The first ever NBA Awards was Monday night June 26, 2017. Normally the awards are handed out during at the end of regular season, with some being given out during the first two rounds of the playoffs. This provided a little extra motivation for both teams. One team was trying to verify their particular awardee, while the other was trying to nullify that person. This year it was in an award style show held in New York City featuring six new categories, all exclusively decided by fan voting.
The Game-Winner of the Year Award went to Russel Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. On April 9th against the Denver Nuggets in Denver. Westbrook shot a three-pointer at the buzzer with 2.9 seconds left to go in the game for the win. It seemed like he made it from half-court. It capped his 42nd triple double of the season, ensuring that he would average a triple double for the entire season. It also kept the Thunder in the six seed of the playoffs.
The Performance of the Year Award went to Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. He scored 60 points in 29 minutes against the Indiana Pacers in Golden State on December 5th. He had 40 points by halftime. He was truly a Warrior that day, because he only needed to dribble the ball 11 times to score those 60. Yes, 11 dribbles equaled 60 points. Talk about no wasted motion. He didn’t even play the fourth quarter.
The Assist of the Year Award goes to Steph Curry to Kevin Durant of the Warriors. The Pacers were on the wrong end of history again. It started with a rebound by Draymond Green who threw a “touchdown” type pass to Curry on the other end of the court. Curry caught the ball, without dribbling, and threw it over his head to Durant. Durant caught the alley-oop with his left hand and slammed it home with both hands. It was amazing that the ball never touched the court on the entire sequence.
The Block of the Year Award goes to Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonino Spurs. The Spurs were down a point with under 40 seconds to go in the game. Leonard hit a three-pointer with 25 seconds to give the Spurs a two-point lead. Instead of calling a timeout, James Harden of the Houston Rockets drove to the basket and seemed to have an easy game-tying bucket. That’s when Leonard decided that it was not going to happen on his watch. It preserved the win.
The Dunk of the Year Award went to Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic. Oladipo caught the ball at the three-point line in the corner. He took two dribbles and then proceeded to jump from just inside the painted area. At first, it didn’t look like a wise decision because Atlanta Hawk’s center Dwight Howard was right there in position for the block. Oladipo couldn’t turn back now he proceeded to double pump and drunk on Howard. It was a move that legend Hawk’s player Dominique Wilkins made famous. Giving up over seven inches in height, made the little guard appear magically.
The Best Playoff Moment of the Year Award went to Durant of the Warriors. The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed poised to take Game 3 of the NBA Finals and give the Warriors there first loss in the playoffs up to that point. However, Durant continued his spectacular play by nailing a three-pointer with 45 seconds left in the game, giving the Warriors the lead. It propelled them to an 11-0 and the victory. With a commanding 3-0 series lead, they didn’t collapse like last year and won the championship 4-1. That moment won them the championship and was one of the major reasons for Durant being named the Finals MVP.
The Best Style Award went to Russell Westbrook of the Thunder. I’m not quite sure how he won this award but apparently, the fans enjoyed it. You never knew if he was going to show up in cut-jeans and shirts or a Knickerbocker suit. I think the only thing he didn’t show up in was a trash bag with the sleeves cut out. I will give him this, you did tune in to see what in the world he had on.
The Hustle Award went to Patrick Beverly of the Rockets. This guard has a motor that has one speed – on. He is a constant nuisance on defense, which is why he was named to All-Defense team. The little things that he does don’t always show up in the stat sheets. He causes turnovers and unforced errors by the opponents. He has made a living by being annoying. If you are in a fight, you definitely want him on your side.
The NBA Community Assist Award went to Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics. Each month a player is awarded for their outstanding work in the community. Thomas won during the month of December; his commitment to his community in Boston as well as his home back in Tacoma, Washington allowed him to win for the year. This award is one of two that is more important than the rest, because it speaks to a person’s character. The NBA Sportsmanship Award went to Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets. It recognizes a player’s fair play and integrity to the game. This was voted on by current players, which shows the level of respect he has from his peers. He has never been ejected from a game and has only fouled out twice in his six-year career.
The Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award went to Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. This is the only award voted on by the players and players cannot vote for their own teammate. Nowitzki received 41 first place votes and 1057 total votes. Tyson Chandler received 50 first place votes and 1002 total votes. Jason Terry finished in fourth place with 33 first place votes and 837 total votes. That meant that three of the four best teammates were all a part of the 2011 NBA Champion Mavericks.
The Sixth Man of the Year Award went to Eric Gordon of the Rockets. He averaged 16.2 points and made 246 three-pointers while shooting 37 percent from behind the arc. He received 46 first place votes and 358 total votes. Andre Inguodala finished second receiving 43 first place votes and 326 total votes. This was another close race like the Teammate Award.
The Most Improved Player Award went to Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s easier to say his nickname, “The Greek Freak”. That is exactly what he is on the court, a freak of nature. He was the first player in the NBA to finish Top-20 in all five major categories, which were points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He does it all! He received 80 first place votes and 428 total votes. Nikola Jokic finished second receiving 14 first place votes and 161 total votes.
The Rookie of the Year Award went to Malcolm Brogdon of the Bucks. They have a couple of young studs to build around now. Brogdon received 64 first place votes and 414 total votes. Dario Saric was a distant second with 13 first place votes and 266 votes total. Brogdon was drafted in the second round as 36th overall pick. He is the lowest picked rookie to win the award. He averaged ten points and four assists to help the Bucks to the six seed in the Eastern conference with a 42-40 record. The Defensive Player of the Year Award went to Draymond Green of the Warriors. He was no longer the “bridesmaid” but the “bride”. The last two years, he finished in second place. His ability to guard any player on the court allowed him to win this award. He received 73 first place votes and 434 total votes. Rudy Gobert was this year’s “bridesmaid” receiving 16 first place votes and 269 total votes.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Bill Russell, formerly of the Celtics. The 83-year old 11-time NBA Champion was awarded this honor by some of the other great centers that have ever played the game. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson all stood proud as they handed him the award. None of them were prepared for what he would say next. He pointed to each of them and said, “I would kick your ass.” There you have it, when your old grandparent still thinks he got it. LOL. He apparently still has the fire and desire to play although the physical aspect is no longer there. The other inaugural award was The Sager Strong Award given to Monty Williams of the Spurs. Williams was an assistant coach for the Thunder when his wife car crashed and she died in Oklahoma City. He left the team at the end of the season but took the VP of basketball operations for the Spurs to spend more times with the kids. Sager’s wife, Stacy, presented Williams with a Sager-inspired coat. They couldn’t have picked a better recipient.
The NBA Executive of the Year Award went to Bob Meyers of the Warriors. When you draft a team that has been to back-to-back NBA Finals, and sign one of the best players in the league, you deserve that award. Meyers received 9 first place votes and 59 total votes. Daryl Morey of the Rockets received 7 first place votes and 57 total votes. This is voted on by the General Managers and they cannot vote on themselves. The Coach of the Year Award went to Mike D’Antoni of the Rockets. He led the team to 55 wins, 14 more than last year. His up-tempo style of offense fit perfectly with the team’s players. He received 68 first place votes and 400 total votes. Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat finished in second place receiving 9 first place votes and 153 total votes.
The Most Valuable Player of the Year Award went to Westbrook of the Thunder. This was his third trophy of the night. All season it was coming down to Westbrook and Harden as the MVP finalist. However, Westbrook did something that hadn’t happened since 1964-1965, average a triple double for the entire season. Oscar Robertson was the last and only person to do so until now. Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 10.4 assists a game. If it wasn’t for him, his team doesn’t even make the playoffs as a six seed. He received 69 first place votes and 888 total votes. Harden came in second with 22 first place votes and 753 total votes.
It was a great night to honor all the nominees and winners for the season. With the trades so far and the draft already taken place, it might be even better next year.