The 2016-17 NBA regular season will forever be remembered because Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook became the second player ever — and first since 1961-62 — to average a triple-double for an entire campaign.
But despite Westbrook’s brilliant season, the race for the Most Valuable Player award was one of the most competitive we have seen in a long time.
Here are our picks for the NBA’s MVP and other season awards.
MVP: Russell Westbrook, PG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook had so many triple-doubles this season — a record 42 — that people actually have been belittling them while arguing against him for MVP. That’s insane, mostly because OKC is 33-9 when he tallies one.
Westbrook led the league in scoring at 31.9 points per game and finished inside the top five in assists per game and top 10 in rebounds per game. OKC’s surrounding talent isn’t as good as James Harden’s in Houston, and without Westbrook, the Thunder probably would be vying for a top-seven pick in the draft lottery next month instead of going to the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the West.
Rookie of the Year: Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Milwaukee Bucks
Brogdon was fourth among rookies in scoring while shooting above 45 percent from the floor and more than 40 percent from 3-point range. He also played a meaningful role on a Bucks team that made the playoffs, even being asked to take clutch shots late in games. If all that wasn’t enough, Brogdon played above average perimeter defense as a rookie.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, C, Utah
Gobert ranked fourth in rebounds with 12.8 per game and led the league in blocks at 2.66 per game. His interior defense and excellent work on the glass were the main factors in Utah allowing the fewest points per game of any team this season. This defensive improvement helped vault the Jazz to the No. 4 seed in the West after missing the playoffs last season.
Sixth Man of the Year: Eric Gordon, SG, Houston Rockets
Gordon ranked second on Houston in scoring with 16.3 points per game, allowing the Rockets to not skip a beat when the bench entered the game. His long-range marksmanship and quality foul shooting helped the Rockets finish just behind the Golden State Warriors as the league’s second-highest scoring team.
Most Improved Player: Isaiah Thomas, PG, Boston Celtics
Thomas might be an unusual pick for MIP, but the Celtics guard went from a star to a legit superstar this season as the best player on the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. He raised his average by 6.9 points, while increasing his field goal, 3-point and foul shooting percentages by nearly 4 percent each. His 29.1 points per game ranked tied for second in the league with Harden.
Coach of the Year: Mike D’Antoni, Houston Rockets
D’Antoni took an underachieving and somewhat dysfunctional Rockets team of a year ago and turned them into an offensively dominant squad that finished third in the Western Conference. The Rockets loaded up on outside shooters and D’Antoni designed schemes to create open shots and driving lanes for them.
The Rockets might actually be best equipped to dethrone the Warriors in the West — something few would have predicted when the season began. Houston’s offensive improvement also hasn’t come at the cost of its defense, which wasn’t too bad this campaign.
Executive of the Year: Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
Morey hired D’Antoni despite his team’s defensive issues last season and the move certainly has paid huge dividends. D’Antoni has been the perfect coach for this roster. Morey also made smart offseason acquisitions in Gordon and Ryan Anderson and both thrived in D’Antoni’s 3-point heavy system.
Thumbnail photo via Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Jan 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) drives against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) in the second half at Toyota Center. Houston Rockets won 118 to 116. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports