With the NBA regular season over it is a good exercise to look back at the star performers from the 18-19 season so far. Who were the stars of the NBA regular season? Which players on weaker rosters may be overlooked? Read on to find out.
Trae Young: Rookie of the Year
As a rookie coming into a team like Atlanta, Trae began slowly, with suggestions that he did not have a good feel for the pro game at the NBA level. However, after his summer workouts and the mentorship that he got from veterans such as Vince Carter, during the first half of the regular season he pulled himself out of a slump, and has solidified his position among the top two or three names to get the ROY (Rookie of the Year) award.
Marcus Smart: Defensive Player of the year
The 25-year-old Smart has been an anchor for his team on defence to say the least, as long as he kept a cool head. He ranked eighth league-wide on a nightly steals basis at 1.8, sixth among guards in terms of Defensive Win Shares at +2.8, and sixth among guards in Defensive Box Plus/Minus at +1.3.
With such numbers it’ll likely be a shot in the dark for the team to take home an award, but it’s worth mentioning that it might give them enough of a push in the right direction to think for next season.
D’angelo Russell: Most Improved Player
Proving the entire league wrong after he was traded from LA to Brooklyn, Russell was named an All-Star this season and helped his team to make a playoff appearance for the first time since the 14-15 season.
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In March alone, Russell played in 11 games, averaged 20 pts per game and roughly 8-9 FGM per game across these game. It’s amazing to see how much he has improved.
Luka Doncic: Rookie of the Year
Aside from Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks) this budding young player, that just turned 20 a few months ago, has been one of the breakout players this season.
Doncic has a lot of international playing experience and to some level it is unfair to consider him a rookie, however given his six foot eight frame and his level of talent, on top of averaging 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists per game in 2018-19, he is already at an elite level and is being compared to HOF level guards of similar build.
Michael Malone: Coach of The Year
The Nuggets have finally turned over a new leaf. Half way through the season they began hitting on all fronts, and literally the entire roster played to a high level. This is all thanks to coach Malone being able to tap into the potential when needed and create a synergy.
They became the second team out of the West to clinch a playoff spot this season.
Blake Griffin: Most Valuable Player
Other than LBJ and Giannis, Griffin is the only other player in the league currently posting up an average of 24 pts, 7 rebounds and 5 assists a game. It is insane how his court vision affects both ends of the floor for the Pistons.
Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green: Defensive Player of the year
Green began this season with winning the DPOY award in mind and as it so happens he is one of just six players with 55 blocks and 79 steals in the year. His 108.4 Defensive Points Saved makes him the only player over 25 years old that has with such stats this season.
James Harden: Most Valuable Player
“The Beard” had a spectacular regular season including a 32-game stretch with +30 points per game that was amazing to watch. He perhaps more than anyone demonstrates how the game has changed.
Myles Turner: Defensive Player of the Year
The former Texas Longhorn has made a very solid case so far given this defensive numbers, blocking 2.8 shots with an overall block rate of 8.6%, and is currently fifth in defensive plus/minus (4.8) and seventh in defensive winshares (3.9).
Turner has helped the Pacers’ team defensive ratings to third across the league with 105.4.
Los Angeles Clippers
Lou Williams: Sixth Man of the Year
This is a pretty done case by any standard. Williams has been averaging 20.4 points per game off the bench, and his clutch play has contributed greatly to the revamped LA Clippers team that Doc Rivers took to the playoffs when everyone counted them out.
I have a strong feeling moving forward that the future sixth man award should just be called the Lou Williams award plain and simple.
Los Angeles Lakers
Lebron James: Most Valuable Player
All predictions prior to the regular season starting had the Lakers as favourites to make the playoffs, yet things took a turn as the season progressed. Christmas day when LBJ got injured and was sidelined for a number of games made it that much more difficult for the team to push.
LBJ has averaged 27.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds as well as 8 assists - phenomenal numbers in a struggling team.
Jaren Jackson JR: Rookie of the year
Jackson Jr’s campaign for ROY was cut short due to an injury layoff, however he is worth mentioning as with 58 games under his belt he averaged 13.8 points per game, alongside 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.
Memphis have had a number of players traded that changed their outlook. Injuries including Jackson Jr’s did not help their cause.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: Most Valuable Player
Averaging 27.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game, he is just the second player in NBA history to play a full season with a 27/12/6 stat line after Oscar Robertson.
