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Burning River Postseason Honors

This season, more than almost any other in memory, has been full of hot takes, vociferous debate, and lively arguments about which of the NBA’s elite should take home the postseason honors. Here, we take a look at how the staff here at Burning River Basketball would hand out the awards.

MVP 

  • Jared Donnelly

LeBron James – Let’s not overthink this one. He’s the best player on the planet, his team is worthless without him, and he’s posting career bests in FG%, assists, and rebounds per game. Westbrook wasn’t efficient enough, and his team finished sixth. Leonard is great, but at no point did I feel like he made anyone better this year. Harden is a close second, but him essentially being The System hurts him here as much as it helps him in my eyes.

  • Zach Geiser

LeBron James – I know Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double and had more triple-doubles in a season than any other player in NBA history, and James Harden put up ridiculous numbers for a team that improved dramatically this season. For me, it comes down to the fact that the Cavs are a joke and can’t win when LeBron doesn’t play even though he has a better supporting cast than the other two. I don’t think many people expect the Rockets, and especially the Thunder, to compete for a championship, but the Cavs will probably be in the NBA Finals for a third straight year.

  • Jordan Greynolds

Russell Westbrook – We all know Russell accomplished something that hadn’t been done in over 50 years but that’s not what makes him the most valuable player in the league this year. Before the season people talked about how he could average a triple double but almost no one expected his team to make the playoffs. Getting a team in the playoffs that without him would have been without a shadow of a doubt the worst team in the conference is what make him the MVP.

  • Ben Belden

LeBron James 

  • Danny Cunningham

James Harden – What James Harden has done this year has been simply remarkable. Becoming the first player ever to average 25 ppg scored as well as assisted is no small feat, nor is shifting positions to point guard and elevating the middle of the pack Houston Rockets to the elite level. Obviously, this is not to be taken as a slight at Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, or LeBron James.

Most Improved Player

  • Jared Donnelly

Giannis Antetokounmpo – He’s the only player in league history to finish in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He improved his PER from 19 to 26. His team finished sixth in the Eastern Conference despite significant injuries to Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, their second and third best players on the roster. I considered Isaiah Thomas here, but he went from being a stud to a star. Giannis went from being a nice player to an elite superstar with a skillset we haven’t seen on a youngster since LeBron James.

  • Zach Geiser
Giannis Antetokounmpo – The Greek Freak has otherworldly talent and ridiculous athletic ability. I don’t understand how a guy that tall and lanky can be so deceptively coordinated and smooth. He’s a match-up nightmare because he can handle the ball well, but he has a size advantage on almost all wing players. He stepped his game up to a new level this year, and will probably only continue to improve.
  • Jordan Greynolds 
Isaiah Thomas – There might not be a year where there is a less cut-and-dried most improved player. So many players have elevated their games to new heights this season, but Isaiah Thomas in particular is the one that took the league by storm. He upped his scoring from last year’s All-Star season by nearly seven points, as well as upping his field goal efficiency almost four percent. But it’s the effect that his improved play had on improving his team that wins this for him.
  • Ben Belden 
Giannis Antetokounmpo  
  • Danny Cunningham

Giannis Antetokounmpo – This game down to two players for me, both of whom are in my top seven for the MVP, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is more deserving of this award than Isaiah Thomas is. Antetokounmpo has transformed himself into one of arguably the best 10 players in basketball and has all the makings of a future MVP.

Defensive Player Of The Year
  • Jared Donnelly
Rudy Gobert – He is the anchor for a team that wins with their defense. He blocks shots, moves incredibly well on the pick and roll, and guys flat out don’t go inside when he’s living there. He finished first in individual defensive rating, defensive real plus/minus, and block percentage. Utah wins with defense. And their defense starts and ends with Gobert doing everything. Everything.
  • Zach Geiser
Rudy Gobert – Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green are good, but they can’t always get all of the credit. Gobert averaged about 2.5 blocks and 13 rebounds a game this year, and his ability to defend the paint helped his teammates defend better against the three on the outside. He is also so long and athletic that he makes it extremely difficult for opponents to run the pick and roll against him if they want to try to exploit him as a center on the perimeter.
  • Jordan Greynolds 
Draymond Green – This one hurts to give out and not because Draymond doesn’t deserve it, but because Rudy Gobert deserves it equally as much. To be honest, this came down to the fact that the Warriors are the top rated defensive team in the league, while the Jazz trail close at third. Draymond is also a more versatile defender so he gets a one up for that. I’ll be rooting for Rudy to win this next year after he was my second pick for DPOY and MIP this year.
  • Ben Belden 
 Draymond Green 
  • Danny Cunningham

Rudy Gobert – This, again, is a very tight race for me, however it boils down to two candidates instead of the four for the MVP race. I give the nod to Rudy Gobert here of the Utah Jazz. Gobert has helped turn the Jazz from missing out on the playoffs a year ago to having the potential to go on a playoff run this year. A vote for Draymond Green is also a correct one, with Leonard as another option.

