For the first time ever, the NBA decided rather than handing out awards to players at games or press conferences, they would hold a nationally televised ceremony after the playoffs were over. If you’re like me and weren’t expecting too much, it pleasantly did not disappoint.
Host Drake opened with some standup comedy, self-deprecation, and jokes. His observation that the vibe was bit awkward was accurate, but he still got some giggles out of the crowd. After some classic humor from Shaq and Charles Barkley and the Inside the NBA’s crew, the awards were announced, with some skits by Drake and Will Ferrell and a concert by Nicki Minaj sprinkled in between.
The awards are listed in the order they were announced, while the fan-voted awards were announced throughout the ceremony.
Rookie of the Year
Winner: Malcolm Brogdon
Probably the most surprising winner of the night (but still not too surprising), the Milwaukee Buck became the lowest draft pick (36th) to ever to win the award. He beat out Joel Embiid, who was easily the most spectacular rookie this season but only played in 31 games due to minute restrictions and recurring injuries, and Dario Saric, both of the Philadelphia 76ers. Saric and Brogdon were also both unanimously selected to the All-NBA Rookie First Team.
Sixth Man of the Year
Winner: Eric Gordon
After some injury-riddled seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, Gordon found new life as a sixth man for the Houston Rockets and scorer in Mike D’Antoni’s system. He beat out fellow Rocket Lou Williams, who spent the first half of the season with the Lakers, and Golden State’s Andre Iguodola.
Teammate of the Year
Winner: Dirk Nowitzki
This is no shocker for one of the most respected veterans in the game. Coachable, unselfish, and willing to take young players under his wing, Nowitzki is a class act and more than deserving of the award.
Winner: Patrick Beverley
The firecracker guard out of Houston is well known for his never ending-motor and is the heart and soul of the Rockets locker room.
NBA Cares Community Assist Award
Winner: Isaiah Thomas
The award is given to the player who does the most for his community, and the Boston Celtics guard took it home this year.
Winner: Kemba Walker
The always-smiling Charlotte Hornets guard was voted by his peers as a player with highly regarded character on the court and treats his teammates and opponents with the same amount of respect.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Winner: Bill Russell
Presented by Kareem Abdul-Jabar, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, and Shaquille O’Neal, Russell is one of the winningest players in league history with 11 championships in 13 seasons and helped break many racial barriers in the league as a player and a coach. The funniest moment in the entire ceremony was when he looked at his presenters, initially seemed speechless to fool them into a false sense of security, then told them that he would “kick their a**”.
Most Improved Player
Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
All three finalists, including Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic, have gone from being anywhere from non-lottery (and even second-round) picks to legit stars on up-and-coming teams. Each made long strides and took giant leaps forward this season. Literally.
Executive of the Year
Winner: Bob Myers
The GM of the Warriors brought Kevin Durant on board and made them almost unstoppable. There isn’t much more that needs to be said about this one.
Coach of the Year
Winner: Mike D’Antoni
After relatively unsuccessful stints on the big stages of New York and Los Angeles, the offensive mastermind’s head coaching career seemed on the fritz, but his revival of the Houston Rockets and successful implementation of a James Harden-led system won him the award over fellow nominees Gregg Popovich and Eric Spolestra.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner: Draymond Green
It’s not surprising that the heart and soul of the Warriors top ranked defense won the award. With the freedom to essentially play “free safety” on defense, Green was one of the toughest players to get past from any spot on the floor, beating out Rudy Gobert and two-time DPOY Kawhi Leonard.
Sager Strong Award
Winner: Monty Williams
Named after iconic sideline reporter Craig Sager, who passed away in December of 2016 after a near three-year battle with acute myeloid leukemia, the award is presented “to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.” Williams, the Spurs VP of Basketball Operations and father of five children, tragically lost his wife, Ingrid, in a car accident in February of 2016. Monty wore that Sager jacket proudly.
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Russell Westbrook
As expected, Westbrook took home the award over Harden and Leonard for leading a decimated Thunder team that had lost it’s previous MVP to free agency and likely would have been lottery-bound all the way to the playoffs through sheer force of will. He’s the first player to average a triple-double in over 50 years, and even if his efficiency ratings aren’t the best or his style isn’t the most pleasing, if your definition of an MVP is the player who made the biggest difference for his team, Westbrook is your man.
You can look at all the nominees here, and here is how the votes went down:
- Assist of the Year: Draymond Green and Steph Curry
- Block of the Year: Kawhi Leonard
Yes, a Spur won a fan-voted award! In case you need a reminder, here it is:
- Dunk of the Year: Victor Oladipo
- Game Winner of the Year: Russell Westbrook
- Top Performance of the Year: Klay Thompson
- Best Playoff Moment: Kevin Durant (Personally, I’m shocked Manu Ginobili’s game 5 block of Harden wasn’t an option.)
The ceremony was better than I expected. Drake wasn’t bad as a host (although he put some players in awkward spots on the floor, like asking Harden who his favorite MVP is). I’d say the Inside the NBA crew was the best form of entertainment between announcements. Bill Russell provided the funniest moment, and Monty Williams and Isaiah Thomas, who lost his sister during the first round of the playoffs, were both inspirations.
Overall, while cutting some slack with this being the inaugural event, I’d give it a solid B- (with C being “met expectations”, which admittedly were extremely low), but I’ll expect more next year.