By Jon Carlos RodriguezBehind every winner is a second-placer who should’ve, could’ve, would’ve won (except for the recent bloodbath of an NBA Finals—that was all Warriors). Here’s a shout out to those who put up a good fight, but didn’t get to win.
Most Improved Player: Clint Capela
Capela went from being a Biyombo-type player (horrible freethrow shooter; occasional block) to a Mutombo-type player (finger wagging, optional). His numbers to close out the regular season were elite: 14ppg, 11rpg, 2bpg. The Rockets were desperate to pair their MVP James Harden with a big man who can catch lobs and swat shots—like Dwight Howard, but likeable.
Sixth Man Award: Eric Gordon
This is how good the Rockets were this year. They have the second most improved player, the second-best sixth man, the MVP, and were the only team to put a tiny (reallllly tiny) amount of fear in the hearts of the Warriors. Gordon’s season was, as always, a fun and exhilarating rollercoaster ride, which was great, but the sixth man needs to be steady. Lou Williams was steady.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
Embiid, as his social media persona, is definitely the most defensive. You won’t be able to get anything past him. On the court though, the guy from Utah was more reliable.
Rookie of the Year: Donovan Mitchell
Donovan Mitchell got so good towards the end of the season and the playoffs that he willed the ROY award to an actual debate. Ben Simmons took home the trophy, but Mitchell will always have an argument. Sometimes, that’s enough to fuel an entire career. Watch out, league.
Coach of the Year: Quin Snyder
Brad Stevens was third place and that’s all you need to know. SMH
Most Valuable Player: LeBron James
The Cleveland Cavaliers went all the way to the NBA Finals with a roster that’s neither prolific nor gritty. Offensively, they were great during the regular season. But defensively, they were as firm as the inflatable tube man, moving freely wherever the wind blows. But they did have LeBron James, the most valuable player for whichever team he plays for, for the past, what, eight years? Too bad NBA Finals appearances don’t count.