NBA Awards - My Picks for Coach, Defensive Player, and Rookie of the Year
The conclusion of the 2017-2018 NBA season is a mere days away and it has been absolutely incredible from my vantage point. We've seen some truly incredible performances and this has been one of the most competitive playoff races in recent memory with seeding and playoff implicating games still to come.
With the end of every regular season though, there is the truly excruciatingly difficult job of picking the winners of the major NBA awards. These picks always incite debate (hopefully healthy), but none more than the Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year. Below are my picks for each of these awards. I'll be attacking the MVP, Sixth Man of the Year, and Most Improved Player tomorrow.
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens - Boston Celtics
This year's race for coach of the year is one of the tightest that I've ever bore witness to. There are at least five legitimate candidates that could win as well as a couple that are right on the fringes, but deserve recognition for the year they've had. I have Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz and Dwayne Casey of the Toronto Raptors right behind Stevens as Snyder has somehow gotten the Utah Jazz into potentially home court advantage in the playoffs and Casey has led this Raptors team to the top seed in the East.
Despite the tremendous jobs being done by others like Snyder, Case, Nate McMillan, Brett Brown, Gregg Poppovich, Terry Stotts, and Mike D'Antoni, Stevens gets the award for doing the most on the fly adjusting of the group. Boston's star backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will miss a combined 104 games this season with Hayward playing just five minutes this season before a horrific ankle injury. Stevens somehow managed to propel Boston to the second seed in the East with a team that actually started Kadeem Allen (who???) at point guard this season. This is one of those times where I wish awards were decided after the playoffs because a strong showing from the Jazz or Raptors in the playoffs could have swayed me into Snyder or Casey respectively, but Stevens edges them both out by a hair.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert - Utah Jazz
This is a controversial category because the two leaders have both missed significant amounts of the season. Gobert's biggest knock on his resume for this year's award was that he missed 26 games. Joel Embiid, who comes in a close second in my opinion, will miss approximately 19 games this season due to the recent orbital fracture suffered a week ago. With this recent string of missed games, the difference between Embiid's and Gobert's number of missed games become negligible and I have to just go based on who the better defender was this season.
The answer to that is Gobert, who has anchored a Utah Jazz defense that is near the top in nearly every statistical category. Gobert is second in defensive rating as well as block percentage. He forces opponents into mid-range shots due to his uncanny knack for challenging players at the rim. The individual statistics don't necessarily show the entire picture when it comes to Gobert though. He allows the Jazz guards and wings to take more chances on their man, knowing that Gobert is behind them to pick up the slack. This shows in the fact that Utah is 2nd in the league in defensive rating at 104.2.
Don't get me wrong, this race is extremely close between Embiid and Gobert, but Gobert wins it by a small margin if even just because of his intimidation factor.
Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons - Philadelphia 76ers
Here we have another two horse race between Ben Simmons of the 76ers and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. If you had asked me who I thought would win the award a month ago, I probably would have said Mitchell because Utah seemed to need him more than Philadelphia needed Ben Simmons. Then the 76ers went on a 13 game winning streak with a handful of those games being without Joel Embiid and with Simmons clearly leading the team on both the offensive and defensive ends.
Simmons has clearly upped his game since the All-Star break. Whether that's due to him feeling slighted at missing out on being an All-Star or just passing through the rookie wall, Simmons has been on a tear in the second half of the season. Yes, Mitchell is averaging more points per game than Simmons, but Simmons is averaging five more assists and rebounds than Mitchell is per game.
This is another award that I wish I had the opportunity to give out following the playoffs because both rookies will be forced to lead their respective teams into the post-season. Again, this is another tight race, but I think Simmons gets the nod for impacting the game in more ways than just scoring.
There you have it folks, my picks for the Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year in the NBA this season. Stay tuned for my article tomorrow where I'll reveal my picks for MVP, Sixth Man, and Most Improved Player. Keep an eye out for that and be sure to sign up for Swish Weekly to get a curated email of the best NBA content delivered to your email each week.
You can also support Swish Weekly by purchasing a dope T-Shirt through the links below. They're really awesome and super comfy so grab one for you and one for your best friend!