Grandstand Central’s 2018 NBA Awards Picks

Come for the Rookie of the Year debate, stay for the incessant Celtics hate.

It’s that time of the year again where we hand out important distinctions to NBA players, thanking them for their services. NBA regular season awards are an important part of the process™ both now and historically. They’re the way we’ll remember the year when our grandkids watch robots battle LeBron in 2073 and ask us, “Grandpa, what was the NBA like in 2018?”

Without NBA awards, how else would we know that Michael Carter-Williams and Malcolm Brogdon belong in the same breath as LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal? How would we know that Hedo Turkoglu was the most improved basketball player not just in Turkey but in the entire Western world in 2008 (by the way, shouts to all my new Turkish followers on Twitter who are definitely not sexbots or political insurgents, I’m almost positive). Who could tell us whether Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant was more valuable in 2003 (other than watching basketball like ever for even a minute)?

These awards matter.

Take last year for example. A simple MVP award became an ongoing debate on whether we value bearded team success or cavalier gallivanting across the court to gather stats like they’re Pokemon cards. Who you went with probably says a lot about you as a person.

Technically, this isn’t just an awards show. It’s a deep and thorough psychological evaluation of serge and myself. So let’s get right to it. Check out Part II next with a few more... mythical awards.


The LeBron “Hold This For Me” Award AKA the MVP

Serge

It’s really nice of LeBron to let James Harden hold this for a year. Harden’s in the middle of another statistically orgasmic season, and the Rockets look like a viable threat to unseat the Warriors. I mean, let’s be honest, LeBron James is the MVP. He’s the MVP of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the City of Cleveland, men with receding hairlines, modern medicine and performance science, as well as Tristan Thompson’s paycheck. But this year just feels like Harden’s year.

The Rockets have the best record, and when Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Harden are on the court together it feels like when Voltron forms to become more than the sum of its parts. It all comes down to Harden. He probably should have gotten the MVP last year, but the stats… THE STATS! So we gave it to Russ. Now it’s Harden’s year.

Brandon

I voted for Westbrook last year with my definitely real MVP vote and I stand by it. But I’m not voting for this year’s Westbrook. Seriously, how do people not see this is the same? LeBron alienates his teammates and gets them traded, piles up awesome stats, and leads an underwhelming team to an underwhelming record. I’m not giving LeBron credit for dragging the Cavs out of their muck until you acknowledge that he’s responsible for most of the muck in the first place. The Cavs won only four more games than last year’s Thunder despite a better roster and despite playing in the East. I’m not rewarding LeBron for deigning himself to try half the season. James Harden is the MVP, and it’s not close.


The DeMar DeRozan “Hey, This Contract Isn’t So God Awful Anymore!!” Most Improved Player Award

Brandon

This remains the dumbest award every season. Every player in the NBA is either improving or replaced (or Derrick Rose). Why do we have an award for young players improving from completely useless to ‘hey I guess we can play that guy now and not lose by 25’? Anyone on a rookie deal should not be eligible to win Most Improved. I don’t need some award for a star becoming a superstar either. That’s what the MVP is for. And yay for guys like Spencer Dinwiddie who go from forgettable G-League players to real NBA guys. I’m happy for them, and their reward is relevance and a contract.

Show me a veteran making a leap and now we really have something. And that’s why this award goes to Victor Oladipo in a landslide. Oladipo went from the worst contract in Oklahoma City to the best in Indiana, a real All-NBA case, and a team that won almost as much as LeBron. Oladipo also wins the “Best Player the Magic Let Go, Oops” award, beating out a loaded 2018 field of Tobias Harris, E’Twaun Moore, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, and Dwight’s Farts. Hope he keeps the award warm for Aaron Gordon.

