The NBA championship resides in Toronto, capping off another spectacular season in the National Basketball Association. With various different teams and players taking the next step this year, the league was as competitive and fun to watch as it’s ever been. Tonight marks the 2019 NBA Awards in Santa Monica, California, hosted by none other than Shaquille O’Neal. As we move into the next phase of the offseason and closer to free agency, the players will have a chance to come together and cheer each other on, as the most-deserving stars and coaches take home these coveted awards. Here is who we think will be tonight’s winner of each award, and heading home with hardware of their own.
NBA Coach of the Year
Winner – Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks finished the regular season with the best record in the entire NBA, something that nobody expected to see. They had been good in recent years but, never a true contender until 2019. A big part of their success had to do with HC Mike Budenholzer, making him the obvious selection for this award. There were a lot of strong candidates that were considered after a lot of teams experienced a much-improved regular season. The other two finalists for the award are Denver Nugget’s Head Coach Michael Malone and Doc Rivers, the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. Milwaukee had much of the same roster this season besides a few minor additions, the big difference for them was Budenholzer’s system that he manufactured around his blossoming-star Giannis Antetokounmpo. With this duo leading the way in Milwaukee, they were able to take a team that finished 7th in the Eastern Conference in 2018, to the top of the league and landed them in the top three in both offensive and defensive rating as a team. That is pretty impressive.
Kia NBA Most Improved Player
Winner – D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
D’Angelo Russell is lucky this is a regular season award. That being said, he had a tremendous 2019 and carried the Brooklyn Nets into the playoffs for the first time since 2014-15. The other nominees to receive this award are newly-crowned NBA Champ, Pascal Siakam of the Raptors, and De’Aaron Fox of the Sacremento Kings both of whom saw major improvements this past season. Russell made the biggest leap of them all though, as he was in only his first full season with Brooklyn and settled into a role as their offensive superstar. He averaged a career-high 21.1 PPG with 7.0 AST and shooting 37% from three. There were several occurrences in which Russell had to propel the Nets to crucial wins down the stretch of the season, and also nights where it seemed like he could not miss. It seems like D’Angelo Russell has put away his past locker room troubles and is ready to be a consistent star in the NBA.
Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year
Winner – Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
There are many great rim protectors and bigs that are stellar on the defensive end but, it is very rare to see someone as consistent as Rudy Gobert. In 2019, he lead the NBA in blocks with 2.6 a night also dominating the glass with nearly 13 rebounds a game. The other two nominees for the award, Paul George and Giannis Antentokounmpo, are a couple of MVP- finalists that are outstanding two-way players but, Gobert’s prowess on strictly the defensive end is unmatched. Upon winning, Gobert could take home his second consecutive DPOY award. He lead the NBA in defensive plus/minus, while George and the Greek Freak ranked were ranked outside of the top 10. The fifth-year center should have no issue fending off the other finalists.
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Kia NBA Sixth-Man of the Year
Winner – Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers
Lou Williams, no matter what team he is apart of, seems to be a mainstay when it comes to the Sixth-man of the Year award. Just ask Drake, who rapped the lyrics “6 man like Lou Will” on a track way back in 2015. The other nominees for the award this year include William’s Clippers teammate Montrezl Harrell and Damantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers. After averaging 20.0 PPG and 5.4 AST off the bench for the Clips, it looks like Williams is going to capture this award for the third time in his career. Nobody expected the Clippers to be as good as they were this past season, including a post-season run and gritty performance against the then-healthy Golden State Warriors. Their bench was a major reason for this success, with Lou Will as the driving force behind their spark.
Kia NBA Rookie of the Year
Winner – Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
Very early on in the season, it seemed like Luka Doncic was just running away with this award but, it is a long season. We watched as the other two nominees, Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter Trae Young and Pheonix Sun’s first overall selection Deandre Ayton, came alive as the season progressed to make this race more interesting. Inevitably, Doncic did not slow down so he will be taking home this honor. The Mavs new floor general did some remarkable things as a rookie, averaging 21.2 PPG, 7.8 REB and 6.0 AST along with 8 triple doubles as a rookie. Doncic was snubbed from the All-Star Game this past season but, that does not take anything away from his greatness on the floor. He will look to build on this ROY caliber season with new running mate Krispas Poringizis next year.
Kia NBA Most Valuable Player Award
Winner – Giannis Antentekunmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The “Greek Freak” was well, freakish on a nightly basis in 2019. After taking home the Most Improved Player Award in 2017, we have watched Giannis change from an emerging star, to someone that is next to unstoppable on a both sides of the floor. Last season, with the success Giannis had it was obvious to many people that he was capable of one day winning this award, and for those that pegged him to do so before the start of the season, he did not disappoint. Antentekunmpo scored 27.7 PPG along with 12.5 REB and 5.9 AST in the regular season and his impact on the Bucks ability to execute what they need to is crucial. Nobody in the NBA has a bigger impact on their team’s ability to compete and wins games as Giannis. The outstanding highlights and stats aside, he is the most valuable superstar to his team. For this reason, Giannis gets the edge over other finalists Paul George and James Harden.