Weekly Wrap: April 13

One season ends (2017-18 NBA regular season) as another begins (2018 NBA Playoffs), which places us in the Tweenlands where awards are given out while most of the League is still competing for the ultimate hardware.

Alas, we cast our ballots and give you the NBA award winners for the 2017-18 regular season.

 

30. Phoenix Suns

No award winners here. Since striking gold with Devin Booker’s 2015 lotto ticket, the Suns have not had another breakout prospect as of yet, as they await the development of forwards Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and now Josh Jackson, who all were born in 1997. That said, 20-year-old rookie Josh did average 13 points in 25 minutes per game in 2017-18, perhaps making him next-man-up in any Phoenix future Sun scenarios. Jackson averaged 13 points in 25 minutes per game this season for the 21-61 Suns.


29. Memphis Grizzlies

No award winners here. It has been 10 years since the Grizzlies looked this bad, but at least that darkness from their 2007-08 past can serve as prologue perhaps to the dawn of a new era, since that precluded the year when Mark Gasol joined the franchise. Who knows? On similar note, perhaps these Grizzlies will find their next award-winner in the 2018 NBA Draft to show history indeed repeats itself in Memphis every 10 years.


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28. Atlanta Hawks

John Collins was undoubtedly the highlight of the Hawks’ weak 24-58 season, with the 19thpick from the 2017 NBA Draft averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, while starting in 26 of the 74 games he played. The 20-year-old power forward, who posted a .620 true shooting percentage, was first team All-Rookie in our books.


27. Orlando Magic

No award winners here. As disappointing as lotto rookie Jonathan Isaac was this season, remember he is a youngster (20 years old). Besides, the Magic filled his backup power forward void late in the season when they signed 25-year-old rookie Khem Birch, who came on late in the season to average 4 points and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes per game in 42 contests for the 25-57 Magic.


26. Dallas Mavericks

No award winners here. The four-year decline since Dallas’ last 50-win season in 2013-14 hit a 21stCentury low with a 24-58 mark in this 2017-18 season. As a result, the only player possibly up for award consideration is lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr., who averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 30 minutes per game, while starting all 69 contests he played. Alas, Smith did not make either of our All-Rookie teams.


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25. Chicago Bulls

No award winners here. Stretch forward Lauri Markkanen just missed making our All-Rookie teams as the 11th and 12th odd man out—along with Warriors big Jordan Bell—though he was every bit as deserving as most of the second-team selections. Markkanen averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes per game for the 27-55 Bulls.


24. Sacramento Kings

No award winners here. Even though none of the rook regulars merited All-Rookie consideration here, the Kings quartet did combine for 38.5 points per game (Bogdan Bogdanovic averaged 12 points in 28 minutes per game; De’Aaron Fox averaged 11 in 28; Frank Mason averaged 8 in 19; Justin Jackson averaged 7 in 22). If nothing else, the 27-55 Kings can rightfully believe this will be the last of their 20-something win seasons. At least for the rest of this decade.


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23. Brooklyn Nets

As a 19-year-old, Jarrett Allen earned our second team All-Rookie honor by developing into a legit NBA center while still a teenager. Allen averaged 8.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 20 minutes per game for the 28-54 Nets. Of all the eight NBA prospects born in 1998, only Boston’s Jayson Tatum had a better rookie season.


22. New York Knicks

No award winners here for the 29-53 Knicks. Frankly, Frank Ntilikina was too young to make much noise for All-Rookie consideration; Trey Burke got too late a start to pick up enough steam for Most Improved; Kristaps Porzingis went down with injury far too early to earn enough All-NBA credits in the Knicks’ latest unfulfilled season that ended with Coach Jeff Hornacek’s firing Wednesday following Game 82.


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21. Charlotte Hornets

Perhaps the most unsung All-Star, Kemba Walker became our third team All-NBA choice, simply by elevating his stock by playing All-League ball night-in and night-out for the 36-46 Hornets, to the tune of 80 games and 2726 minutes. Many will argue the case for Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, etc But Walker’s stellar stat line—22 points and 6 assists in 34 minutes per game—carries greater significance when you consider the reliability and durability factors.


