By: Anthony Paoli, Staff Writer
We’re now a month and a half into the 2018-19 NBA season and some players have already proved themselves to be favorites for some of the end of season awards handed out to players across the league. Here are my predictions for these awards.
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
The NBA MVP award is the most prestigious award given out at the end of the year. Antetokounmpo has really come into his own in his 6th NBA season. He showed potential to be a superstar throughout the first few years of his career, but this year he looks to have finally taken that step into the the conversation of the NBA’s most elite talents. At 23 years old, the 6’11” power forward has averaged 27 points per game, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists in 19 games played this season. While ranking first or second on his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and minutes played, Antetokounmpo has single handedly led the Bucks to a 14-6 record, good for second best in the NBA.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
The 19 year old Serbian was the third overall pick in the draft by the Atlanta Hawks, but the Mavericks traded for the rights to the small forward and gave up rights to their number 5 overall pick, Trae Young as well as a 2019 first round pick. In 18 games with the Magic, Doncic has averaged 19 points per game, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. Like Antetokounmpo, Doncic is top two on his team in points per game, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes per game. For a team that many predicted to miss out on the playoffs this year, the Mavericks find themselves with a .500 win percentage, making them tied for that last playoff spot in a tough Western Conference and Doncic is a big reason why.
Defensive Player of the Year: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
Joel Embiid has been everything 76ers fans hoped he would be. Embiid is averaging 28 points per game which is fourth in the NBA behind only James Harden, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. But it’s not just the offense that makes Embiid one of the top players in the league, it’s his defensive presence as well. Embiid is 7th in the NBA in blocks per game, averaging 2 blocks per game, as well as being 4th in rebounds at 13.3 per game. Embiid is inside the top 15 in defensive win shares as well, a stat used to estimate the number of wins a player produces for his team due to his defensive abilities. Embiid’s defensive presence protecting the rim and being the anchor on that defense even while putting up numbers on the other end just speaks to how good of a defender Embiid is.
Sixth Man of the Year: Dennis Schroder (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Dennis Schroder of the Oklahoma City Thunder has proved to be a valuable piece for the Thunder this season. While Russel Westbrook’s physical and athletic ability are second to none, he still needs to rest during games just like everyone else. In the past two seasons, the Thunder have been extremely vulnerable whenever Westbrook was off the floor. That hasn’t been the case this season, largely in part to Dennis Schroder. The speedy point guard was acquired from the Hawks this offseason. Now with the Thunder, Schroder has averaged 17.3 points per game, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists. For a team that usually is a one man show, Schroder has proven himself to be a viable complimentary scoring option to Westbrook. Sitting at fourth place in the Western Conference, Schroder deserves to be a top contender for sixth man of the year as long as the Thunder keep winning games.