 Rookie Of The Year
  • Jared Donnelly
 Joel Embiid – This isn’t the most valuable rookie, otherwise Brogdon gets my vote. Joel Embiid, though only playing 31 games, was the hands down best first year player the league had to offer. No other player gave us a glimpse or flashes or greatness like The Process did. Embiid never played like a rookie, turnovers aside, and any rookie’s best 31 games don’t match up to what Embiid did in the only 31 he played.
  • Zach Geiser
 Malcom Brogdon – Joel Embiid had the best rookie season and looks like he can be a great player if he can ever stay healthy. There really hasn’t been a huge impact by most of the other rookies, but Brogdon had a solid first year for the up-and-coming Bucks team. They could be a team to watch out for if they can keep their young, athletic core healthy.
  • Jordan Greynolds
 Malcolm Brogdon – This would probably be a different name if Joel Embiid were able to play more than 31 games this year, but he couldn’t, so congrats, Malcolm! This race came down to Brogdon and Dario Saric. While Saric has more upside and the better stats between the two, Brogdon’s team is still playing and most likely would not be if not for his emergence. He plays well beyond his years and had the challenge of fitting in with teammates who are stars and boarder line stars. Saric, though he struggled early, didn’t have proven stars he had to work around. He could play his game, do whatever he wants, and let others figure themselves out around him. So for this year let’s celebrate Brogdon and let Saric’s upside win him greater awards down the line.
  • Ben Belden 
 Dario Saric  
  • Danny Cunningham 

Joel Embiid – I realize that Joel Embiid did not even play half the season, and his minutes were somewhat limited when he did play, but he was far and away the best rookie to step on the NBA floor this season so for that fact I cannot vote for anyone else. #TrustTheProcess

 Coach Of The Year
  • Jared Donnelly
 Mike D’Antoni – He took over a team that was devoid of chemistry, identity, and moved on from their second best player in Dwight Howard. His GM added injury prone and one dimensional shooters Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. He moved James Harden, a dynamic off the ball threat and a guy with a reputation as a ballhog, to the point guard position where he ran the brand new system to perfection, and finished atop the league in assists. Also, quietly, they finished in the top half of the defensive rankings, and had the third best record in the league. Not bad for basically starting from scratch.
  • Zach Geiser
 Brad Stevens – Erik Spoelstra did a remarkable job with the Heat after a very slow start, but they didn’t even make the playoffs. Stevens has really done a good job of turning around the Celtics the last few seasons. They earned the top seed in the East without having any really big names outside of the emerging Isaiah Thomas. He has developed a lot of young players and maximized the potential he has been given on the roster.
  • Jordan Greynolds
 Mike D’Antoni – My favorite NBA coach growing up is finally back with a team that can play like Nash’s Suns did. We will have to wait and see if his old system can pan out in the playoffs a little better than it has in the past. But for now all we have is the regular season that had nothing regular about it. D’Antoni upped his new team’s wins by 14 from a season ago and is again pushing the envelope for how the game is played. It takes a special coach to flawlessly transition a shooting guard to point guard and immediately put him in the MVP race at the same time his team is winning.
  • Ben Belden 
Mike D’Antoni  
  • Danny Cunningham

Erik Spolestra – After the Miami Heat found themselves a whopping 19 games under the .500 mark near the All-Star break, Spolestra lead them to a 30-11 mark the rest of the season, finishing just out of the playoffs. This coming following Dwyane Wade’s departure for Chicago as well as Chris Bosh’s inability to play created a remarkably tough situation that Spo was able to thrive in.

All NBA First Team
  • Jared Donnelly                    
C – Rudy Gobert
F – LeBron James
F – Kawhi Leonard
G – Russell Westbrook
G – James Harden
  • Zach Geiser
 C – Anthony Davis
F – LeBron James
F – Kawhi Leonard
G – Russell Westbrook
G – James Harden
  • Jordan Greynolds
C – Anthony Davis
F – LeBron James
F – Kawhi Leonard
G – Russell Westbrook
G – James Harden
  • Ben Belden
C – Andre Drummond
F – LeBron James
F – Kawhi Leonard
G – Russell Westbrook
G – James Harden
  • Danny Cunningham
C – Rudy Gobert
F – LeBron James
F – Kawhi Leonard
G – Russell Westbrook
G – James Harden