The Greek Freak or The Beard?

Picks for ev­ery post­sea­son award from the MVP to All-De­fen­sive teams

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BULLS - K.C. John­son

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.

MVP

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

All-NBA

First team

Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo, Bucks Kevin Du­rant, War­riors Joel Em­biid, 76ers Stephen Curry, War­riors James Har­den, Rock­ets

Sec­ond team

Paul Ge­orge, Thun­der Kawhi Leonard, Rap­tors Nikola Jo­kic, Nuggets Kyrie Irv­ing, Celtics Damian Lil­lard, Trail Blaz­ers

Third team

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

All-Rookie

First team

Luka Don­cic, Mav­er­icks

Trae Young, Hawks

Collin Sex­ton, Cava­liers De­an­dre Ay­ton, Suns

Shai Gil­geous-Alexan­der, Clip­pers

Sec­ond team

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.

All-De­fen­sive

First team

Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo, Bucks Paul Ge­orge, Thun­der Rudy Gobert, Jazz

Jrue Hol­i­day, Pel­i­cans Mar­cus Smart; Celtics

Sec­ond team

Dray­mond Green, War­riors Kawhi Leonard, Rap­tors Joel Em­biid, 76ers

Eric Bled­soe, Bucks

Klay Thompson, War­riors.

MATT SLOCUM/AP

Bucks for­ward Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo.

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