NBA Awards 2018: Nominees & Their Odds To Win

The finalists for the 2017-18 NBA Awards have officially been announced, and all winners will be revealed on Monday, June 25. Most of the winning narratives were written long before the season’s end, but all candidates have performed brilliantly and are worth consideration. Let’s review the nominees and figure out who’s got their trophy locked up, while pairing some completely made-up winning odds with each performer.

Most Valuable Player

James Harden is going to win. We already know this. It may not be a unanimous vote, but the Beard balled out from opening tip in October with vengeance on his mind (he was the first runner-up to both Steph Curry in 2015 and Russell Westbrook in 2017). In 2017-18, Harden led the league in scoring (30.4 PPG) and was third in assists (8.8 APG), while improving his field goal and three-point percentages and, most importantly, his team’s winning percentage. Harden’s play propelled the Rockets to a 65-17 record, and today they’re in healthy position to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference title.
Odds to win: 93%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Unless he flames out in the playoffs, yes.

We take LeBron James for granted, and it’s going to come back to bite us. The greatest basketball player in the world hasn’t won a regular-season MVP award since 2013! What is wrong with us? LeBron put together one of the most remarkable regular seasons of his career in 2017-18: he played all 82 games, led the league in minutes, scored more points than James Harden, and had the best rebounds and assists averages of his 15-year career. Not to mention, the team around him was pretty terrible when not constantly in flux, yet he’s still managed to carry them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Odds to win: 4%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Without question.

Anthony Davis and the oft-overlooked New Orleans Pelicans enjoyed one of the most memorable seasons in franchise history in 2017-18. The Brow and his partner in scoring and rebounding crime, DeMarcus Cousins, were blossoming together before the most rudely timed Achilles injury ever forced Davis to go it alone. The Brow, with the responsibility of an entire team on his shoulders, averaged 35 points and 13 rebounds in February, when he singlehandedly changed the Pels’ fate: AD ultimately led New Orleans to a 48-34 record and the No. 6 seed in the West in spite of preseason projections that had them missing the playoffs entirely.
Odds to win: 3%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Sure, if he never ends up winning an MVP. And you know that won’t happen.

Rookie of the Year

He may be a redshirt, but Ben Simmons is this year’s frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. Alongside Joel Embiid, Simmons transformed the Philadelphia 76ers from laughing stock of the league into (future) title contenders; the duo led the Sixers to 52 wins in 2017-18 and helped to secure the No. 3 seed in the East. Behind Magic-like averages of 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 8.2 assists, Simmons put together one of the most impressive and well-rounded rookie seasons since LeBron’s debut in 2003. Simmons also recorded a bizarre 12 triple-doubles in the regular season, good for second place in rookie history behind Oscar Robertson. The 21-year-old still has work to do (ahem, the jumpshot), but he’s already proven that he can be a future NBA MVP.
Odds to win: 60%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Yes.

Donovan Mitchell is the player no one quite accounted for. Picked 13th in the 2017 NBA Draft, Mitchell approached his rookie season without debilitating pressure–he wasn’t counted on to lead the Utah Jazz anywhere, let alone to the playoffs. So much for that. Mitchell and the Jazz quietly subverted expectations, turning a 17-24 start to 2017-18 into the No. 5 seed in the West. Mitchell led all rookies in scoring (20.5 PPG), broke Damian Lillard’s rookie record for threes made in a season (187), and joined an exclusive club–made up of elder statesmen Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, and David Robinson–when he became one of only five rookies in NBA history to lead a 45-win team in scoring. It’s mathematically unlikely that Mitchell and Simmons can be co-Rookies of the Year, so can we please change the rules?
Odds to win: 39%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Yes. Think of the self-serving merchandise he’s invested in!

If Rookie of the Year were measured by team success, this race would be even tighter. No. 3 pick Jayson Tatum has been playing like a seasoned vet, and it’s hard to stomach that he’s just 20 years old. As an integral contributor to the unbelievable 2017-18 Celtics, Tatum stepped up and did his part to help Boston to a 55-27 record and the No. 2 seed in the East. Tatum was one of the most consistent and dependable players on a team whose key players seemed to drop like houseflies, averaging 13.9 points on 47.5% shooting and 43.4% three-point shooting. The kid has emerged as a potential future member of the 50-40-90 club (82.6% from the free throw line) and no doubt an annual All-Star before long. Tatum shoulders great responsibility and has proven that he’s a team player and a winner; he won’t lose any sleep over coming in third.
Odds to win: 1%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Nah.

