It’s time to give D’Angelo Russell some respect

Sam Eggert

We are nearing the end of the NBA regular season, therefore it is time to begin thinking about this year’s award.  

MVP has been a three-man race between Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and frontrunner James Harden is running away with the award. I get frustrated every time I watch Harden play. He has mastered the skill of drawing fouls which makes for unentertaining basketball, yet it has been effective for Harden. The Rockets guard is leading the league with 36.2 points per game, not to mention a stellar 6.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists which is 11th in the league. After the Rockets rocky start, Harden has been on an all-time scoring run. He is the first player ever to score 30 or more against every team in one season. His legendary season will be capped off with a second consecutive MVP award.  

Courtesy of ESPN

As for defensive player of the year, well, the conversation begins and ends with Marcus Smart. The Celtics have had a rough second half of the season, but that is mainly due to poor communication and intermittent injuries for Aron Baynes. Smart has been an outlier. He is seventh in the league in steals per game, but his impact lies outside of the numbers. Smart is among the most selfless players in the league. He is amazing at drawing charges and making clutch plays. I’m holding back with this since I have limited space, but I could easily write a 400-page book on Smart’s defensive impact. Add on his improved shooting and I’ll be at 650 pages.  

Trae Young is my pick for rookie of the year. He is seventh in the league in assists per game with 7.9 per. To put that in perspective, Chris Paul is sixth in the league and Ben Simmons is eighth. Young has led a promising Hawks team to a better than anticipated season. His 40-plus point explosions this season put him over the top in my opinion. Mike is going to compare Young’s stats to Luka Doncic. Doncic’s look better, but it needs to be mentioned that Young has averaged 24.5 points, 9.4 assists and 1.4 steals since the all-star break. He’s also shooting 39.3% from three.  

The Los Angeles Clippers have had the most improbable success of anyone in the NBA this year. They have hovered around the seven seed in the Western Conference all season, even after trading their leading scorer, Tobias Harris, to Philadelphia for Landry Shamet and some draft picks. Because of this, Doc Rivers is my choice for coach of the year. He has kept the Clippers in the playoff race despite a major roster turnover.  

Continuing with the Clippers, Lou Williams is a sure shot for sixth man of the year. Williams has been the perennial sixth man for the past decade and 2019 has been no different. His scoring is still elite, and he is a great locker room presence for the Clippers. The only other player I considered for this award was Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets, who deserves recognition for his strong play this season.  

The most improved player is Dinwiddie’s teammate, D’Angelo Russell. Russell, who had been labeled a bust, is enjoying a career year highlighted by an all-star bid and a 44-point performance in an improbable comeback-win in Sacramento. Russell has redefined himself as an explosive scorer as he leads a Nets team that is on the rise.

Luka Doncic is the best rookie I’ve ever seen

Michael Mawson

The Greek freak has shown that he’s deserving of being awarded as the most valuable player this season, the Bucks have four more wins than any other team in the association and Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.3, 12.6 boards and 6.0 assists per game. The big thing is that he’s shooting better than 58% from the field, while Harden’s at less than a 44% clip. Give that man the trophy. 

Lou Williams is winning sixth man of the year. Once he retires, this award should be named after him, no further comment. Lou Will forever. 

Rudy Gobert goes back-to-back if this prediction pans out, as he won defensive player of the year in 2018. Gobert was snubbed as an all-star this season, and he’s been playing bully ball ever since. Gobert is the second-best rebounder in the game, only trailing Andre Drummond of the Pistons. He’s also arguably the best defender in the NBA today. You don’t get the nickname “the stifle tower” for nothing. The French big-man is averaging 2.23 blocks and just under one steal per game this season. He doesn’t get talked about a lot because he plays in Utah, but he can lock down your favorite big man. 

Alright let’s play a little game for a second here. I’m going to show you the stat lines of two players during their rookie seasons.  

Player 1: 20.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.9 APG, 41.7 FG% and 29.0% from deep 

Player 2: 21.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.9 APG, 42.6 FG% and 32.7% from deep 

The first stat line is LeBron’s rookie season stats in 2003, player two is Luka Doncic. You’ve heard of that guy LeBron before, right? The “chosen one” and the one who some refer to as the “GOAT.” Yeah, Luka has had a better rookie season than that guy.  

Luka is having the best rookie season I’ve ever seen in my 22 years of life, and is undoubtedly one of the best rookies in NBA history.  

The Trae Young for ROY camp is one that confuses me. Young has less points, rebounds, blocks and steals per game, while Luka’s shooting slightly better from the field in their rookie campaigns. That’s not to take away from the talented Hawks guard, it just goes to show how legit Luka is.  
Most improved player was a tough call for me, Sam’s going with D’Angelo Russell, which is a good pick. I decided to go with Montrezl Harrell. That dude is the type of guy you want on your team, he’s going to give you his full effort night-in and night-out. He’s had a breakout year with 16.6 PPG and nearly 7 RPG for one of the most surprising playoff-teams this season.  

Mike Malone deserves to be coach of the year. The Nuggets are the most surprising team I’ve seen in a while. If you told me at the beginning of the season that with less than ten games to go in the regular season the Denver Nuggets would be tied for first in the Western Conference with the Warriors I would laugh in your face, but here we are. The team has battled injuries; Will Barton missed a bunch of games, Gary Harris has been in and out of the rotation all season and of course there’s the sad story of Isaiah Thomas being a shell of the player he once was as he’s battled his nagging hip injury. Despite all of this Denver is sitting pretty at 50-23, thanks largely to Malone’s coaching ability.  

Sam’s Picks

MVP: James Harden 

6th Man: Lou Williams 

Defensive Player: Marcus Smart 

Coach: Doc Rivers 

MIP: D’Angelo Russell 

Rookie: Trae Young

Michael’s Picks

MVP: Giannis 

6TH MAN: Lou Will  

DPY: Rudy Gobert 

ROY: Luka Doncic 

MIP: Harrell  

Coach of the year: Mike Malone