Due to Antetokounpo’s stellar performance, the Bucks were the first team to qualify for the playoffs this season, establishing a 53-18 record in 71 games with a net rating of +8.9.
The “Greek Freak” has settled into his superstar role and has become the franchise player that he was expected to become.
Derrick Rose: Sixth Man of the year
Rose had an amazing performance this season averaging 18.0 points and 4.3 assists per game, mostly off the bench. He shot a career-high 37% from three, and a career-best 48.2% from the floor.It likely won’t be enough to win the SMOY award but, given his up-and-coming free agency, it will do him no harm in finding a new team.
New York Nicks
Mitchell Robinson: Rookie of the Year
With the worst record of the league this season, and while dealing with so many changes the Knicks are a team that are seeking a glimmer of hope. Among the young core of the team stands a shot-blocking energizer in Mitchell Robinson. Currently he ranks second among shot blockers on a per game basis in the league while also having racked up a total of 158 blocks so far.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Paul George: Defensive Player of The Year
With 2.2 steals a night it has been great to see Paul George emerge as a solid perimeter defender for the Thunder.
What stands out to me though is that while George has pumped up the OKC defence, his exploits have contributed to one of the league’s stingiest defences. The Thunder have allowed just 105.7 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark in the league.
Nikola Vucevic: Most Improved Player
Vucevic began his campaign this season aiming to be an allstar and that is exactly what he has managed to achieve. He averages 20.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.1 blocks per contest.
For a seven foot player, he spaces the floor from three quite well, knocking down 37.4% of his outside looks, and 52.2% of his shots overall.
Joel Embiid: Defensive Player of The Year
Even though his blocks per game are up to 2.0 nightly, the 76ers as a team have fallen to 11th in defensive efficiency (108.1) after finishing last year at third.
This will all but kill Embid’s case to win the DPOTY award. Still, the Kansas product is one of the NBA’s elite defensive big men, with his ability to dominate the paint defensively, cleaning up on the glass and even switching onto guards on the perimeter.
Deandre Ayton: Rookie of the Year
As a rookie big, averaging 16.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game is a strong record. Furthermore, the fact that Ayton actually boasts a positive swing rating (+1.7) for one of the worst teams in the league speaks volumes on his Year-1 effectiveness.
He’ll likely fall behind Doncic and Young in third place for the ROY award but overall it is proof that this rookie class was strong coming out of the gate.
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Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard: Most Valuable Player
Lillard scored at 26.2 points per game, while chipping in with 6.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.9 threes per contest. With him on the floor, the Portland Trail Blazers are an astronomical 14.5 points per 100 possessions better than when he sits. Among players with at least 500 possessions as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, Lillard’s 1.083 points per possession are impressive.
De’aaron Fox: Most Improved Player
Fox has drastically changed his game, one of just six players with a 17/7/1.5 stat line. Once thought of as a weakness, Fox is knocking down a noteworthy 37.8% of his three-point looks this year, and 35.8 percent of his pull-up three-pointers.
San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich: Coach of the Year
The Spurs, lacking major star power this season have done a lot in the Western conference, and while “Pop” likely won’t get the hardware he deserves, they should just rename the COTY award in his honour as a courtesy to his steady-paced coaching and his achievements in San Antonio alone.
Pascal Siakam: Most Improved Player
Siakam has gone from averaging 7.3 points last year to 16.4 this season, from securing 4.5 rebounds nightly to 6.9 in 2018-19, and from dishing out 2.0 assists per contest last season to 3.0 this one. All across the board, Siakam has improved immensely, becoming one of the best role players in the league.
Rudy Gobert: Defensive Player of the Year
A major reason the Jazz force their opponents to bad mid-range shots is Gobert. Utah ranks third in defensive rating this year (105.4), something that would not be the case without their elite big man manning the paint. If Paul George is not the recipient of the DPOY award then Gobert is the next in line to get it without a doubt.
Bradley Beal: Most Improved Player
Beal, an All-NBA-calibre player, carried a massive load for the Washington Wizards on a nightly basis given John Wall was out with injury. More often than not he delivered. Beal averaged an insane 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game this year, becoming one of just nine guards ever to put up a 26/5/5 stat line.
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