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and Chandler Parsons. Dwight Howard has missed 41 games due to injuries. Where do the Rockets stand? 56 wins, 26 losses good for the second seed out West. If you look up the definition of "carry' in a dictionary, James Harden will be the definition. He has carried this team composed of role players through the brutal Western Conference. He defines superstar. He has had multiple 40-point games. He leads the league in 30-point games this year, and he also dishes out seven assists. Steph Curry will win this award, but I think James Harden deserves it.
Bryan Castillo – James Harden: James Harden has put up numbers not seen since the Jordan days. He has carried the Rockets in a brutal Western Conference despite injuries to fellow starters Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley, and Terrence Jones. The Rocket have had to rely more on Harden than Warriors have had to on Stephen Curry. The Warriors are still a playoff team without Curry because of their depth but same can't be said about the Rockets without Harden.
Richard Anselmo – James Harden: Most will say it should go to the best player on the best team, which would be Curry. I tend to look at where a team would be without the player. Without Curry the Warriors are still a playoff team, just not as high of a seed. Without Harden, the Rockets are a lottery team. He led the team all year through numerous injuries to teammates and without much help.
Chris Robbins – Stephen Curry: MVP has to be Stephen Curry. If it's not, I would be completely shocked unless LeBron James got it because of Cleveland's turnaround. Curry, along with Green, has turned Golden State into the best team in California this year, and he can do it all. He's known for his offense and three-point shooting, but he goes up against good-to-great point guards on a game to game basis and still puts in a solid defensive effort every game, even going up against Chris Paul, Tony Parker, etc., out west. Another note though, if the Pistons had made the playoffs this season, Andre Drummond might have had some consideration. As a Pistons fan myself, he has turned this team from a perennial loser into a middle-of-the-pack team at worst, almost singlehandedly. Since Josh Smith left, his numbers have skyrocketed and his impact on the Pistons is arguably as good as Curry's impact on the Warriors and LeBron’s on the Cavaliers. Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant are probably the only other people that play as much of a role on their team as Drummond has this year.
Parker White – Stephen Curry: This has been one of the most competitive MVP races in recent memory with the injury to Kevin Durant and lesser LeBron James type season, even though that is still excellent. With that said, my MVP goes to Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. He has been the best player on the best team all season, and has become at least a top-five player in the league. On the season, Curry averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. Curry is also shooting 48.8 percent shooting from the field, 44.2 percent from behind the arc, and 91.4 percent from the free-throw line. To put the cherry on top, he also broke his own record of three-pointers made with 284. Not only is Curry known as the best shooter in the game, but his decision making and defense has put him in the category of best point guard in the league, which is impressive in a point guard driven league. James Harden is no doubt in the discussion, but I’m in the camp of winning matters, and the fact remains he has led his team to the best record.
Richard Stayman – James Harden: Nearly the scoring champ and he had his team in second place to finish the season with Trevor Ariza as his second best player. Harden singlehandedly carried the Rockets to a mighty successful regular season, and his defense has been improved, too.
Elijah Ackerman – James Harden: The MVP award has always interested me, and I would go with Harden for a couple of reasons. While Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley have missed 41 and 26 games respectively, Harden has continued to dazzle on offense, but his assists have been up and his defense has been way better. Considering all the injuries, Harden’s value to the Rockets is astronomical, and while the same could be said for Steph Curry, Houston’s bruised, battered ball club has managed to stay afloat as a contender in the Wild West, and it’s all thanks to Harden.