OPINION: Picking the 2023-2024 NBA Awards winners

OPINION: Picking the 2023-2024 NBA Awards winners

Views are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

The 2023-2024 NBA season has wrapped up and the race for the league’s annual awards has officially ended. Here’s a look at my picks of the NBA's award winners.

Most Improved Player: Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers

(Runner-ups: Coby White, Jalen Johnson)

Notes: In the end, Tyrese Maxey takes the award with the amount of burden and responsibility in a Philadelphia team reeling from the loss of James Harden to become a true No. 2 option behind reigning MVP Joel Embiid. White improved a lot this year, increasing his averages both numbers and his shooting percentages. Johnson, like White, has also increased his usage and averages by a lot, featuring as the third option behind DeJounte Murray and Trae Young, or even as the second option without one of those two. A jumbo playmaking forward, Johnson showed improvements in his playmaking as well as his ability to score and had increased numbers in shooting as well. Ultimately, Maxey wins this award out because he was a guy who increased his usage and his role while playing most of the season without Embiid.

Sixth Man of the Year: Naz Reid, Minnesota Timberwolves

(Runner-ups: Malik Monk, Bobby Portis)

Notes: Naz Reid has been the best player off the bench this season with the way he has been an offensive spark plug for the Timberwolves this season. He’s had a phenomenal season, and he had to start and fill in for Karl-Anthony Towns when he went down while still being an efficient scorer as he is. If you factor in all the stuff for these awards, you could actually make a case for Monk, for Portis, maybe even guys like Norman Powell for the Clippers and Bogdan Bogdanovic for the Hawks. But with Minnesota going 56-26 and having the second most wins in franchise history – ultimately ending up atop the three best teams in the West, this gives a little bit of boost to Naz Reid due to his importance to the team.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves

(Runner-ups: Victor Wembanyama, Anthony Davis; Honorable mention: Bam Adebayo)

Notes: One of the hardest awards to figure out. Minnesota had the best defense in the league for a reason, and based on that Rudy Gobert would be a deserving winner of the award. When he’s off the floor, the team does not perform defensively the way it does when Gobert is on the floor. This was hard because Wembanyama had a legitimate case, being the generational defender that he was. Davis also had a strong case with how he carried single-handedly the Lakers’ defense, while Adebayo had the immense burden of playing all the defensive schemes in Miami. Ultimately, it ended up with Gobert with the way he lifted a good defensive team to the best in the league, manning that paint and being that anchor that holds all of the pieces together.

All-Defensive Team:

1st Team - Rudy Gobert, Victor Wembanyama, Anthony Davis, Bam Adebayo, Herb Jones

2nd Team - Derrick White, Jalen Suggs, Jaden McDaniels, Alex Caruso, Jonathan Isaac

Notes: Starting this year, the NBA’s All-NBA teams and defensive teams were positionless so I had to cheat a little bit here, putting 4 bigs in the 1st team. Gobert, Wembanyama, Davis, and Adebayo are no-brainers considering their defensive impact for each of their teams, while Jones takes the last spot in the 1st team for his ability to disrupt offenses as well as guarding each team’s best player night in and night out for the Pelicans. 

The second team features White (most blocks for a guard), Suggs and Isaac (best defensive players for the 4th best defense in the league, helping to lead the Magic back to the playoffs), McDaniels (best wing defender for the best defense in the league), and the perennial all-defense player Caruso who brings it in defensively every game.

Rookie of the Year: Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs

(Runner-up: Chet Holmgren)

Notes: Despite Holmgren having far and away the better team success, there’s no denying Wembanyama’s greatness in his rookie year. The French phenom has transcended the game both figuratively and on the eye test – he is simply a generational talent who is going to take over the league soon. Holmgren got off to a hot start in the first two months of the season but since January, Wembanyama has locked up the award for himself with out-of-the-world numbers for a rookie. He was dubbed as the best prospect since LeBron James and now he is well on his way to being one of the greatest of all time if he remains healthy after a historic rookie season.

