The end of the NBA regular season has come, and before the playoffs are in full swing, it’s time for our annual league awards.
Our NBA experts Addam M. Francisco and A.J. Bussey gave their selections for Coach of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Most Improved Player. Following their award selections will feature all three of their All-NBA teams.
Here we go!
Addam M. Francisco
Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
This was the most controversial one because Nikola Jokic had another (his third) MVP-caliber year, but this season, the award belongs to Embiid, who’s averaging a career-high and league-leading 33.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists on 50.1% shooting.
Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic
If the season started in January, I think this would belong to Oklahoma CIty’s Jalen Williams, but you can’t deny Banchero’s full rookie season of superiority. He averaged 20 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game during his rookie campaign.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
Anyone other than JJJ is the wrong answer. He’s recorded one of the best shot-blocking seasons in NBA history, leading the league with 3.0 blocks per game and a block rate of 9.6%, which is only rivaled by Manute Bol. He is the best defensive player in the league.
Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics
The former Rookie of the Year is my Sixth Man of the Year because of his effectiveness on both ends of the floor and for what he does for the Celtics – serving as an instant spark off the bench.
Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
SGA made the jump from a rising star in 2021-22 to an NBA All-Star and top 8 players in the NBA one season later. With such a drastic jump, I don’t see how anyone could choose anyone else for this award. Plus, Gilgeous-Alexander is the lead culprit in OKC’s rise to playoff contention after being a bottom-five team in the league one year ago.
Coach of the Year: Mike Brown, Sacramento Kings
I think this is the obvious choice that doesn’t have to be explained. The Sacramento Kings have returned to the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2006, and the biggest change has been Mike Brown. The Kings are 48-34 and the third seed in the NBAPlayoffs.
Most Valuable Player: Joel Embiid
I would be plain ignorant to say that Embiid, who became just the fifth player to average 33+ppg and 10+ppg in NBA history, is not deserving. Quite frankly, he has raised his game to elite levels on both ends of the floor this season. He shot career highs from 2P% and overall FG%, as well as shooting his best FT% and best block per game totals in two and five seasons, respectively. Nikola Jokic nearly had Embiid edged out for the award, but I think the late-season push from the Philly big man solidified his claim for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
Rookie of the Year: Paolo Banchero
First, let me say that Paolo was my hopeful pick for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but Chet will more than suffice. Secondly, let me just say the absolute juggernaut-ish run that the rookie from Duke went on after Orlando started the season in shambles was sensational, to say the least. He took a lead role with the Magic and averaged 20-7-4 to help his club go from five wins in 25 games and the bottom of the NBA to “this team will look solid in 1-2 years”.
Defensive Player of the Year: Brook Lopez
All year, I have quietly watched Brook Lopez alter the shots of his opponents, block shots, rotate and recover well, and be the defensive anchor that Milwaukee needed. A league-leading 193 blocks over 78 games made Lopez one of the most dominant defensive bigs in the league the season. There was also the fact that he played at this high of a level defensively during his 15th NBA season.
Sixth Man of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon
This award was Russell Westbrook’s to lose, and after being traded away from the Los Angeles Lakers, he lost it. Solidifying a case for this award is the 2016-2017 Rookie of the Year, who is currently playing with excellence in his role for the Boston Celtics. This is the first time since his second year in the NBA that Brogdon has not been a starter but his contributions have helped catapult Boston to 2nd in the Eastern Conference. Averages of 14-4-3 on 48/44/87 shooting splits have put Brodgon in the driver’s seat for one of the league’s most underappreciated awards.
Most Improved Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Every year he’s been in the NBA, SGA has improved, and his greatest leap came this season while propelling the Oklahoma City Thunder to a shot at the Western Conference’s eighth seed. Last year, Shai was still finding his way as a leader of this team. This year, the 6’6 guard from Kentucky not only found his footing, but he raised the bar for every single one of his teammates, and they followed suit. Improving on both sides of the ball, there is no possible way the Thunder are where they are without his contributions.
Coach of the Year: Mike Brown
2006. That’s the year. That was the last time that the Sacramento Kings sniffed the postseason, and in year one of coaching the Kings, Mike Brown has developed this team into the 3rd seed in the West and their best win total (48) since they won 44 games in the 2005-2006 season. Coach Brown has a 61% win percentage as a head coach. He knows how to win and knows how to put players in positions to succeed. This was yet another reminder.