Rookie of the Year
The last we saw Brogdon hooping he was raining that impossible fall-away jumper in the face of Avery Bradley to seal that improbable win in Boston. Since then, Brogdon has not played due to back soreness.
Despite that, his case may have been strengthened during that time, as the Bucks have struggled to a 2-3 record with wins against the cold Pistons and 76ers. All in all, Brogdon may just finish the regular season as having been the second-most productive and valuable player on the team (a team that could secure a winning record with one win in their final two games), and while that has to do with injuries to Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, it may be true nonetheless.
Saric has cooled a bit down the stretch, averaging 10.3 points on 31.9 percent shooting from the field past six games – all losses. Before that, he had been very good after the All-Star Weekend, doing a bit of everything from scoring to rebounding to passing.
Brogdon and Saric may not be stars (now or ever), but they are both already good role players. Saric earns credit for durability (he has yet to miss a game) and he has the edge in some traditional counting stats (points and rebounds), but he is also a forward shooting 41.2 percent from the field and 31.2 percent on threes. As you saw over the weekend, he takes and makes tough shots, but he does take tough shots, bringing his accuracy (and efficiency) numbers down. Meanwhile, Brogdon is at 45.7 percent from the field and 40.4 percent on threes.
The fact that Brogdon’s signature moment of the season was that low-probability shot against the Celtics is hardly fitting, since he rarely attempts such shots. Efficiency and advanced stats (such as PER) tend to favor Brogdon. The Bucks play better offensively and defensively when Brogdon is on the court; the opposite is true of Saric and the 76ers.
This is not an unquestionable choice. Brogdon feels like the slightly better choice though.
And yes, Joel Embiid would have been the pick if he would have played (a lot) more. He also would have been the pick if he played more the year before. He didn’t. He isn’t.
Sixth Man of the Year
- Andre Iguodala
- Greg Monroe
For the first half of the season it looked like Eric Gordon might take this award. Then his team (the Rockets) traded for Lou Williams, and now he is the favorite, while Gordon has started five of their last seven games. Williams has cooled a bit since coming from the Lakers, but he still has a 21.8 PER.
Iguodala is shooting career highs from the field (.529) and three (.364), while even boosting his free throw percentage (.720) to his best since 2009-10. He remains a plus-defender as well as a great passer and cog for the best offense and team in the league.
Monroe versus Enes Kanter is a close one. Similar strengths and similar numbers across the board, so the edge goes to Monroe for playing roughly 300 more minutes off the bench than Kanter. After starting 401 out of 457 games before this season, Monroe has reinvented himself as a scorer off the bench in stride while also playing some of the best defense of his career.
Honorable mentions to Zach Randolph, Patty Mills, Al Jefferson, Jamal Crawford (required) and Manu Ginobili.
Most Improved Player of the Year
- Rudy Gobert
Each of these three were already good players, but the hardest leap is to go from good to great (or even very-very good) and all three made that leap this season, landing on my All-NBA teams. Of course, Giannis finished third in this voting last season, which makes a repeat appearance even more incredible.
Coach of the Year
- Erik Spoelstra
- Brad Stevens
Hard to justify not giving this to Poppovich every season. The Spurs just won 60+ games again and their third best player is 36-year-old Pau Gasol? Their fourth best player is… Patty Mills? David Lee? Manu Ginobili?
The Heat started the season 11-30. When the Bucks beat them 96-73 back in November, I thought they might be the worst team in the NBA. Bad job, me. Seemingly everyone on the team exceeded expectations, from Hassan Whiteside to the Johnsons (James and Tyler) to Dion Waiters. This all reflects well on Spoelstra.
Tough to leave off Mike D’Antoni considering the comeback season of James Harden and the Rockets (would be in first in the East, by the way). But even tougher to leave off Stevens, who has the deep (but comparably not top-heavy) Celtics in position to wrap up the (actual) top seed in the East.