Serge

This is Oladipo’s award out of the gate and there’s not even anyone in the vicinity. Indiana was supposed to be bad. They were supposed to be “I’d rather have a one hour conversation with LaVar Ball about his son than watch them” bad. They were supposed to be atrocious (I said it, look it up in our early League Pass rankings). Instead this is probably the most fun Indiana team since Reggie Miller and that’s saying a lot. And while Baby Sabonis, Lance, and the degradation and eventual evolution of Myles Turner have all contributed in some ways, it goes back to Victor Oladipo. He’s risen from Russ’s shadow like a phoenix, and proven himself more than capable now that he’s actually allowed to touch the ball, get rebounds, and make assists.


The “Best Player Playing in His First Actual Competitive Season in the NBA” Rookie of the Year Award

Serge

Look, you’re thinking about it too hard, it’s Ben Simmons. The best argument Donovan Mitchell defenders can make is that Ben is technically not a rookie, that’s all you got. Mitchell is having an incredible season. He’s doing things that I haven’t see a rookie do in a very long time and is winning doing it. Except… Ben Simmons is doing things I’ve never seen a rookie do. It’s seeing Jesus walk on water for the first time. It’s that serious. It’s historically unprecedented and he can defend multiple positions. He’s not only ROY, you can make an argument for All-NBA and All-Defense with Simmons. Me giving him the Rookie of the Year award isn’t a knock on Mitchell, who would have won any of the past 5 years, it’s just he happens to be in competition with a prototype for where the league is going next.

Also, I’ll take the 10-minute under on how long after publishing this article it takes a Celtics fan to try and insert Jayson “Lock HOF” Tatum somewhere. I see you, Bill Simmons.

Brandon

Listen, this is really easy. Simmons averaged 16/8/8 with two and a half stocks, something only Magic, MJ, and Oscar have done ever. He point forwarded his team to 52 wins and a legit shot at the Finals with a squad whose best three players are 23 and younger. And unlike some competitors here, he upped his play and was his very best without his team’s elite big man. Simmons is the Rookie of the Year. Donovan Mitchell is awesome, too. All the more reason we should’ve rolled over last year’s ROY and awarded two this year.

Besides, Ben Simmons has 12 triple-doubles.That’s the 21st most in a season all time, and we all know triple-doubles are the only stat that matters anymore. That’s why His Most High Lonzo Ball is second on my ballot, and it’s why Markelle Fultz just moved into third Wednesday night since he’s the youngest triple-doubler in NBA history. Fourth goes to Andre Ingram who obviously would’ve had a triple-double if he hadn’t been limited to two games. Mitchell will have to settle for fifth. At least he’s ahead of Tatum.


The “Why Don’t We Just Give This to Pop Every Year” Coach of the Year Award

Brandon

This one’s always super hard, but this year feels especially ridiculous. Coaches that went above and beyond the call of duty this year and deserve recognition, in alphabetical order: Brett Brown, Dwane Casey, Mike D’Antoni, Alvin Gentry, Nate McMillan, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, Quin Snyder, Brad Stevens, and Luke Walton. That’s a third of the league and that’s without even naming guys like Spo and Carlisle who are always excellent. I’m tired of this being about “who most exceeded expectations” because that just comes down to narrative. Snyder, Brown, and Walton saw young talent make a leap. McMillan got a superstar. MDA got a second. Gentry and Rivers kept their teams in a wild playoff race with duct tape and like three real NBA players on each roster.

But my top three is Casey, Stevens, and Pop. Casey remade the Raptors on the fly, and that was wonderful, but Stevens and Pop turned disaster seasons into magic. Stevens was awesome, and he is my President, but Pop gets my vote. He managed a discontented locker room all season and got a team with two legit starters to the playoffs with some sort of voodoo Pop magic, and we’re all so used to it that we take it for granted. The most Spurs minutes played this year were LMAo, Patty, and SloMo. If you saw those three dudes at the Y, you’d grab two buddies and feel good about your chances of beating them. Pop forever.

