The Greek Freak or The Beard?
Picks for every postseason award from the MVP to All-Defensive teams
Every year, the procedure is the same.
Reread the voting criteria for each award. Write down all players who come to mind as possibilities. Go through every roster and add any players I might have missed. Then dive into the numbers: traditional and advanced statistics, team’s record.
Most voters take this responsibility extremely seriously. We should. There’s too much at stake not to.
Without further ado, here’s the ballot the Chicago Tribune sent to the NBA’s accounting firm for tabulation. The winners will be announced at the NBA awards show June 24 in Santa Monica, Calif.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
2. James Harden, Rockets
3. Paul George, Thunder
4. Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Comment: There’s no wrong answer between Antetokounmpo and Harden. Defense and the Bucks’ record tips the scales toward “The Greek Freak” for this voter; singular value to a winning team is my main criterion. Hence, no Warriors, who are well-represented on the All-NBA first team, or LeBron James.
Toughest omission: Nikola Vucevic, Magic
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks Kevin Durant, Warriors Joel Embiid, 76ers Stephen Curry, Warriors James Harden, Rockets
Paul George, Thunder Kawhi Leonard, Raptors Nikola Jokic, Nuggets Kyrie Irving, Celtics Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers
Blake Griffin, Pistons LeBron James, Lakers Rudy Gobert, Jazz Kemba Walker, Hornets Russell Westbrook, Thunder Comment: For this honor I opt for best season irrespective of team performance, with team success and games played deciding close calls. That’s why Embiid can be ahead of Jokic despite Jokic landing on my MVP ballot. It’s also why Leonard got the slight nod over James when both missed time because Leonard did so for a winning team. It feels weird to have James on the third team.
Toughest omissions: Nikola Vucevic, Magic; Bradley Beal, Wizards
Most Improved Player
1. Pascal Siakam, Raptors
2. Buddy Hield, Kings
3. D’Angelo Russell, Nets
Comment: If increases in scoring by nearly 10 points per game and 3-point shooting by 15 percent weren’t enough, Siakam also made tremendous strides defensively for one of the league’s best teams. I don’t typically reward second-year players who improve from inconsistent rookie seasons. Hence, no De’Aaron Fox.
Toughest omission: Zach LaVine, Bulls
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Rudy Gobert, Jazz
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
3. Paul George, Thunder
Comment: Beyond his 2.3 blocks per game, Gobert’s ability to protect the paint allows Jazz defenders to play more aggressively on the perimeter. As the help defender in pick-and-roll situations, he challenges countless more shots for the league’s secondranked defense.
Toughest omissions: Joel Embiid, 76ers; Myles Turner, Pacers
Sixth Man of the Year
1. Lou Williams, Clippers
2. Domantas Sabonis, Pacers
3. Spencer Dinwiddie, Nets Comment: Williams’ fourth-quarter scoring and clutch shotmaking should easily make him a repeat winner. Toughest omissions: Derrick Rose, Timberwolves; Dwyane Wade, Heat
Rookie of the Year
1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks
2. Trae Young, Hawks
3. Collin Sexton, Cavaliers
Comment: Young overcame a slow start to make this a race with his sublime passing and late-game heroics. But Doncic joined Oscar Robertson as the only rookies in NBA history to average 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Toughest omission: Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies
Coach of the Year
1. Mike Budenholzer, Bucks
2. Doc Rivers, Clippers
3. Nate McMillan, Pacers
Comment: “Coach Bud” sprinkled his offensive magic dust and defensive accountability to transform a franchise. The Bucks were the only 60-win team and the only team to rank in the top five in offensive and defensive rating, amassing the best point differential along the way.
Toughest omission: Steve Clifford, Magic
Luka Doncic, Mavericks
Trae Young, Hawks
Collin Sexton, Cavaliers Deandre Ayton, Suns
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Clippers
Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies Marvin Bagley III, Kings Mitchell Robinson, Knicks Landry Shamet, Clippers Jalen Brunson, Mavericks
Comment: These aren’t composed by position, simply the best 10 rookies. Ayton showed up and showed out, averaging a double-double in 71 games. Gilgeous-Alexander started for a playoff team.
Toughest omissions: Mikal Bridges, Suns; Kevin Huerter, Hawks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks Paul George, Thunder Rudy Gobert, Jazz
Jrue Holiday, Pelicans Marcus Smart; Celtics
Draymond Green, Warriors Kawhi Leonard, Raptors Joel Embiid, 76ers
Eric Bledsoe, Bucks
Klay Thompson, Warriors.
Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.