Jason Quick's NBA postseason awards
The top two here were easy – James Harden has been dominant on the NBA’s most dominant team. He should be an unanimous winner. And LeBron James remains the best player on the planet – his team just went through some lulls.
Where it got tricky was three through five.
Lillard got my vote for third in part because I’m lucky enough to be around him every day and understand what he does for the Blazers, both on and off the court. He is a powerful force, and he practically willed Portland to its lofty standing in the West.
Anthony Davis was also magnificent for the Pelicans and was arguably the NBA’s best player down the final two months of the season. It was a tough decision, but I put The Brow fourth.
DeMar DeRozan was fifth because he deserves a lot of credit for elevating Toronto past Boston and Cleveland for the top spot in the East. He’s one of the more underrated players in the NBA, but also one of the hardest to stop.
COACH OF THE YEAR
I went with Dwane Casey because Toronto not only earned the top seed in the East, but they did it after Casey redefined the Raptors’ style of play in the offseason. It takes coaching to get Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to adapt to the NBA’s changing landscape of more three’s, more passing and faster pace, but Casey did it.
I put reigning Coach of the Year Mike D’Antoni second because any time a coach wins 60 or more, he’s doing something right. The Rockets set a franchise record for wins and played beautiful basketball on offense and stellar, rugged play on defense.
The final vote here was the tricky one, but I went with the Blazers’ Terry Stotts over Indiana’s Nate McMillan. Stotts and his staff got the Blazers to play top 10 defense this season – no small feat – and his patience and confidence in the team during a trying opening months strengthened his bond with the locker room. Also, he and his staff deserve some credit for the development of Zach Collins.
ALL-NBA FIRST TEAM
Two big decisions here were at center and the second guard spot.
I went with Lillard alongside James Harden, and I didn’t really hesitate. He earned it. His defense was better this season, his leadership off the charts, and his play was at times breath-taking. The way he took over late-season games at Phoenix and the Lakers was stuff of legends.
At center, I went with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid over Utah’s Rudy Gobert. The biggest factor here was how much time Gobert missed. But Gobert’s emergence as a better offensive player has elevated him to elite status. Embiid, however, is just a more complete player.
ALL-NBA SECOND TEAM
The big debate here was whether to include Steph Curry, but he played only 51 games, which I didn’t think was enough to justify a spot on the All-NBA teams. He is definitely one of the top players in the NBA, but durability has to be considered.
I went with DeRozan over Kyrie Irving, mostly because of Irving’s inability to stay healthy.
Antetokounmpo for me was the MVP after the first two months, but the Bucks’ struggles and the excellence of other players dropped him to second team.
ALL-NBA THIRD TEAM
This was by far the most difficult in the selection process.
My two dilemmas: Draymond Green or Horford? And Stephen Curry or Jimmy Butler or Chris Paul?
Butler got the nod over Curry and Chris Paul, even though he missed more than a month with injury. He was that good and that important to Minnesota.
I picked Horford because I don’t think Green had as good of a season as last year, and because I like to reward good guys over loud mouths.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
No award brought more debate than Rookie of the Year.
I eventually went with Utah’s Donovan Mitchell over Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, even though many on the Blazers noted that what Simmons has done this season – averaging 16 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists - has been accomplished by only a handful of rookies in the history of the league.
Still, I went with Mitchell, just because he has won so many games for Utah and he didn’t have the benefit that Simmons had of sitting out a year to acclimate himself to the league and how it works. There’s no right answer here, and to be honest, I went with the guy I know better in Mitchell.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum was my third choice because of the key role he played on an elite team.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Oladipo was an easy choice. When the Pacers acquired him in the Paul George trade, many thought Indiana was fleeced. In the end, Oladipo had a better year than George and has settled in as a star who plays both ends of the court.
Randle was dominant at times and probably changed the way the Lakers were viewing his future with the team. After an offseason of becoming stronger and leaner, Randle finally lived up to his high draft position.
Rubio was sneaky good this season, and it was largely because of an improved jumper. He’s an underrated defender and heady passer and a major reason why Utah took a big leap this season.