Defensive Player of the Year

For a second consecutive season, Utah’s Rudy Gobert is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist–and this must be his year. The Stifle Tower anchored the league’s second-best defense, and has proven time and again that he is the most frightening paint presence in the NBA (just look at what he did to Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs). Donovan Mitchell deserves his due credit for offensively pushing the Jazz over the top in 2017-18, but they wouldn’t have accomplished nearly as much without Gobert on the other end. Much of Utah’s early-season losing coincided with his absence due to injury; with Gobert back in the lineup from late January on, Utah went an incredible 30-8 to close out the season. Gobert averaged 13.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 56 games, and topped competitors with a defensive real plus-minus of 5.14.
Odds to win: 80%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Yes.

In addition to his MVP nod, Anthony Davis nabbed a nomination for Defensive Player of the Year. AD wasn’t just an offensive monster in 2017-18 — he cemented his status as one of the best defenders and most threatening rim protectors in the league too. In one of the great defensive showdowns of the season, AD notched a career-high 10 blocks against Gobert and the Jazz back in March. Overall, Davis led the league in blocks with 2.7 per game, and was sixth in defensive real plus-minus (3.80). The Pelicans weren’t the greatest defensive team (they’d clock in at 13th in defensive rating) despite boasting Davis and two-way magician Jrue Holiday, and this will hurt the Brow’s chances at this particular accolade.
Odds to win: 10%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Not really.

Alongside Rookie of the Year hopeful Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid enjoyed a breakout season for the ages. In 63 regular-season games, Embiid put up 22.9 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, and a defensive real plus-minus of 3.60. The 76ers enjoyed the league’s third-best defensive rating (102) and fourth-best net rating (5.4) behind just the Rockets, Warriors, and Raptors. Among all players who notched at least 10 minutes in 60 games, Embiid ranked first in opponent field goal percentage. Embiid was voted an All-Star starter for the first time this year, and is well on his way to becoming the face of the NBA.
Odds to win: 10%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Nah. He’ll win this one within three years.

Sixth Man of the Year

Yes, Lou Williams should have been an All-Star this year. He knows that better than any of us, but hopefully he’ll feel ever so slightly vindicated when he collects Sixth Man accolades in June. Williams, who won the award in 2015 as a member of the Toronto Raptors (and inspired Drake‘s “6 Man”), managed to lead the Los Angeles Clippers in scoring and assists from the bench. In fact, 2017-18 was the 31-year-old’s best scoring season to date, and he averaged 30 minutes per game for the first time in his career. Williams was by far the most productive reserve in the league; a unanimous win wouldn’t be surprising.
Odds to win: 96%
Would we regret not giving him this award? He’d make us regret it, that’s for sure.

Last year’s Sixth Man winner, Eric Gordon, netted 18 points per game off the bench for the Rockets this season. Gordon played 69 games in 2017-18, the most since his rookie campaign nine years ago, and put up his best scoring average since he was a starter for the Clippers in 2010-11. He actually ended up having to start 30 games due to injuries to Chris Paul and James Harden, and this (individual of Sweet Lou’s groundbreaking season) hurts his case most despite the Rockets’ enormous team success.
Odds to win: 2%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Not really.

Fred VanVleet led the Bench Mob that was so integral to the Toronto Raptors’ 59-win season, and this award nod is well-deserved. VanVleet, whose inspiring rise through the D-League culminated in this indispensable reserve role, averaged 8.6 points on 42.6% shooting and 41.4% three-point shooting in 76 games through 2017-18. VanVleet made just $1.3 million in his breakout year, and is set up for quite the payday in July when he hits restricted free agency. For an undrafted, undersized competitor like VanVleet, his story is awarding in itself.
Odds to win: 2%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Nope. He may have been playing hurt, but his playoffs were painful to watch.