All-Rookie Team:

1st Team - Victor Wembanyama, Chet Holmgren, Brandon Miller, Jaime Jaquez Jr., GG Jackson

2nd Team - Ausar Thompson, Amen Thompson, Keyonte George, Brandin Podziemski, Trayce Jackson-Davis

Notes: There were several names to choose from here, and it felt hard to cut some of them here. Jordan Hawkins of the Pelicans has had a good start to the year when the team had all those injuries paving the way for him to play early into the season but has seen the bench since as NOLA got healthier and players came back; Cason Wallace had such a good shooting year off the bench for the No.1 seeded Thunder despite shooting being labeled by scouts as his biggest weakness coming into the NBA; Dereck Lively II being center that Luka Doncic needed and fit well with by catching all those lobs and helping the Mavs’ defense this season big time; No.2 overall pick Scoot Henderson had a good close to his rookie year.

All in all, these 10 rookies have felt like the best rookies in terms of production, opportunity, and narratives surrounding them. Of course, Wembanyama and Holmgren are automatic locks; Miller has been the best player in Charlotte without LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams; Jaquez is a vital piece off the bench for Erik Spoelstra’s playoff-bound Heat team; and GG Jackson becoming a legit NBA scorer despite being the youngest player in the league to round out the first team.

The Thompson twins have just been defensive monsters ever since stepping foot in the league; George playing point guard at Utah has turned some heads and he has stepped up with the opportunity given to him; while Podziemski and Jackson-Davis have arguably been rotational pieces to the Warriors despite being rookies and has contributed a lot to them finding a way to fit in a complex team.

Coach of the Year: Mark Daigneault, Oklahoma City Thunder

(Runner-ups: Chris Finch, Jamahl Mosley)

Notes: There have been so many good coaches this season that have elevated their teams to good records, say Ime Udoka of the Houston Rockets and Tom Thibodeau from the New York Knicks. But my Coach of the Year pick goes to Mark Daigneault of the OKC Thunder because this award tends to favor the expectations set for a team before the start of the season. The Thunder weren’t supposed to be this good this season, but Daigneault catapulted them into one of the best teams not just in the West but the entire NBA. The evidence is written on the wall: No.1 in the West despite being the second youngest team in the league; having a top 5 ranking on both offense and defense and no.2 overall net rating. Finch and Mosley take the runner-up spots with the work they had to lift both the Timberwolves and the Magic to being top 4 seeds in their conferences as well as having top-rated defenses in the league.

Clutch Player of the Year: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

(Runner-ups: DeMar DeRozan, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander)

Notes: Another tough and close race, but ultimately it goes to Curry. Despite the Warriors’ so-so record, Curry had the most clutch time points, shot 50% from the field, and 46% from three in clutch time. Curry had the most threes than anyone in crunch time – being just the incredible clutch-time performer that he is – and always been.

All-NBA Team:

1st Team - Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum

2nd Team - Jalen Brunson, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Anthony Edwards, LeBron James

3rd Team - Stephen Curry, Domantas Sabonis, Kawhi Leonard, Devin Booker, Tyrese Haliburton

Notes: With Jalen Brunson carrying the Knicks to a second seed in the East playing without Julius Randle since January, it was incredibly hard to leave him off the 1st team. However, by the slightest of margins, I gave the nod to Tatum for being the best player on the best team in the league by a wide margin.

All the other picks were pretty explanatory, with the top 4 in the MVP race in Jokic, Doncic, SGA, and Giannis all expected to be first-teamers. The second team kind of got tougher besides Brunson, with legends Durant and James making the list because of the seasons they had leading their team as well as playing their most regular season game in years. Rounding out the second team were Edwards and Davis, two stars with the biggest impacts on their teams in the tough Western Conference.

The third team is actually a toss-up with a lot of good cases from the league all around, but ultimately I went with Curry, Sabonis, Leonard, Booker, and Haliburton.

Most Valuable Player: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 

(Runners-up: Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic; Honorable mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo)

Perhaps the closest race out of all the awards, all three players here are each deserving with their narratives and the numbers that support each of their cases. You can never go wrong picking one over the other, so it came down to personal opinion on who I thought had the strongest case this season. His case?

-Leading the second youngest team in the league to No.1 in the West

-3-1 series vs Denver

-3-1 series vs Dallas

-First player since Steph and MJ to average 30/5/5 in a season with 2+ steals

-Second in defensive net rating for guards

One could make the argument for Nikola Jokic being the best player in the world having better numbers than his two MVP seasons while Luka Doncic had one of the best seasons statistically in all facets of the game, but there’s no denying SGA’s strong case as well given the expectations for this young Thunder team.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is my MVP.

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