Multiple Award Possibilities for Playoff Bound Bucks
It’s official. The Milwaukee Bucks are back in the NBA Playoffs for the second time in three seasons and have solidified a winning record in the regular season for the first time since the 2009-2010 “Fear The Deer” campaign. After earning much-needed victories over the 76ers on Saturday and the Hornets on Monday night, the 42-win Bucks locked themselves in the sixth spot with a date against the Toronto Raptors.
3 vs. 6— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) April 12, 2017
Raptors vs. Bucks
Who ya got? pic.twitter.com/qk2KUEprXY
With that being said, it’s almost time to hand out season awards and with that comes predictions. Here’s how some Bucks factor in.
MVP – Year of the Triple-Double
1. Russell Westbrook
2. LeBron James
3. James Harden
4. Kawhi Leonard
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo
What season it has been with all the talk surrounding guys like LeBron James, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook, who broke Bucks legend Oscar Robertson’s single season triple-double record after capturing his 42nd on Sunday night. The MVP award will most likely go to one of those three, but one can’t ignore the fact that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name deserves to at least be mentioned. The Greek Freak had a remarkable season getting Milwaukee back to the playoffs for the second time in his career while leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
The triple-double used to be a stat that was exciting to see because of its rarity, but Russell Westbrook and James Harden have changed that. While King James recorded a respectable 13 triple-doubles and Giannis got his 3rd on Monday night, Harden and Westbrook have combined for a whopping 63 this season. Now you would think that it would be easy to just hand Westbrook the trophy considering what he’s gone through after losing longtime teammate Kevin Durant in free agency, but not even Oscar Robertson himself won the award back when he averaged a triple-double during the 1961-1962 season.
Getting back to this season, it’s been a back-and-forth debate primarily between Harden and Westbrook. While it should probably go to one of those guys, one could make the case that LeBron, who’s averaging 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game, should get the award considering he’s been the best player in the world for the past decade. Honestly, LeBron should get the award because even though the Cavs have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, they would be nowhere near the same team without King James. The same could also be said for the Thunder without Westbrook, who has single-handedly put his team on his back all season long. He has one motor and plays at that high level every single night. LeBron could get the award every year just like Kobe could have during his glory days as well, but the NBA likes to spread it around. Another guy I haven’t mentioned who also more than deserves this award is Kawhi Leonard, who has quietly led the Spurs to the second seed in a loaded Western Conference. Leonard is arguably the best two-way player in the NBA, but the MVP is an offensive award and it’s hard to say no to Westbrook, at least for this season.
Most Improved Player
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
2. Isaiah Thomas
3. Rudy Gobert
4. Nikola Jokic
5. Bradley Beal
While Giannis is Milwaukee’s MVP, he seems to be a clear front-runner for this year’s Most Improved Player award, which went to Portland’s C.J. McCollum last season. Not only did Giannis become the fifth player in NBA history to lead his team in all five major statistical categories this season, but he is also looking to become the first player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in the entire league in all five of those respective categories. After finishing third in the MIP voting last season, getting the award this season would be an incredible feat and a giant step in becoming one of the best players in the NBA.
Rookie of the Year
1. Malcolm Brogdon
2. Dario Saric
3. Wily Hernangomez
4. Marquese Chriss
5. Buddy Hield
What more can you say about the Bucks 36th overall pick other than he’s been one of the most surprising stories of the season. It’s no doubt he’s been the steal of the draft considering he would more than likely be a top 10 pick if they were to do the draft over. When he’s not hitting crazy shots to beat the Celtics or dunking over guys like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving or Dwyane Wade, the Bucks newest fan favorite has humbly taken on the role as the team’s starting point guard. With the nickname “President” stemming back to days at the University of Virginia, Brogdon has been the glue to this Bucks team especially throughout the second half of the season. That was evident after their miraculous 14-win month of March when he had to miss the next four games with a back injury. Consequently, the team went 1-3 and they looked like a totally different team without him. After he returned Saturday in Philadelphia, the team bounced back and won two straight to secure their playoff birth.
Considering what this team has been through, with injuries to Khris Middleton to start the year followed by Jabari Parker’s second ACL tear, Brogdon just may in fact be the second most important player on the Bucks roster. The chemistry he has developed alongside Giannis and a rejuvenated Greg Monroe has been extremely beneficial in helping lift the Bucks to the position they are in today.