20. Detroit Pistons

In a season where All-Star center Andre Drummond took his game to the next level and Pistons management rolled the dice and acquired another big star in Blake Griffin, it was a rookie who left the regular season with hardware if our vote holds true. Indeed, rookie wing Luke Kennard earn our second team All-Rookie spot by averaging 8 points in 20 minutes per game off the bench, while making 42 percent of his three-pointers for the 39-43 Pistons.


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19. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers’ 22-year-old forward Kyle Kuzma and 20-year-old point guard Lonzo Ball respectively earned our first and second team All-Rookie honors by holding down starting jobs well enough to let fans rest assured L.A. has some legit prospects to watch in the future. Kuzma averaged 16 points and 6 rebounds in 31 minutes per game in 77 contests, while Ball averaged 10 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in 34 minutes per game in 52 contests for the 35-47 Lakers.


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18. Los Angeles Clippers

Lou Williams was the obvious choice for our NBA Sixth Man award, as he became the Clippers’ best player in 2017-18, much in the same way he was the Lakers’ best player in 2016-17. Williams averaged 23 points and 5 assists in 33 minutes per game, while making 36 percent of his three-pointers, 48 percent of his two-pointers and 88 percent of his free throws.


17. Miami Heat

On a team that fields centers Hassan Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk, 20-year-old center Bam Adebay9 earned enough time to show he was worthy of being an All-Rookie second-team selection in our book. Adebayo, who was taken with the 14th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, averaged 7 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes per game for a 44-38 playoff-bound team.


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16. Denver Nuggets

Unfortunately, the Nuggets were eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs. However, as consolation, we did give Nikola Jokic our second-team All-NBA honors, while wing Will Barton finished third on our Sixth Man of the Year ballot. Jokic averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in 33 minutes per game for the 46-36 Nuggets, while Barton averaged 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 33 minutes per game.


15. Washington Wizards

With All-Star point guard John Wall missing half the season, the Wizards found they could survive the loss and still make the playoffs, thanks to elevated play from All-Star Bradley Beal, the continued development of future star Otto Porter and other role players showing their wares (namely point forward Tomas Satoransky). That said, nobody on 43-39 Washington won any of our postseason honors.


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14. Boston Celtics

We would normally rank the Celtics in our top 5 this year, but when Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Daniel Their are all likely to miss the entire first round, well, we have to dip them in the rankings, right? That said, the injury bad luck has nothing to do with messing up Jayson Tatum’s stellar rookie season where he finished second on our Rookie of the Year ballot and earned first-team All-Rook honors as far as we’re concerned. In fact, Brad Stevens earns our Coach of the Year vote for keeping this ship upright all season long. Who else could have pulled off a 55-win season after losing Hayward for the season and Irving for 22 games plus playoffs? Only Stevens, who by the way, also deserves credit for the continued development of our second-team All-Defense choice Jaylen Brown.


13. Milwaukee Bucks

Thanks to all of Boston’s injuries, the Bucks may have walked into a first-round playoff gift. The stage is definitely set for our second-team All-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo to shine like never before at playoff time. Granted, Coach Brad Stevens will throw Jaylen Brown and his entire Celtics’ D at the Greek Freak. But if nothing else this year, we have seen the 23-year-old All-Star come up big when the spotlight shines brightest. He did average 27 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in 37 minutes per game for the 44-38 Bucks.


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12. Indiana Pacers

By becoming the NBA’s Most Improved Player in our eyes, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo truly became a star for the first time at the pro level, earning our second team All-NBA and first team All-Defense accolades by working as hard as anyone on both sides of the court. While playing similar minutes per game (33 with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016-17; 34 with the Pacers in 2017-18), Oladipo elevated his scoring (from 16 to 23 points per game), rebounding (4 to 5 per game), playmaking (3 to 4 assists per game) and efficiency (from .534 to .577 true shooting percentages).


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11. New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis was our MVP runner-up, which mades him a shoo-in for first team All-NBA honors, in addition to first team All-Defense. The 25-year-old forward-center averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes per game, while also providing a league-leading 2.6 blocks per game for the 48-34 Pelicans.