Most Improved Player

Victor Oladipo is set up perfectly for the Most Improved accolade. After his third bounce around the league, the fifth-year player finally found a home in Indiana, where he led the Pacers to an inconceivable 48-win season and the No. 5 seed in the East. It wasn’t long before the once-lopsided Paul George trade lopped the other way in favor of the Pacers; head coach Nate McMillan let Oladipo be himself, and the rest was history. The 25-year-old phenom put up career averages in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals en route to his first All-Star selection, improving shooting percentages across the board. But his greatest accomplishment? Challenging LeBron James and the Cavs to seven exhausting games in the first round of the playoffs. That may not count towards MIP votes, but it was the cherry on top of a season Oladipo wasn’t supposed to headline.
Odds to win: 91%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Yes.

It’s hard to make a name for yourself when you’re playing behind a bona fide MVP in James Harden and one of the greatest point guards in history in Chris Paul. Clint Capela rose to the occasion anyway. The 24-year-old made his fourth NBA campaign his most meaningful, leading the league in field goal percentage at 65.2% and anchoring the Houston defense with a top-20 defensive real plus-minus. Capela posted regular-season averages of 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks, and was, ironically, the true difference-maker for a team that relies on small-ball and three-point shooting.
Odds to win: 7%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Not necessarily. He hasn’t been impactful in the Conference Finals, showing he has even more room to improve.

New York basketball fans actually have something to be proud of! Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie is up for consideration for Most Improved Player this year, and he hasn’t been shy about knowing he deserves it. One of few bright spots in yet another gloomy season for the Nets, Dinwiddie averaged career bests in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes. Called upon to fill gaps left by a sidelined Jeremy Lin and oft-inactive D’Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie stole the show, proving himself a remarkable talent–and a clutch one at that, hitting game-winning shots against the Timberwolves, Pistons, and Hawks all in January alone. Dinwiddie’s become the face of the Brooklyn Nets organization, and hopefully will lead them somewhere a little more meaningful come 2019.
Odds to win: 2%
Would we regret not giving him this award? No. It’s hard to remember that the Nets are an NBA team.

Coach of the Year

It’s awkward, but not unexpected. The recently fired Dwane Casey will most likely be earning Coach of the Year accolades this year after leading the Toronto Raptors through an incredible regular season. He completely overhauled the team’s system in the offseason, successfully changing the Raptors’ very culture and accruing the best record in the Eastern Conference. Thus reveals the dramatic irony of these end-of-season awards: the Cavaliers’ 4-0 domination of the Raptors in the Conference Semifinals this year led directly to Casey losing his job, in spite of a brilliant and revolutionary regular season. Whether or not you agree that Casey deserved the sack, acknowledge that he absolutely deserves this award.
Odds to win: 75%
Would we regret not giving him this award? The real question is, “will we regret his firing?” and the answer is an emphatic yes.

Losing talents like Gordon Hayward and George Hill is a tough pill to swallow for any coach approaching a season filled with question marks, but aforementioned nominees Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert made Quin Snyder’s job a lot easier. You know by now that the Utah Jazz achieved the unbelievable, notching the No. 5 seed in the West after a miserable start to 2017-18. Nine games below .500 in late January, Utah finished with an outstanding winning record. Snyder engineered an equal opportunity offense and a league-leading defense, ballasted by Mitchell and Gobert, respectively. The Jazz, once counted out of contention, have emerged as a revamped threat to the NBA hierarchy.
Odds to win: 15%
Would we regret not giving him this award? If the Jazz could have managed to upset the Rockets, yes.

Brad Stevens was bordering on an afterthought going into Coach of the Year voting, largely because the Celtics hadn’t yet pulled off the insane postseason run we’re bearing witness to at this very moment. Stevens has emerged as a Popovich-like savant, instilling a winning, plug-n-play system that has allowed the Celtics–who’ve been playing an injury-induced game of musical chairs all season–to emerge as true title contenders. His development and utilization of young talent in Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum has adequately supplemented the absences of All-Star offseason free agent acquisitions in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.
Odds to win: 10%
Would we regret not giving him this award? Obviously.

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