Ryan Lavoie's 2019 NBA Awards
The postseason has begun, so it is time to honor the outstanding performances from the regular season with my 2019 NBA regular season awards.
MVP: Giannis Antetokounmpo
There were a lot of outstanding performances in the league this year, and guys like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Steph Curry should be honored for them. But two guys set themselves apart for MVP this year: James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
I give the edge to Giannis. While Harden had incredible scoring production and led the Rockets out of an early season hole, Giannis was better all-around and led Milwaukee to a place they would certainly otherwise not be. Giannis still put in 28 points a game but also averaged 12.5 rebounds, six assists and was good defensively for a team that won their conference. No disrespect to Harden, but they achieved a little less than they did in the regular season last year while the Bucks were much better, thanks to the improvement and the value added by Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Defensive Player of the Year: Paul George
One of the more difficult things to do in the league is to be a great two-way player. Paul George was every bit of that this season. Everyone knew of his all-star caliber offense, but his defense in 2018-2019 was remarkable.
At the top of the league in steals, George took on the best scorers opposite of him most nights and caused a tough battle. Usual suspects like Rudy Gobert and Kawhi Leonard were still good defensively, but none had a coming-out party quite like Paul George.
Rookie of the Year: Trae Young
Yes, you read that correctly, I am not picking Luka Dončić as my rookie of the year. It’s close, but there’s a lot to be said for Trae Young improving the way he did the last month or two of the season. For the season, Dončić had slightly better numbers. But while Dončić seemed to slow down a little at the end of the season, Young found himself, hitting game-winners and having constant 20-plus-point, 10-plus-assist games.
I’m opting to reward a guy in this category for learning and growing as the season went along, rather than maintaining or getting a little tired at the end of the season. Therefore, it’s Trae Young as rookie of the year for me.
Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams
This is the biggest no brainer of them all. Williams led the Clippers pretty much all season. And when Tobias Harris was traded, seemingly signaling the end of the Clippers playoff hopes, Williams upped his game even more. It’s because of him and Danilo Gallinari the Clippers actually played better without Harris, making this an obvious choice. Not much else really needs to be said.
Coach of the Year: Mike Budenholzer
Consider this the year of the deer. For similar reasons to why Giannis should be MVP, Mike Budenholzer should get the nod for coach of the year.
Budenholzer took control of a team that was just seventh in the Eastern Conference last year and with a very similar roster, helped the Bucks win the East in 2019. Mike Malone (Nuggets), Doc Rivers (Clippers), and Kenny Atkinson (Nets) should all garner praise for the job they did this year, but with all the talent on the top four teams in the East, the Bucks being the team to win it says a lot about the job Mike Budenholzer has done.
Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam
I used to joke last season if Serge Ibaka was not playing well, the Raptors could put in Pascal Siakam and he could do the same things as Ibaka, but worse. Not anymore.
Siakam improved all over the map offensively this season. His points per game rose from just over seven to 17, his rebounds from around four to right at seven, and went from shooting the three ball at 22 percent to 37 percent. Siakam will now legitimately be the third most important player of the Raptors in the postseason, when he was barely the third most important bench player for the Raptors last season. Quite the improvement, and very deserving of the most improved player award.
All-NBA First Team:
Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
James Harden, Houston Rockets
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
All-NBA Second Team:
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
All-NBA Third Team:
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets
Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks
Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics
Danny Green, Toronto Raptors
Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz