Vandy’s NBA awards forecast



Houston Rocket’s James Harden

Vandy Manyeh, News Editor

The 2017/2018 NBA playoffs games are in full swing, and teams are gearing up for the final stretch of the season. After following the league to this point, here are my takes on players who will win major awards:

MVP: James Harden (Houston Rockets)

In the second round of the 2017 NBA playoffs, the San Antonio Spurs, without Kawhi Leonard defeated the Houston Rockets, 114-75. James Harden went down in NBA history as the greatest “choker” of all time. For the 2018 NBA season, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey gave Harden a reason to choke no more. A blockbuster trade landed Chris Paul, a leader, defender and the best mid-range shooter in the league. Houston found a key weapon offensively when the threes aren’t falling. Since then, Harden has orchestrated one of the best offenses in NBA history with a rating of 114.7, according to Basketball-Reference. Through 72 games, Harden averaged 30.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists.  As the leader of Houston’s three-point-centric philosophy, Harden made 3.7 threes per game this season. His scoring ability isn’t a shock. He has been able to average a little more than 20 points per game throughout his NBA career. Harden is having a surreal year and led the Houston Rockets to the top seed in the tough Western Conference with a 65-17 record. Throughout the regular season, Harden has been able to get guys involved, sharing the point guard position with Paul. An MVP-worthy season for the “Bearded Picasso.”

Contenders: LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

Defensive player of the year: Rudy  Gobert (Utah Jazz)

The tallest guy in the Vivint Smart Home Arena was overlooked for this award last season despite having more blocks and rebounds per game than Draymond Green. Through 56 games, “The Stifle Tower” protected the rim 129 times, secured 44 steals and managed to post 601 rebounds. Despite missing 26 games, the seven-foot-one Frenchman was a key to Utah’s run to secure a playoffs spot after the departure of Gordon Hayward and other key role players. Gobert has earned a reputation as one of the best one-on-one defenders in the NBA. In a matchup versus the Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves, Gobert went for 16 boards, four blocks and a steal. He also held one of the best offensive bigs, Anthony Davis, to just 2 points in a crucial matchup versus the Pelicans.

Contenders: Paul George (OKC Thunder), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)

Sixth man of the year: Lou Williams (Houston Rockets)

The Clippers contributed to  Los Angeles’ fall from the basketball heavens by failing to secure a spot in the playoffs. Despite a bad season, Lou Williams dropped some remarkable numbers. The versatile point/shooting guard has established himself as a key part of Coach Doc Rivers’ offensive system. As the Clippers’ sixth man, he is averaging 22.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists through 69 games.

Contenders: Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets), Will Barton (Denver Nuggets)

Most Improved Player: Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Unpopular opinion: Nikola Jokic deserves the Most Improved Player award. Prior to this season, Jokic averaged a little under 13 points per game for the Nuggets. This season, he is averaging 18.5 points, 10.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists through 75 games. Drafted as the 41st pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Jokic led the Nuggets to an amazing run, although they missed the playoffs after a win-or-go-home game against the Timberwolves. He notched 10 triple-doubles; the fourth most for the 2018 season. Offensively, he was a spark for the Nuggets all year long. He is one of the most lethal three-ball shooting bigs in the league and dropped 1.5 threes per game.  If this award is based on improvements, give “The Joker” some recognition.

Contenders: Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers), Clint Capela (Houston Rockets)

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)

Donovan Mitchell believes a rookie is a professional athlete playing in his/her first year. On the other hand, Ben Simmons thinks he’s a rookie since the 2018 season was his first year hitting the hardwood. This is the kind of contentious battle we have seen all year long from one of the best rookie classes in years. Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists through 81 games. With 12 triple-doubles, Simmons is playing at an All-NBA level and was a vital piece to the 76ers securing a playoffs spot.

Contenders: Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)


All-NBA First Team

G: James Harden

G: Damian Lillard

C: Anthony Davis

F: Kevin Durant

F: LeBron James


All-NBA Second Team

G: Russell Westbrook

G: Stephen Curr

C: Joel Embiid

F: Jimmy Butler

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo


All-NBA Third Team

G: Chris Paul

G: DeMar DeRozan

C: Rudy Gobert

F: Al Horford

F: Robert Covington