The votes are in; who wins NBA MVP?
The Chicago Bulls have left for vacation, but the NBA postseason has already gotten interesting.
So let's finish this series by self-asking some questions about the playoffs, awards and whatever else comes to mind:
Who should win MVP?
As has been mentioned here several times, this is probably the greatest MVP competition in league history. James Harden averaged 36.1 points this season, the highest since Michael Jordan reached 37.1 points in 1986-87, the first year Jordan won MVP.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, became the first player to average at least 27 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76.
The winner? It's got to be Antetokounmpo, because the Bucks were the NBA's best team all season long. They may not have the experience to last long in the playoffs, but with two performances like these, team success is the obvious tiebreaker.
That's not to say Harden hasn't had an MVP-caliber season. He would have won in most any season of the last 20.
This is a good time to point out I did not get a vote for the NBA postseason awards, but have voted for all of them in the past. It's also worth mentioning that Wilt Chamberlin averaged more than 36.1 points for five seasons in a row.
Are the Warriors in trouble?
They probably are, but it would be a stretch to say the Warriors are no longer favorites to win a third straight championship.
Golden State has been pacing itself, flipping the switch on and off all season long. When the Warriors decide to bring their "A" game, the results have usually been decisive.
We have seen teams struggle to get rolling in the playoffs and still win the championship. Boston in 2008 comes to mind when it went to seven games in each of the first two rounds.
But the Warriors have had an awful lot of low moments in the second half of the season and blowing a 31-point lead to the Clippers on Monday might top them all. To make things worse, Golden State lost center DeMarcus Cousins, likely for the playoffs, with a quad tear.
Steph Curry has been able to deliver great performances when necessary. Kevin Durant often seems distracted, while Klay Thompson hasn't always been his usual self. The supporting cast is older and thinner and now the Warriors won't have Cousins, who was supposed to be the X-factor.
I'd still pick Golden State to win it all, but the showdown with Houston would come in the second round. So the Warriors better pull it together soon.
Who wins the other major awards?
Coach of the year is the most interesting, since there are so many good candidates. I'd probably vote for Indiana's Nate McMillan for keeping the Pacers afloat without all-star Victor Oladipo. Denver's Mike Malone could easily win it, while the Clippers' Doc Rivers, Milwaukee's Mike Budenholzer, Orlando's Steve Clifford and Brooklyn's Kenny Atkinson are all worthy.
The Clippers' Lou Williams is an easy choice for sixth man, as is Dallas' Luka Doncic for rookie of the year. Oklahoma City's Paul George could win defensive player of the year, sort of a consolation prize for his best NBA season. I'd lean toward Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell as most improved. The Lakers dumped him to clear cap space, after all.
Can the Bucks win the East?
The guess here is no, simply because this Milwaukee team has never even won a playoff series. Having Pau Gasol at the end of the bench is probably not enough to carry the Bucks to the Finals.
Philadelphia and Boston get more attention, but I think this is the year Toronto gets to the Finals. The Raptors have a ton of playoff experience, from former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, ex-Spur Danny Green, ex-Thunder Serge Ibaka, ex-Grizzly Marc Gasol, plus the holdovers like Kyle Lowry have been to the conference finals.
The NBA Finals may finally visit Canada.
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