Serge

Pop could make me into a viable 6th man of the year by the end of next year and the NBA wouldn’t blink an eye. He’s been doing this 21 years and that’s more than half the years I’ve been alive. I want to give it to him, but the Spurs didn’t hit 50 wins for the first time in 19 years (fun fact, Spurs have only two losing seasons since 1989) and that feels like an end of an era. I don’t give COY to Pop because he basically owns the award and rents it out year to year depending on when he’s feeling benevolent. No one else can do what he does with the efficiency of a totalitarian dictator. I refuse to give it to Stevens because even though I think he deserves it, I don’t want to validate anything that comes from Celtics Twitter, in particular how they manage to devalue their own coach through contradicting statements about their roster week to week.

I think Dwane Casey is it. He basically got the same parts back with a few minor alterations (all hail Masai) and flipped the team on its head. I’ve spent years calling Casey a terrible in-game coach and even worse offensive schemer, but this year he’s proven everyone wrong, getting the Raps to one win short of 60 and turning out the most dangerous bench unit in the world… which obviously doesn’t matter in the playoffs because the regular season doesn’t matter.


The “Welcome to the Torture Box from The French Revolution, Good Luck Scoring” Defensive Player of the Year Award

Serge

Can I give it to Kawhi Leonard? If there is a reverse of this can I give it to Andrew Wiggins? The DPOY award is the most polarizing for me because it’s a very different indicator across positions. For big men it’s about protecting the rim and being a defensive anchor, which comes down partially to skill and floor awareness and partially to sheer size (although that didn’t do much for Shawn Bradley). For perimeter defenders it’s about locking down their man and driving them into the worst decisions possible.

One approach to judge this is to see how much a player changes the entire dynamic of a defense. Like that one time LeBron James would rather swim in a kiddie pool of poisonous jellyfish than have Paul George guard him in the playoffs. Draymond was in the running until Donovan Mitchell turned him into a piece of abstract art. Paul George always is too. The problem is, Rudy Gobert changes the entire gravitational mass of the court when he plays, and while I’m still not convinced you can win with Gobert as your best player, you can certainly make your opponent’s life a living hell.

Brandon

How dare you. Andrew Wiggins is only like the third worst defender on the court half the time. I’d be fine giving this award to Brad Stevens, but I’m not sure he’s eligible. Otherwise it’s either Rudy or Joel. Big men just do more on defense than anyone else, and they stand head and shoulders above the rest. I thought Embiid had this on lock until Markelle Fultz headbutted him. Now they’ve played pretty much the same number of minutes, the Jazz defense has better numbers, and Joel has Fresh Prince and RoCo helping out. I had Rudy Gobert 1b last year. I’m giving him 1a this time.


The “Things Come Better in Twos” 6th Man Award

Serge

No one did more off the bench to earn their Manu Ginobili legacy award this year than Lou Will. Traditionally, the 6th man isn’t asked to do much but be good at one thing and fill a particular niche, and historically that one thing is scoring, which Sweet Lou has done in abundance. While the Clippers were a hot mess, Lou was a delight as he consistently drove to the left and shot with a stepback. Good news for him, he once again gets to have two of something.

Brandon

I appreciate Toronto’s effort to let their entire bench qualify for 6MOY, and I’m happy to cast a stray vote for Fred VanVleet. And Will Barton deserves more attention. He was central all year for the Nuggets and did a little bit of everything. But Lou Williams had six of the top 11 bench scoring games this season in the entire NBA. It’s ridiculous that the Clippers kept their best player coming off the bench all season and probably cost themselves the playoffs so he could win a meaningless award, but you do you, L.A.

That’s it for Part I. Stay tuned for Part II, where we hand out the rest of the hardware.

If you enjoyed this piece, give it a few claps 👏 👏 so others see it too. Follow Brandon on Medium or @wheatonbrando for more sports and humor, and find Serge on Medium or @sergetacular. Visit Brandon’s writing archives here.