If 76ers center Joel Embiid, who averaged 20.2 points 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks in just 31 games, would have been able to play the entire season, then he may have edged out Brogdon for this award. Instead, his teammate Dario Saric is vying for the award and is just as deserving. Brogdon, meanwhile, has certainly made his case with his team in the playoffs and likely going to finish in the top five in most categories among rookies. Not to mention, he’s also the only rookie to record a triple-double this season, doing so in a win against the Bulls back on New Years Eve. Oh, and there’s never been a second round pick to win the award. So that alone would make a historical achievement for Brogdon. What a feel good story to not only the Bucks, but also to the rest of the NBA. Brogdon is even so humble that he even turned down an offer by the team to spend money on a campaign for the award. He instead told the organization to donate the money to charity since he didn’t want to draw any extra attention on himself. There aren’t many guys like Brogdon in the NBA and having a guy with his character has been godsend to Milwaukee. How can you not give him the award after all he’s done and brought to the Bucks this season?
6th Man of the Year
1. Lou Williams
2. Andre Iguodala
3. Eric Gordon
4. Greg Monroe
5. Jamal Crawford
While he may not be the first choice, a lot can be said about the season Greg Monroe is having. After being a prized free agent last season, signing a three year, $50 million dollar max deal with the Bucks, Monroe put up quality offensive numbers but struggled to fit in with a team that won just 33 games. He was even labeled a defensive liability. If you have watched the Bucks this season, however, he’s undoubtedly been a different player in year two. While it seems like a demotion, Moose has embraced his role coming off the bench while being a true leader to the second unit. His numbers may be a tad down, averaging 11.8 points and 6.6 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game, but his commitment on the defensive side of the ball has not gone unnoticed. He’s been playing the best defense of his career with 1.2 steals per game while being disruptive in the passing lanes and clogging up the paint.
Just like the most awards, though, this also tends to be an offensive award and it looks like the most likely candidates involve a pair of teammates in Houston. Feeding off of MVP hopeful James Harden, sharpshooters Eric Gordon and Lou Williams have been lighting it up for the Rockets. While Gordon has been the frontrunner most of the season, Williams, who won the same award back in 2015 with Raptors, has since taken over Houston’s second unit and is in prime position to steal it from him. Andre Iguodala, who is averaging career highs in field goal and three-point percentage, also makes his case being the catalyst to the west leading Warriors bench this season. Despite a highly motivated Monroe, his case isn’t as strong being a traditional low post big man.
Coach of the Year
1. Greg Popovich
2. Brad Stevens
3. Erik Spoelstra
4. Mike D’Antoni
5. Jason Kidd
Many cases can be made here. Seems boring to give it to Greg Popovich in San Antonio, who has made the playoffs in each of the last 20 seasons. One can’t deny their credentials. Without Timmy D and relying on aging guys like Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker and Pau Gasol, the Spurs continue to simply win. Chalk up another 60-win crusade for Pop and his squad, who are always one of the toughest outs in the playoffs. They do have an MVP caliber player in Kawhi Leonard, but they always know how to put themselves in the best position to win as a team.
Erik Spoelstra took an 11-30 Miami Heat team and turned them into a 40-win team with the possibility of being the 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. They have become the talk of the East with the Bucks as teams no one wants to see in the first round.
It seemed like fruition that the Cavs would be the number one seed in the East, but Brad Stevens and the Celtics proved that to be wrong as well with their more than impressive season. Although they haven’t quite captured the top seed yet, a lot can be said of a team whose best player is a generous 5’9” Isaiah Thomas.
The Rockets, who are third in the West with 54 wins, have been an offensive problem for anybody under Mike D’Antoni. The offensive minded veteran coach has given Houston an identity that makes them as dangerous as anybody when it comes to chances of winning a title.
Is there a case for Bucks coach Jason Kidd? Absolutely. The Bucks went from 26-33 to 42-39 over the last 22 games and he even earned coach of the month in March. He started to find a solid rotation that best suited to his player’s strengths while still finding minutes for guys like rookie Thon Maker. Will that be enough to get him the award? Probably not but he’s done a heck of job getting this team to where it is today.
In case you haven’t yet, get your playoff tickets today and cheer on the Bucks as they try to win their first playoff series since the 2000-2001 season when they made it to the conference finals.