The regular season ends Wednesday. Here are our postseason awards:
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
The candidates: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), James Harden (Rockets), LeBron James (Cavs), Damian Lillard (Blazers).
Our take: James has been brilliant, but Harden, a two-time runner up, has earned his first MVP after leading the Rockets to the best record in franchise history.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Dwane Casey (Toronto) Mike D’Antoni (Rockets), Nate McMillan (Indiana), Gregg Popovich (San Antonio), Quin Snyder (Jazz), Brad Stevens (Celtics), Terry Stotts (Portland)
Our take: Many of them dealt with revamped rosters, long-term injuries to key players or losses of players altogether. But Casey gets the nod for altering the style his veteran team was accustomed to, getting the most out of his bench and guiding the Raptors to East’s No. 1 seed.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Lauri Markannen (Bulls), Kyle Kuzma (Lakers), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Ben Simmons (76ers), Jason Tatum (Celtics).
Winner: Mitchell and Simmons (tie)
Our take: It’s been a two-man race all season, and deserves to be a tie. Mitchell has been better than expected and leads rookies in scoring for a team currently fourth in the West. Simmons has 12 triple-doubles for the East’s No. 3 team. It’s happened twice before — Jason Kidd and Grant Hill shared the award in 1995 and Elton Brand and Steve Francis five years later.
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Will Barton (Nuggets), Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Kuzma (Lakers), Terry Rozier (Celtics), Domantas Sabonis (Pacers), Fred VanVleet (Raptors) Lou Williams (Clippers).
Our take: Last year’s winner, Gordon, had another strong season. But Williams arguably should have been an All-Star and will take home the award for the second time in four years.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
The candidates: Clint Capela (Rockets), Spencer Dinwiddie (Nets), Kris Dunn (Bulls), Aaron Gordon, (Magic), Joe Ingles (Jazz), Victor Oladipo (Pacers).
Our take: He had his breakout year. Oladipo averaged a career-high and led the Pacers to the playoffs.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The candidates: Robert Covington (76ers), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Kevin Durant (Warriors), Joel Embiid (Sixers), Al Horford (Celtics), Paul George (Thunder), Rudy Gobert (Jazz), Draymond Green (Warriors), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers).
Our take: He’s an elite shot blocker and rim protector. The Jazz is in the top three in defensive rating, and first overall when Gobert plays, allowing 98.1 points per 100 possessions.
First team: Harden, Lillard, James, Antetokounmpo, Davis.
Second team: Russell Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Embiid.
Third team: Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andre Drummond.
First team: Simmons, Mitchell, Tatum, Markannen, Kuzma
Second team: Dennis Smith, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Dillon Brooks, Bogdan Bogdanovic.