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10. Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns finished third in our MVP voting, while also earning first team All-NBA accolades. We also voted for his teammate Jimmy Butler on our All-NBA third team. Towns averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds in 36 minutes per game, while Butler averaged 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 37 minutes per game for the 47-35 Timberwolves.


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9Philadelphia 76ers

So many Sixers deserved so many awards this season. Where do we start? First, center Joel Embiid earned our third team All-NBA vote, our second-team All-Defense selection, a No. 2 vote in our Defensive Player of the Year ballot and No. 2 again on our Most Improved vote. As for Ben Simmons, he is our Rookie of the Year, and third-team All-NBA selection. And that’s not all. We could not forget teammate Robert Covington, who made our first team All-Defense squad.


8. Oklahoma City Thunder

In a season that somewhat mirrored his stellar 2016-17 campaign, Russell Westbrook got our fifth-place vote for MVP, while also making our first team All-NBA squad. Westbrook averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 36 minutes per game for the 48-34 Thunder. Last year, Westbrook posted 32-11-10 for the 47-35 Thunder.


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7. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James’ strong finish got him up to fourth on our NBA MVP voting, with the four-time MVP salvaging a 50-32 Cavaliers, who have made the NBA Finals the previous three seasons. In 2017-18, James averaged 28 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists in 37 minutes per game, wile playing all 82 contests. He obviously earned our first-team All-NBA honors as well.


6. San Antonio Spurs

With perennial All-NBA pick Kawhi Leonard missing practically the entire 2017-18 season, 32-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge picked the perfect season to turn back the clock and return to All-NBA, where he just may have enjoyed his finest season yet. Aldridge averaged 23 points and 9 rebounds in 34 minutes per game for the 47-35 Spurs. And that’s not all, second-year Spur Dejounte Murray earned our vote for first team All-Defense for his Kawhi-like defense on opposing point guards.


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5. Utah Jazz

No team was hotter down the stretch than the Jazz, and much credit for that has to go to our pick for Rookie of the Year runner-up and first-team All-Rookie Donovan Mitchell, along with our pick for Defensive Player of the Year and All-Defense first team center Rudy Gobert. For the season, Mitchell averaged 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game in 79 contests. On that same token, Gobert averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks in 32 minutes per game for the 48-34 Jazz.


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4. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard is a clear-cut second team All-NBA choice in our book, after averaging 27 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists in 37 minutes per game. On a somewhat surprising note heading into this season, center Jusuf Nurkic finished third on our ballot for Defensive Player of the Year, only trailing centers Rudy Goobers and Joel Embiid on our watch. As for the suits, we are giving Portland general manager Neil Olshey our third-place vote for Executive of the Year award, mainly for orchestrating Portland’s 49-33 campaign this season.


3. Toronto Raptors

Two suits and two players earned our votes as we head into the postseason. First of all, Toronto GM Masai Ujiri and Coach Dwane Casey deserve a  lot of praise for leading the Raptors to the No. 1 slot and for contributing to Toronto’s 59-23 season. Their culture change continues to pay dividends for each new Raptor. As for Fred VanVleet, he finished third on our Most Improved Player ballot, as well as making second-team All-Defense. Rook O.G. Anunoby not only cracked Toronto’s rotation of starters, he also earns our second team All-Rookie.


2. Golden State Warriors

Because the Warriors’ four All-Stars missed a plethora of regular season games (Stephen Curry, 31 missed games; Kevin Durant, 14; Draymond Green, 10; Klay Thompson, 9), their number of awards winners may diminish from those of championship years past. That said, Durant (our second-team All-NBA selection) and  Green (our second-team All-Defense pick) should claim their fair share to keep the Bay Area faithful from writing their local congressman.


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1. Houston Rockets

Congrats to James Harden for getting our top NBA MVP vote for this 2017-18 season, in addition to collecting first team All-NBA honors for the 65-17 Rockrts. Harden averaged 30 points, 5 rebounds and 9 assists in 35 minutes per game. Defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute earned our second-team All-Defense vote. As for the suits, both GM Daryl Morey and Coach Mike D’Antoni cracked our ballot: Morey as our No.2 choice for Executive of the Year and D’Antoni as our No. 1 Coach of the Year for revamping the Rockets.