With the book closed on the 2017-18 NBA season, we’re making our picks for the individual end-of-year awards. Here, we hand out the hardware for the biggest influence on the sidelines.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Boston Celtics leader is already one of the best coaches in the league, if not the very best, and it’s high time he gets the validation by walking away with the award.
Boston may have met preseason expectations by getting within a game of the NBA Finals, but everything that happened in the middle made the end result look that much more impressive.
And yet, that didn’t stop the Celtics from improving on their win total from the previous year – the fourth-straight year they’ve bettered their record under Stevens – to finish second in the standings, before taking LeBron James to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If Stevens has a healthy roster to work with next season, it’s fun to imagine how much he’ll get out of it.
The NBA coaching scene can be a cruel world, as proven by Casey getting fired after leading the Raptors to a franchise-best 59 wins. Toronto ultimately were swept at the hands of LeBron for the second straight year, but not before Casey did wonders with a team that completely overhauled their style of play.
Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)
Synder did a comparable job to Stevens, guiding the Jazz to 48 wins despite losing Hayward in the summer and then Rudy Gobert to injury for most of the first half of the season. He also helped develop Donovan Mitchell and got Utah to the second round of the playoffs without much star power.
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 the players who took their game to another level.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
When Oladipo was traded from Oklahoma City to Indiana last offseason, no one could have seen this coming.
With the Pacers, he went from being a good player to one of the best in the league as his transformation that turned him into a star.
Whether it was getting out of the shadow of Russell Westbrook, changing his physique and improving his game, or a little bit of both, something changed with Oladipo as he made Indiana’s trade of Paul George completely worth it by instantly becoming the franchise’s next cornerstone.
At the age of 25, Oladipo significantly raised his stats across the board, averaging 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.4 steals, 47.7 per cent shooting from the field and 37.1 per cent from long range.
As a terror on both ends of the floor, Oladipo guided the Pacers to the fifth-best record in the East and was a game away from knocking off LeBron James in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s very rare a player improves to the extent Oladipo did over a year, but he seized the opportunity and rose to a level that would have been impossible to predict.
Having developed into one of the best young bigs in the league, the Rockets centre was critical to Houston’s success as a roll man and rim protector. He plays his role perfectly, doing all the dirty work without requiring plays run for him to be effective.
Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets)
From a second-round pick in 2014 to being one of the best players on a team – albeit a weak team – Dinwiddie has risen in prominence since entering the league as nothing more than a so-so prospect. He was far from efficient, but the Nets guard averaged 12.6 points per game after averaging 7.3 last year.
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 a group who shouldn’t go overlooked just because they weren’t starters.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
The value of high-volume, high-scoring sixth men is usually overstated, but in Williams’ case, it can’t be said enough how important he was to the Clippers this season.
He had a career year at the age of 31, averaging 22.6 points and 5.3 assists – the first player in league history to average those numbers off the bench – which could have easily landed him on the All-Star team. He even dropped 50 points in a win over Golden State, while having three 40-point performances sprinkled in throughout the season.
Few players in the league are more ‘instant offence’ than Williams, who never enters a game lacking for confidence. For slashing to outside shooting and everything in between, the guard simply knows how to get buckets.
It’s a testament to Williams’ season that the Clippers, after losing Chris Paul last summer and trading Blake Griffin at the deadline, were in the hunt for a playoff spot until the final days and finished two games above .500.
The one factor working against Williams’ case for the award is that he started 19 games and wasn’t a true back-up for the entire season, but that still leaves 60 games in which he came off the bench.
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Gordon had another strong campaign for the Rockets as a reserve in a season they notched a league-best 65 wins. He had the third-most 3-pointers attempted (8.8) and made (3.2) per game among all players.
Stats don’t tell the whole story with VanVleet, who was crucial to the Raptors’ 59-win season as a player who did it all in his limited minutes. Toronto outscored by 352 points when the back-up guard was on the floor – a mark that was among some of the top stars in the league.