NBA Awards Takeaways: Harden finally wins MVP


NBA player James Harden, of the Houston Rockets, left, accepts the most valuable player award as his mother, Monja Willis, looks on. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

After an 82-game season, the NBA community came together to award the best of its 450 players. The second annual awards moved to California after previously being held in New York. The hosting duties went from Drake to Blackish star Anthony Anderson, who was somewhat disappointing. But there was lots of unintentional comedy and awkward moments to give the night levity as most of the awards were given to the overwhelming favourites. Here are my takeaways from an awards show that was full of fashion and fun.

Dwane Casey Wins Coach of the Year Award

The feel-good moment was when former Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey won Coach of the Year. Casey was classy in his speech, thanking DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas. Casey is the first Raptors coach to win the award since Sam Mitchell won it in 2007. He’s the fourth man to win Coach of the Year and not return to his position the following season. Despite winning a franchise-record 320 games in seven seasons, Casey was fired this off-season. Casey wasn’t unemployed long, signing a five-year deal to be the Pistons head coach on June 11th.

He thanked the Pistons ownership in his speech for their vote of confidence.

“When you get fired, you doubt yourself,” Casey said. “Then I met with Tom Gores. All you want is an owner that believes in you” said Casey.

Lou Williams Wins Sixth Man of the Year Award

Another former Raptor took home some hardware. Lou Williams beat out current Raptor Fred VanVleet and former teammate Eric Gordon to win Sixth Man of the Year. Amongst players who started in fewer than half the games they played, Williams is the all-time leader in points with 1,782. Last season, Williams scored at least 35 points off the bench six times, tied for the most ever. The rest of the league only did it five times.

Rudy Gobert Wins Defensive Player of the Year Award

Rudy Gobert stole the show wearing a hot pink suit and winning Defensive Player of the Year. Gobert delivered a heartfelt speech where he claimed the “sky’s the limit” for the Utah Jazz and thanked his mom back home in France.

Gobert led the league in Defensive Real Plus-Minus last season. Gobert only played 56 games in 2017-18, the lowest number by a Defensive Player of the Year in a non-lockout year. The Jazz ranked first in the NBA in defensive efficiency at 97.5 and and in record at 30-8 once Gobert returned to the lineup to end the year.

Victor Oladipo Wins Most Improved Player Award

Another bold outfit was Victor Oladipo’s. The Indiana Pacers star got to show off his floral pattern on stage taking home the MIP award. After being traded in a package deal for Paul George, Oladipo outplayed the all-star and pending free agent, putting up 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a league-leading 2.4 steals per game.

Oladipo improved from 66th in Real Plus-Minus in 2016-17 with the Oklahoma City Thunder to sixth in his first year with the Pacers.

Ben Simmons Wins Rookie of the Year Award

The award that was a debate all year was Rookie of the Year. Ben Simmons won it and is certainly deserving after averaging 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals this year. He’s in elite company as Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Alvan Adams, Chris Paul, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were the only rookies to have more Wins Over Replacement Player in their rookie year.

The question was whether he should be still considered a rookie since he had a redshirt year. Donovan Mitchell didn’t think so as the true NBA freshman has been trolling Simmons wearing Adidas branded gear with the definition of “rookie” on it. Mitchell even showed up in transportation that branded him a rookie. The beef was somewhat squashed as Simmons and Mitchell embraced as Simmons took the stage to accept the award. But the Philadelphia 76ers Twitter account wouldn’t let it die doing some trolling of Mitchell themselves.

Bill Russell NSFW

Bill Russell had fun at Charles Barkey’s expense. While Barkley was presenting an award, and actually thanking Russell, the NBA legend playfully gave him the middle finger, not realizing he was being filmed. Only at the NBA awards.

James Harden Finally Wins MVP Award

He’s been a runner-up twice before but now the award is finally his. James Harden became the third player in Houston Rockets history to win the MVP award, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone, who won it twice. Harden is the fourth player in NBA history to average 30 points per game on a 65-win team. What wasn’t valuable was Harden’s attire as he stood out as one of the worst-dressed ball players on the night.

Now all three members of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s once-promising Harden-Durant-Westbrook trio have won the MVP award. Thunder GM Sam Presti has to be sick to his stomach he wasn’t able to keep the group he drafted together. The Thunder are the first NBA franchise to draft eventual MVPs in three straight seasons, doing so from 2007-09. They have no championships to show for it.

It didn’t take long for Adidas to drop a Harden MVP ad narrated by his mom, who joined him on stage when he accepted the award.

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