2018 Awards Watch
COACH OF THE YEAR
Five minutes into the season, the Boston Celtics season suffered a devastating blow, when Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending leg injury. Relying on Boston’s other newcomer Kyrie Irving, the Celtics managed to get off to a great start, but the injury woes would continue with Irving himself missing most of the second half with a balky knee. Through it all Coach Brad Stevens did not panic as the Celtics were among the top two teams in the Eastern Conference all season, finishing with a record of 55-27. With all the injuries, the Celtics used 18 different starting lineups, as their “regular” starting lineup just 35 times. Incredibly, the Celtics were 31-15 in games in which they did not have a full complement of players thanks to Stevens’ steady leadership.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Trust the process fans were implored, as the Philadelphia 76ers became experts at tanking games, falling to an embarrassing 10-72 record in 2016. The plan was to stack high draft picks, a plan often derailed by injuries, as Ben Simmons the top pick in 2016 missed the entire season. This year it all came together as the Sixers, finished third overall in the Eastern Conference with a record of 52-30, ending the season on a 16-game winning streak. A large part of Philadelphia’s success is Ben Simmons, who averaged 15.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game, becoming a beast in the paint. Simmons also showed a big defensive prowess with an ability to deflect the pass and put pressure on shooters.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
There is no player’s presence who meant more to his team than Rudy Gobert did for the Utah Jazz in 2018. Missing nearly two months, the Jazz struggled badly when Gobert was out as they held a record 18-27 and appeared to be falling out of the playoff race. Once Rudy Gobert returned, the Jazz turned their season around, winning 12 of the next 13 games as they 30-7 over the final 37 games. Over those 37 games, Utah had the league’s best defense, with an efficiency rating of 97.4 points per game, allowing just 10.6 second-chance points, as they grabbed 80.7% of defensive rebounds. Gobert’s presence in the paint was key as he averaged 10.7 boards and 2.3 blocked shots per game.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Big things were expected, when the Orlando Magic chose Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of Indiana. However, in three years with the Magic, Oladipo was a major disappointment as he often went into long shooting slumps and never averaged more than 17.9 points per game. After he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Victor Oladipo continued to underwhelm, averaging 15.9 ppg. Traded again to the Indiana Pacers, the Oladipo filly hit the switch as he was tasked with replacing Paul George. In 2018, Victor Oladipo career highs across the board with 23.1 points, with 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a league-leading 2.4 steals per game as he played in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
6th MAN AWARD
Los Angeles Clippers
Drafted in the middle of the second round in the 2005 NBA Draft, Lou Williams has played for six teams in a 13-year NBA career. While some players bounce around as fill in pieces, Williams has been valuable in most places he has landed. In 2015, he was named Sixth Man coming off the bench for the Toronto Raptors. Three years later and two stops in between, Lou Williams is in position to be the NBA’s top reserve again. Helping the Clippers stay in the playoff chase until the final week of the season, 2018 was the best season of Lou Williams’ career as he averaged more minutes than any other season in his career, averaging 32.8 minutes per game. Williams also posted career highs with 22.6 points and 5.3 assists per game.
Last year despite what some felt was a better overall season, James Harden finished second in MVP voting as Russell Westbrook averaged a Triple-Double for the season. Westbrook with a strong season repeated his Triple-Double average but will not deny James Harden as no player from start to the end of the season was better than James Harden. Leading to the Houston Rockets to the best record in the NBA at 65-17, Harden was deadly from three-point range all season, breaking ankles and dominating games to win the scoring title with 30.4 points per game. The beard also averaged 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game as the Rockets were nearly unbeatable in the second half of the season, winning 35 of 38 games heading into April.