The season-long debate over which players are the best in the NBA comes to a close Monday night at the 2018 NBA Awards. After plenty of back-and-forth on social media between fans, teams and even players, the best in each of the six major categories will be crowned at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. Most Valuable Player is the biggest honor up for grabs Monday, but the ceremony will also honor the top coach, rookie, sixth man, defender and most improved player. While it’s easy to choose the winners for a handful of the awards, there are a few that have two or three deserving honorees, which could lead to tight votes.
2018 NBA Awards Info
Date: Monday, June 25
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET
Live Stream: TNTdrama.com or TNT app
Candidates and Predictions
Most Valuable Player
Candidates: Anthony Davis (New Orleans), James Harden (Houston), LeBron James (Cleveland)
LeBron James is the established candidate of the three finalists for Most Valuable Player, but there’s a good chance he will be shut out of the honor for the fifth straight year.
Given the seasons James Harden and Anthony Davis had with their respective teams, the MVP should stay in the Western Conference, with James being the last Eastern Conference player to win it.
Harden led the NBA in scoring with 30.4 points per game, a total that was more than two points better than Davis and James.
The 28-year-old’s candidacy is strengthened by the Houston Rockets’ improvement that led to a Western Conference Finals showdown with the champion Golden State Warriors.
Harden was one of the most well-rounded players in the NBA, as he averaged 8.8 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game in addition to his league-leading points per contest total.
If it wasn’t for Harden’s phenomenal season, Davis would’ve been the clear-cut favorite for MVP, as he averaged a double-double, with 28.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, and he even chipped in 2.3 assists per contest.
Rookie of the Year
Candidates: Donovan Mitchell (Utah), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia), Jayson Tatum (Boston)
The social media interaction between the camps of Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons should heat up once again Monday when the Rookie of the Year is announced.
Mitchell burst on to the scene with a dynamic rookie campaign after being selected 13th overall and traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Utah Jazz.
The Jazz benefited greatly from the addition of the Louisville product, as he averaged more than 20 points per game and went on a tremendous individual scoring run while Utah won 11 games in a row in January and February.
During that run, Mitchell reached the 20-point mark on seven occasions, including a 40-point performance against the Phoenix Suns on February 2.
Simmons impressed in his first season at full strength, as he averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game for a Philadelphia 76ers team on the rise.
Lost in the conversation is the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, who stepped into a more important role when Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward went down with season-ending injuries.
Although he was a key piece for Brad Stevens’ team, Tatum didn’t have a dynamic season in the points column like Mitchell, so he won’t steal the award away from the Utah rookie.
6th Man Award
Candidates: Eric Gordon (Houston), Fred VanVleet (Toronto), Lou Williams (Los Angeles Clippers)
Lou Williams should have his name etched on the Sixth Man Award for the second time in four years.
Williams was more valuable to the Los Angeles Clippers than Eric Gordon, who won the award a year ago, was to Houston and Fred VanVleet was to Toronto.
In his 13th season in the NBA, Williams reached a career high in points per game at 22.6, and he recorded a field-goal percentage of more than 43 percent for the fourth time in his career and for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
Although he led the Clippers in points per game, Williams started 19 of the 79 games he featured in, which kept him in contention for the Sixth Man honor.
Gordon and VanVleet were key parts of their respective teams, but they featured in a supporting role to superstars, while Williams was the standout scorer on a team in the middle of a transition.
Defensive Player of the Year
Candidates: Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia), Rudy Gobert (Utah)
Although he played 56 games, Rudy Gobert is in contention to win Defensive Player of the Year because of the impact he had while on the hardwood for the Jazz.
The Frenchman snuffed out plenty of drives to the hoop and forced opponents to rely much more on the three-point shot than they normally would.
Joel Embiid and Davis are solid options for the award as well, as they both changed games with their height in the paint.
If Gobert played close to a full 82 games, he would be a lock for the award because of the amount of field-goal attempts he altered.
Our nod goes to Embiid, whose defensive presence forced opponents into carefully choosing the times to cut into the paint. The big man out of Kansas also helped the Sixers improve as a whole on their way to making the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Most Improved Player
Candidates: Clint Capela (Houston), Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn), Victor Oladipo (Indiana)