NBA end-of-season awards: LeBron’s brilliance to the mystery of Markelle Fultz


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JR Smith runs out of time while Bryan Colangelo (allegedly) spends too much time online in our highlights and lowlights of the 2017-2018 season

It may be hard to appreciate now after its rather abrupt ending, but it was a fun NBA season. While the real awards for the 2017-18 NBA season are a week away apparently the league hoped that the finals had lasted a little bit longer as well thats not going to stop us from handing out these somewhat less official ones.

MVP: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

James Harden, the best player on the team with the best record, was the regular season MVP. Had Chris Paul not gotten injured during the Western Conference finals, its possible that Harden could have lead his team to a championship. Unlike the NBA voters, we dont have to stick to the regular season though, so were going to give the nod to James. Despite turning 33 during the season, he led the league in minutes per game and played all 82 games, a workload that somehow didnt prevent him from averaging 34 points in the playoffs while dragging a less than stellar supporting cast to the finals.

Rookie of the Year: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

The Utah Jazzs Donovan Mitchell deserves credit, and fans of other teams will argue that Simmons isnt in his first year in the NBA as he was sidelined with an ankle injury during his true freshman campaign. But were still handing the award to Australias premiere basketball export. Simmonss emergence officially kicked off a season in which 76ers went from a long-gestating experiment in basketball chemistry to a team capable of winning a playoff series. Now he just needs to learn to make shots a few feet away from the basket.

Team of the Year: Golden State Warriors

Yes, them again. Im bored too, lets move on.

LVP: Isaiah Thomas, Cleveland Cavaliers/Los Angeles Lakers

You have to feel bad for the guy at this point, unless youre a Cavs fan. He overcame tragedy, and played through a serious hip injury, while leading the Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference finals last year. Thomass reward for all that was being traded to the Cavaliers. Limited by lingering hip issues, he was ineffective in Cleveland and alienated fans and teammates alike. Following the Cavaliers trade deadline shakeup, he went to the Lakers where he was decent before hip surgery ended his season and turned the rest of his career into one big question mark.

Mystery of the Year: Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia 76ers

Markelle
Markelle Fultz actually enjoys himself for once after recording a triple-double in April. Photograph: Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

What happened to the consensus No 1 pick of the 2017 draft? The 76ers traded up to select Fultz, who was expected to contribute immediately. Instead Fultz was hurt and he struggled with his shot. After Philadelphia shut him down indefinitely, distressing footage emerged showing a completely lost Fultz throwing up ugly, hopeless shots. The rookie returned before the end of the regular season, showing flashes of the dazzling player he was in college in April he became the youngest ever player to record a triple-double but spent most of the postseason on the bench.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics

Even if his fellow coaches didnt vote for him Stevens gave the best coaching performance of his young NBA career. The Celtics lost their major free-agent acquisition Gordon Hayward five minutes into their first game. No matter, Kyrie Irving shone in his absence. Then the Celtics lost Irving before the playoffs began. No matter, young players Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stepped up and the Cs ended up just a win away from making the finals. Stevens has earned his reputation of getting the most from players.

Biggest playoff disaster: The Toronto Raptors

Amusingly enough, the Coach of the Year award ended up going to the Raptors Dwane Casey, who was fired by the team shortly afterwards following their ignoble playoff sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers. It was unfair to the coach, who quickly joined the Detroit Pistons, but the organizations frustration was understandable. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and company had the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season and they even won a Game 1 at home to start off the postseason. Then they got carved up by a Cleveland team that had struggled to put away the Indiana Pacers. At this point, Raptors fans have to wonder what it will take for their team to shake off their reputation as chokers.

Most improved player: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers

When people wondered who the best player LeBron James had to beat to reach the finals this year was, some brought up Oladipo. He was a big reason why the Pacers took the Cavaliers to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. It was a breakthrough season for Oladipo, who went from a solid but unassuming shooting guard to a first time all-star and a worthy successor to Paul George, raising his points per game total to 23.1 in the process.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Finally its time to give this award to someone other than Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard (well get to him in a second). Despite missing time with knee injuries, Gobert got a chance to showcase his game-changing defense, a big reason why the Jazz went on their surprising playoff run. Its the Stifle Towers time to win DPOY and if hes healthy, hell compete for it again next season.

Scandal of the Year: The Bryan Colangelo Twitter Saga

It was in the midst of the NBA postseason when the Ringer published a report that uncovered a number of burner Twitter accounts that seemed to be coming either from Philadelphia GM Colangelo or someone closely connected to him. The accounts defending Colangelo, while attacking some of the teams players and releasing sensitive information. Colangelo chivalrously placed the blame on his wife. The 76ers, unwilling to screw up their quest to land LeBron by keeping a probable Twitter snitch, parted ways with Colangelo soon after.

The Wild Card: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

A late addition to our lineup! All year long there were questions about Leonards future in San Antonio, as his injury-related absence escalated into a public conflict with the Spurs organization. Last week reports emerged that the teams star player wanted out of San Antonio and was possibly eying a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers. Leonards reported desires immediately threw the entire NBA offseason into chaos while simultaneously poking holes in the Spurs long-standing mythology of stability and continuity.

Play of the Year, LeBrons impossible assist

HOW?

This is a magic trick.

Close runner-up: James Harden breaking Wesley Johnsons ankles

Its true, the man has no ankles.

Non-Play of the Year: JR Smith

The defining sequence of the 2017-18 NBA season.

Oh the what ifs! Smith passed up the opportunity to take a shot in the dying seconds of the NBA finals opener because the Cavaliers had the lead. Only they didnt: the game was in fact tied. Had the Cavaliers won they would have started the series 1-0, and who knows what could have happened? Well, the Cavaliers would still probably have lost the series comfortably but things would have at least been a little more interesting. Instead the Warriors never looked back. The gaffe seems even more glaring with the knowledge that, after the game, LeBron James punched a whiteboard in frustration and injured his hand in the process, another potentially series-altering development. The whole mess may end up symbolizing the end of James in Cleveland.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/jun/19/nba-end-of-season-awards-lebron-james


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