Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) defends a shot by Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo (9) as the Utah Jazz and the Las Angeles Lakers play at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt lake City on Wednesday, March 27, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — More than two months after the NBA’s regular season ended, the league’s season awards will finally be handed out on Monday night in Los Angeles.

Unlike last year when the Utah Jazz had nominees for three of the six awards, the club only has one this year, as Rudy Gobert will be looking to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year honor.

Nevertheless, here are our predictions for MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man Award, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year in addition to Defensive Player of the Year.


The finalists:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder

James Harden, Houston Rockets

Predicted winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo

This is essentially a two-man race between Antetokounmpo and Harden. The reigning MVP, Harden had a historically great season offensively in carrying a Rockets team that had depth issues to begin with and then was depleted by injury for a good chunk of the campaign.

But Antetokounmpo gets the nod because of his work on both ends of the floor. In addition to finishing third in the league in scoring (Paul was second), the Greek Freak finished in the top 10 in rebounds and blocks as the Bucks finished with the NBA’s best record.

Rookie of the Year

The finalists:

Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

Predicted winner: Luka Doncic

This is another two-man race, but only because Young had a fantastic close to the season for the Hawks. In truth, Doncic should win comfortably, as he was tremendous all season long.

The 20-year-old from Slovenia did it all for Dallas, as he led the Mavericks in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game.

Sixth Man Award

The finalists:

Montrezl Harrell, LA Clippers

Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers

Lou Williams, LA Clippers

Predicted winner: Lou Williams

The fact that there are two Clippers among the three finalists is a testament to how phenomenal the team’s bench was as it led the league in bench scoring en route to a surprise run to the eighth seed in the brutal Western Conference.

Harrell was excellent, finishing in the top 10 among bench players in multiple categories, but perhaps this award needs to be renamed in honor of Williams. The 2018 winner (he also won it in 2015), Williams averaged almost exactly 20 points in less than 27 minutes per contest. He also led all bench players in assists per game at 5.4 and made 88 percent of his free throws.

Defensive Player of the Year

The finalists:

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder

Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz

Predicted winner: Rudy Gobert

One could make a legitimate case for Antetokounmpo to win, although there is some thought that voters wouldn’t select him to win both DPOY and MVP. George was excellent defensively, too, and his two-way play is a big reason he was named an MVP finalist.

But once again, Gobert was simply dominant defensively in the 2018-2019 campaign. His raw numbers were great, as he was the only player in the NBA to finish in the top five in both blocks and rebounds per game, but more abstractly, teams had to game plan around his presence at the rim, and numerous coaches commented during the season about the number of shots the Stifle Tower still altered, even if he wasn’t officially credited with a block.

Most Improved Player

The finalists:

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets

Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

Predicted winner: Pascal Siakam

This is generally the toughest award to predict the winner for, but having finalists helps make an educated guess. Fox was great as the Kings did much better than many expected, but voters don’t often choose second-year players, as it’s expected they will make jumps from their rookie seasons. Russell was also fantastic in breaking out to lead the Nets to the playoffs.

But Siakam is the pick, as he finished second in scoring on a team that won 58 games in the regular season, more than doubling his output from last season in the process.

Coach of the Year

The finalists:

Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee Bucks

Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets

Doc Rivers, LA Clippers

Predicted winner: Mike Budenholzer

1 comment on this story

The NBA saw a ton of excellent coaching performances during the 2018-2019 season, but these three are deserving of their status as semifinalists. Rivers deserves a ton of credit for guiding the Clippers to the eighth seed in the West without much star power and Malone’s Nuggets surprised many by not only starting the season strong but staying among the West’s elite despite a bevy of injuries.

But Budenholzer gets the nod after his first season in Milwaukee for guiding the Bucks to 16 more wins than last season despite having largely the same roster.