Friday, June 21 2024
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The final day of the NBA’s regular season began with only five of 20 playoff seeds locked in, but you could also argue that it began with only one major award confirmed. Spoiler alert: Victor Wembanyama is going to be the NBA Rookie of the Year. Everything else, though, felt like it was on the table. 

Some races felt like longer shots than others. Wembanyama’s late bid for Defensive Player of the Year was always going to be an uphill battle, for example, but a debate certainly existed.

Not every major award candidate played on the final day of the season. Many did, and others saw their team’s position affected for better or worse this week. Now that the dust has settled and every player’s case has been completed, it is time for the votes to roll in. The NBA has not yet announced when it will formally begin handing these trophies out, but CBS Sports has submitted its own unofficial ballots. Here are our 2024 NBA award picks:

MVP

Nikola Jokic didn’t win MVP last season. He made the voters look foolish for that choice in the postseason. It therefore stood to reason that someone was going to have to knock him off his perch completely this season if he was going to miss out a second year in a row. Luka Doncic made a real case. His counting stats were preposterous. He just became the first player in NBA history to average 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a season. Generally, players who achieve statistical feats unmatched by even Wilt Chamberlain tend to win MVP. But Doncic had to defy MVP convention by contending from the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff bracket. Jokic — picked by six of our seven staff members — led in most major advanced metrics. He was more efficient. As a center, he meant more to Denver’s surprisingly potent defense.

Rookie of the Year

The least-debatable award this season, Wemby (who averaged 21.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while posting an NBA-best 254 blocks) ran away with the honor after Chet Holmgren had a strong few opening months. The Spurs are now uniquely set up to build a title contender around their budding superstar.

Defensive Player of the Year

Wembanyama made it a race after the All-Star break. He averaged a staggering 4.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per game in his last 22 appearances. San Antonio’s defense, downright destitute when he rested, played at an elite level whenever he was on the court. But Gobert, possibly on his way to a fourth trophy, wins our vote in a clean sweep. Wembanyama himself admitted this was the likelihood, and Gobert’s case is rock solid. Gobert’s block numbers aren’t as gaudy as Wembanyama’s, but he was the best player on the best defense all season. His years of experience made him a smarter defender than his fellow Frenchman, never missing a rotation or allowing his team to fall out of sync. The extra minutes he played compared to Wembanyama were critical in ensuring Minnesota rarely spent time without its anchor. This one goes to Gobert, but as Wembanyama hinted, his era begins next season.

Most Improved Player

At one point, 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey looked like a lock for this award. The last seven winners were first-time All-Stars, and Maxey was one of only four players to check that box this year. But our vote turned the clock back to 2016, when a non-All-Star last won, and ultimately chose Chicago Bulls guard Coby White. A year ago, he was a reserve without a clear long-term NBA role. Today? He has emerged as one of the more reliable all-around offensive point guards in basketball, a lethal late-game scorer whose decision-making has improved by leaps and bounds. White could only muster a three-year, $36 million contract in free agency last summer. Were he available in 2024, you’d likely need to stick a “1” before that “36” in order to land him. White may not have made an All-Star Team this year, but don’t be surprised if he does in the very near future.

Sixth Man of the Year

Our closest race came between two entirely different players. In one corner sits Malik Monk, the prototypical sixth man. Monk’s microwave scoring powered Sacramento for most of the season, and when he went down, the Kings finished the season on a 4-6 stretch that knocked them from the top six all the way down to No. 9. Naz Reid’s candidacy soared when one of his teammates went down. He thrived in Karl-Anthony Towns‘ place, keeping Minnesota afloat with his stellar shooting and underrated defense. In the end, Reid’s late surge wins him this trophy in the eyes of our voters.

Coach of the Year

This was by far the most crowded field. Just look at the coaches who didn’t receive votes. Tom Thibodeau led the Knicks to a No. 2 seed with many of his best players missing huge chunks of the season. Jamahl Mosley turned the Magic into one of the best defenses in basketball. Joe Mazzulla won 64 games! But all paled in comparison to Daigneault, who took one of the NBA’s youngest rosters and earned it home-court advantage in one of the hardest conferences in the NBA has ever seen. The Thunder are great at basically everything. They finished the season ranking in the top four in both offense and defense. They never turn the ball over and they generate a ton of turnovers on their opponents. They thrived in clutch settings and they blew out more opponents than anyone but Boston. Daigneault turned the Thunder into one of the most complete young teams we’ve ever seen. This award is his in a runaway.

Clutch Player of the Year

No award drew a wider variety of responses in our vote than Clutch Player of the Year. In total, four players earned votes. Those included Stephen Curry, the leading clutch scorer in the NBA, Gilgeous-Alexander, who made over 58% of his clutch shots, and Jokic, who spent the entire season pretending to give opponents chances to beat him before he broke their hearts in the closing minutes. In the end, though, three votes went to DeMar DeRozan, long one of the NBA’s most clutch players. Chicago’s 24-16 clutch mark was the difference between the play-in and the lottery. Chicago went 7-3 in overtime this season. Curry may have led the NBA in clutch field goals, but DeRozan drew 13 more clutch free throw attempts than any other player. Chicago’s win condition all season was essentially “keep the game close enough for DeMar to win it at the end,” and that will ultimately be what wins him this trophy.

Executive of the Year

How do you improve upon a 57-win Celtics team? Well, landing Kristaps Porzingis while somehow gaining first-round picks in the process is a nice start. Flipping one of those picks with other resources to get Jrue Holiday didn’t hurt either. But Stevens deserves just as much credit for the players he moved as the ones he acquired. Fans thought he was crazy for trading Marcus Smart, the supposed heart and soul of the team, to land Porzingis. That was the sort of risk few general managers would take. But Stevens trusted the rest of his locker room to fill the leadership void, and the roster’s talent speaks for itself. The Celtics were far and away the regular-season’s best team, and their architect was an easy choice for this award.

Source: CBSSports.com

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