With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here, we look at some of the best young talent the league has to offer.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
You can argue all you want over whether or not Simmons should be categorised as a rookie, but that’s exactly what he is according to the league’s definition, even if he entered the NBA last season before sitting the year out with an injury.
And because he’s technically a rookie, the Philadelphia 76ers phenom should earn the top honour among first-year players after being an All-Star calibre player from the get-go.
A triple-double threat every night, the 21-year-old averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds this past season to help transform the 76ers from bottom-dwellers to a team that reached the second round of the playoffs.
Simmons’ game isn’t without holes as his inability to shoot from outside was exposed in the playoffs, but his combination of size and skills, as well as his exquisite playmaking as an oversized point guard, make him one of the most unique players in the league.
The comparisons to LeBron James are a bit much, but Simmons has already proven he can develop into one of the best players in the league for years to come.
You can easily make a case Mitchell should win the award because of how much more he had to do than Simmons as Utah’s primary scorer from the jump. By averaging 20.5 points for a playoff team, Mitchell proved his bag of tricks and offensive arsenal is already veteran-like.
Tatum’s stats don’t jump off the page like Simmons or Mitchell’s, but his ability to be an impact player for one of the best teams in the league was arguably just as impressive. And the 20-year-old jumped to another level in the playoffs, where he was the focal point for a side that was one win from the Finals.
With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards and here, we look at Defensive Player of the Year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
It’s hard to discern where to draw the line when it comes to players missing time and still being deserving of individual honours.
Gobert is one of those cases as he missed 26 of Utah’s first 44 games. However, his impact after his return was so obvious that it feels wrong to penalise him for his injury in the first half of the season.
When he was on the court, the Jazz had a defensive rating of 97.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, a mark that would have comfortably ranked first in the league.
As the NBA’s best rim protector, Gobert legitimately affects opposing players’ point-blank shots, by both swatting and altering them. There’s a reason he has the nicknames ‘Stifle Tower’ and ‘French Rejection’.
Gobert’s presence in the paint also scares away players from attacking the rim in a way that isn’t quantifiable.
He’s not the prototype for the ideal defensive player in today’s game, with someone like Draymond Green arguably more valuable for his versatility and ability to guard all over the court, but Gobert does what he does extremely well.
After finishing as the DPOY runner-up in 2017, Gobert is deserving of finally breaking through.
Like Gobert, Embiid is a brick wall at the rim and a deterrent to any player who wants to risk driving to the basket. His blocks per game dropped from last season – 2.5 to 1.8 – but the 76ers centre was the pillar of a Philadelphia defence that finished third in the league in defensive rating with 102.0 points.
There isn’t a more complete defender among big men than Davis, who can lock down a guard on the perimeter and then rotate over to swat a shot in the same possession. The combination of his mobility and size makes him a devastating weapon, as evidenced by his 2.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here’s how we see the MVP race shaking out.
Most Valuable Player
After runner-up finishes in MVP voting two of the past three years, it finally appears as if Harden will get his shine in the spotlight after a stellar campaign.
His case is unassailable. Harden was the best player on the best team during the regular season and led the league in scoring with 30.4 points per game, while also averaging the fourth-most assists at 8.8.
No player utilised isolations more as he cleared out and attacked 10 times per game, scoring 1.22 points per possession. Even when he didn’t get a basket, he was a master at drawing fouls, getting to the free throw line for a league-leading 10.1 attempts per game.
And when help defenders would take a step or two in his direction, Harden would fire passes to Houston’s shooters on the perimeter to make the opposition pay.
He was the engine that made the Rockets’ deadly offence run and his value to the dominance was undeniable.
Harden isn’t the best player in the league, but if you define the MVP as an award given to the player who had the best season, no one else comes all that close to Houston’s dynamo.
LeBron could win the MVP every season and it would never feel like the wrong decision. But even though he’s the undisputed player in the world, it’s hard to reward James for a season in which his team wildly fluctuated and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference. That said, we should never take his gaudy production for granted – 27.5 points, 9.1 assists, 8.6 rebounds and 62.1 true shooting percentage.
Davis made a charge for MVP after DeMarcus Cousins‘ suffered a season-ending injury at the end of January, going on a ridiculous run to average 35.0 points, 13.0 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 2.5 steals in February. He couldn’t keep up the breakneck pace, but Davis still finished with monster numbers as arguably the best two-player in the league this season.