Our own Leo Tochterman makes his picks for the NBA’s end-of-season awards
Candidates: Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo
In many seasons, Embiid and Antetokounmpo would be runaway favorites for this award with the numbers they have put up. But, alas, the best player this year has been the big guy on the Denver Nuggets.
After winning the award last season, Nikola Jokic has been even better this season, carrying his team to a nearly 50-win season, with his second and third-best players both sidelined for the majority of the season. This season, the Nuggets are probably a 25 win team if it weren’t for him. By definition, he has been the most valuable player. And, he’s the betting favorite (-380).
Winner: Nikola Jokic
Rookie of the Year
Candidates: Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, Cade Cunningham
Both Barnes and Cunningham have legitimate cases for this award after Mobley has hit somewhat of a rookie wall, but looking at all of their seasons in totality, he should still win the award. Mobley’s ability to protect the rim while also switching onto some guards has been shockingly good as a rookie, in addition to having a diverse offensive skill set for a 20-year-old. Mobley is a big reason the Cleveland Cavaliers have been one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA this season.
Winner: Evan Mobley
Most Improved Player
Candidates: Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Jordan Poole, Miles Bridges, Dejounte Murray
This is such a tough award because so much of it is how you define the criteria. So many guys have made meaningful improvements this year, but Ja Morant’s improvement from top 30 player to a top 10 player is a rare leap for a player to make in his third season. Although, Garland, Murray, Bridges and Poole all have legitimate cases here.
Coach of the Year
Candidates: Monty Williams, Taylor Jenkins, Ime Udoka, Erik Spoelstra
Monty Williams arguably should have won this award last season when he finished second to Tom Thibodeau. Now this season, when the Phoenix Suns have been far and away from the best team in the NBA during the regular season, I don’t know how it could be anyone else.
Winner: Monty Williams