It’s about that time where we unleash our entirely subjective opinion upon basketball fans by handing out the first of our annual TBN NBA regular season awards. Categories will include all the key awards like MVP, ROY, DPOY, etc., but will also include the All-NBA, All-Defense, and All-Rookie teams.
All data is courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and the tremendous service they’ve put together.
MVP: Steph Curry, Golden State
Our first MVP award is unanimously awarded to the baby-faced assassin, and it’s pretty obvious why. Everyone knows the stats: 402 threes made, 30.1 points per game averaged, and the list goes on-and-on. On top of leading the league in the stats listed above, you can add stats like PER (31.5), Box +/- (12.4), VORP (9.8) and Win Shares (17.9). He joins Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only two guys to put up advanced stats like that.
With this play this season, Curry has catapulted himself as a revolutionary in the basketball world — a player that won’t ever come along again. His play style is different than Jordan, Bird, LeBron, and all those other greats (no comparisons here), but his impact is just as grand.
What he’s able to do with the basketball is magical, to say the least. His savant-level handle is an attraction in and of itself and fans flood the stadium to watch him warm up. Once the lights come on, he dances through defenders, and he’s borderline impossible to stop because he’s such a great scorer at all levels.
ROY: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota
Sam Mitchell was expecting Karl-Anthony Towns to hit the rookie wall halfway through the season, but he never did. With averages of 18.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks, Towns’ name is already up alongside all-time greats like David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
KAT became the 15th rookie to have a PER higher than 22 (22.5) while playing more than 2500 (2,626) minutes. After having his abilities questioned around draft time, KAT’s evolution as an all-around player is extraordinary. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker, but very few saw such an offensive maturation from him.
Being known as someone who just caught alley-oops at Kentucky, Towns showed an impressive array of post moves while being a phenomenal finisher around the hoop (70.1% on shots inside the restricted area). His mid-range game (50.5% on 2FGAs from 16-feet or further) and outside game improved greatly as well (34.1% on threes).
Sixth Man: Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City
Teammate Steven Adams most certainly wins mustache of the year, but Enes Kanter walks away as the top sixth man in the league. After being traded to OKC last year and starting all 26 games for them, Kanter made just one start but appeared in all 82 games for the Thunder.
Seeing 21 minutes per game this season, Kanter was incredibly efficient with that time and averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds on 58% shooting. He emerged as a vicious offensive rebounder and was fifth in the NBA with 249 offensive rebounds; his offensive rebound percentage was 16.7% and tops in the Association. He was a top-10 PER player as well, 24.0.
Kanter’s stats become more eye-popping when you look at them per 36 minutes. If he were getting that extended time, he’d be the second-best offensive rebounder in the league (5.2) and the fourth-best total rebounder (13.9) while averaging 21.7 points per game. He became the 18th player in league history to average 21 and 13 per 36 minutes while playing more than 1,700 minutes.
DPOY: Paul Millsap, Atlanta
Kawhi Leonard is the best defensive player in the league, how can you not give him the award? Just hear us out. We fully acknowledge Kawhi’s on-ball defensive prowess and versatility, and he (or Draymond Green) could’ve easily won this award. While Millsap can’t guard small players as well as Leonard, he’s big enough to defend any frontcourt position, and he put up better defensive numbers than Kawhi.
Millsap had more steals (147) and blocks (139) than both Leonard and Draymond Green and averaged more per game — 1.8 steals per game is a lot for someone who doesn’t spend much time on the perimeter; 1.7 blocks is superb for an undersized power forward. These next two stats are fascinating and, even though numbers don’t tell the whole story, they give you an excellent idea of how much Millsap impacts the game.
With 6.0 defensive win shares, Millsap is the league leader and had .5 more than Leonard, and .9 more than Green. His DRtg per 100 possessions is 96, which ties Leonard. That’s a profound statistic, especially when you notice that Atlanta has the second-best DRtg as a team, trailing the Spurs.
MIP: C.J. McCollum, Portland
Scary how Curry had a case for this award, too. However, McCollum was able to up his scoring average by 14 points and easily runs away with this award. His average of 20.8 points per game was third among players 24 and younger, trailing Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
The shuffling of the Trail Blazers’ roster in the offseason impacted McCollum more than anyone else, and he saw a ton of minutes and got a ton of shots. A rarely bashful shooter, McCollum attempted 137 more field goals than his under-24 counterparts and finished with 1,431 — sixth in the league. Despite being a volume shooter, C.J. is superb from all three levels and nailed 197 threes this year while displaying a nice in between game.
Alongside Damian Lillard, McCollum helped solidify Portland’s backcourt as a top-5 duo in the NBA.
Coach: Steve Kerr/Luke Walton, Golden State
Anytime you can lead your team to a record-setting 73 wins; you earn the right for this award. Kerr wasn’t present for all of it, but the Warriors wouldn’t have been in this position if Walton didn’t coach them to a 24-0 start.
Once you dissect the numbers, it’s striking what they did. They were more than the most lethal offense in the league — they played defense, and their 103.8 DRtg put them at fifth in the league. They lost just nine games this year — nine — and became the first team in history to go a whole season without back-to-back losses.
Against the league’s top-5 teams record-wise (SAS, CLE, OKC, TOR, LAC), Golden State went just 14-1.
First: Stephen Curry (GSW), Kawhi Leonard (SAS), Draymond Green (GSW), Paul Millsap (ATL), Hassan Whiteside (MIA)