As the 2016-17 NBA season draws to a close, the storylines begin to either draw to a close, or in some cases, continue to make is all collectively scratch our heads. This season has seen surprises, disappointments, anger and passion, but none means more than the awards night. So, the question remains, who exactly will take home each award?
Rookie of the Year: Dario Saric (Philadelphia 76ers)
Starting off with an easier one, the rookie race this year was pretty easy at the beginning of the season. Joel Embiid was a dominating beast, who even with a minutes restriction, put up all-star numbers. However, when the Process went down with a season ending injury, the ROY discussion was thrown up in the air.
What no-one noticed however, was a young Croatian who was quietly averaging 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Dario Saric, the 12th pick in the 2014 draft, was a draft and stash player. In March alone, Saric averaged 18.4 points, 7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and .7 blocks, while also receiving the Eastern conference Rookie of the Month honours. Saric has led he field in what has been a relatively week rookie class.
Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens (Boston Celtics)
Coach of the Year has often been given to coaches on the best teams, regardless of external factors. This year however, Brad Stevens has taken an average Boston team, and lead by All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, pushed them to the 2nd seed in the east.
What separates Stevens from other great coaches is his youth and also, his competition. While Boston never saw themselves on the positive side of a double digit win streak, the Celtics remained consistent all year. Even with injuries to star players such as Bradley and Horford, the young Celtics team were able to grab victories. Stevens is at the heart of this, keeping his team on track to be considered contenders for the first time since the departure of the Big 3.
6th Man of the Year: Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)
The Rockets suprised everyone this year with their catapult to the third seed in the west. While this has been lead mainly by MVP candidate James Harden, Gordon coming off the bench has helped the Rockets in their quest for a championship.
After struggling with injury last year, Gordon came off the bench and has had one of his best season in recent memories. Added to his 3 point shooting, Gordon has proven to be the player the Rockets needed to help lead them to the finals.
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
Okay, so one of the tougher decisions. Who is the better defensive player; Gobert or Green? This is an award that could be split down the middle, so to make a choice, a few factors had to be considered.
Firstly, defensive rating. In this category, Gobert beat Green out, with a 100.2 defensive rating, as opposed to Green’s 99.1 rating. However, the similarity between these numbers alone are not enough. Looking at defensive win share, Green beats out Gobert, but only by a margin of .3. In regards to individual defensive stats, Green is averaging 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks a game, where as Gobert averages 2.7 blocks a game and .6 steals.
So, why exactly have we chosen to give the award to Green. The reality is that Green is a unique defender, able to play both the perimeter and the post. When you’re playing for a largely offensive based team, the ability to lead a team defensively is a strong indication of your abilities as a defender, something that Gobert has not yet fully developed.
Most Valuable Player: James Harden (Houston Rockets)
Now, the award that has been the most debated all year. Harden or Westbrook? Many stats and figures, opinions and facts have been thrown around to try and justify who should win MVP. The fact is though, it’s the most valuable player, and that falls to Harden.
Triple double’s are great, and averaging them is even more spectacular. However, Harden has lead his team to the third spot in the west, regardless of the belief that the Rockets wouldn’t even make the playoffs. Harden is second in scoring (29.2 PPG), first in assists (11.2 APG), and if we are really going to discuss triple-doubles, then he was able to finish with 20 over the course of the season. As a point guard who has improved their scoring and playmaking, the fact that he’s only averaging 2 rebounds less than required for a triple-double is something that shouldn’t be of a concern.
Now, in regards to teams, this idea isn’t really valid. The idea that Harden has a better team can only be used to an extent. The truth is, both Harden and Westbrook are surrounded by role players, yet Harden has made his teammates better. And that is what being valuable means.
Stats aren’t everything, and Harden has proven that it’s about the ability to play, not the stats that matter.