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NBA

NBA Awards 2019: Predictions for who will win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and more

The third annual NBA Awards show will take place on Monday at 9:00 p.m. ET with the Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year winners announced.

Who will take home the hardware?

MORE: How to watch the NBA Awards

In order to help predict the winners, we polled members of our Global NBA.com Staff and asked them to rank the top three candidates in each of the six categories. A reminder that official voting by media members closed prior to the start of the 2019 postseason.

Most Valuable Player

Global NBA.com Prediction (1st place votes in parenthesis)

Though it was seemingly a neck-and-neck race between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden the entire season, the prevailing sentiment points in the direction of Milwaukee's do everything forward who is seeking his first MVP award.

The 24-year-old finished with averages of 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game for a team that had the NBA's best record. Should he go on to win it, Antetokounmpo would be the youngest winner since Derrick Rose in 2010-11. He's also currently the same age as LeBron James at the time of his first MVP season in 2008-09, which began a five-year stretch in which he won the award four times.

MORE: The evolution and rise of Giannis

Harden's season will be remembered as one of the most prolific scoring seasons ever. Harden poured in a league-high 36.1 points per game, over eight more than Paul George, who finished second in the league in scoring. His 36.1 points per game were the second-most in a single season in NBA history behind only Michael Jordan, who averaged 37.1 in 1986-87. Jordan finished runner-up in MVP voting that season to Magic Johnson, perhaps a bit of foreshadowing for Harden's fate who has already finished as an MVP runner-up twice in addition to winning it last season.

Defensive Player of the Year

Global NBA.com Prediction (1st place votes in parenthesis)

  • 1st Place: Rudy Gobert (7)
  • 2nd Place: Paul George (6)
  • 3rd Place: Giannis Antetokounmpo (2)

This could end up being the closest race with three candidates that each have a legitimate shot at winning it.

Rudy Gobert is looking for his second straight Defensive Player of the Year nod after once again averaging 2.3 blocks and 0.8 steals per game, identical to his averages from a year ago in which he won the award. With Gobert anchoring the middle, the Jazz finished second in the league in defensive rating behind only the Bucks.

While Paul George had the best offensive season of his career, which likely played a bigger part in earning a finalist nod for MVP, he also had the best defensive season of any perimeter player as he led the league in both steals (2.2) and deflections (3.8) per game. He often guarded the other team's best player as OKC defensive ace Andre Roberson missed the entire season.

If Gobert is the barometer for rim protection and George for perimeter D, then Antetokounmpo provides the best of both worlds. Perhaps the NBA's best help defender, Antetokounmpo's incredible combination of size, length and speed allows him to not only guard all five positions, but help from any spot on the floor. He was the best defensive player on the NBA's best defensive team, which could be enough to win it even though he finished behind Robert and George in our staff voting.

Antetokounmpo is trying to become just the third player in NBA history to win both Defensive Player of the Year and MVP in the same season, joining Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Rookie of the Year

Global NBA.com Prediction (1st place votes in parenthesis)

  • 1st Place: Luka Doncic (14)
  • 2nd Place: Trae Young (1)
  • 3rd Place: Deandre Ayton

If our staff is any indication, this is Luka Doncic's award to lose as he nearly claimed every first place vote.

The numbers speak for themselves: 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, numbers that no rookie has put up since Oscar Robertson. And yet while the back-of-the-card stats do jump out, they don't begin to articulate the impact of his game.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Doncic's game was his composure and decision making, two traits which made it seem as if he played more like a 10-year vet than a 19-year-old rookie. Count LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Gregg Popovich as legends of the game to heap praise on Doncic at various points throughout the season.

Young's second-half surge at least made for interesting water cooler debate. After struggling at the start of the year, Young slowly found his footing and became comfortable as both a volume scorer and playmaker, averaging over 23 points and nine assists per game from February onwards.

MORE: Young, Hawks have East's brightest future

Though some think he may have done enough to get back in the Rookie of the Year conversation, Young will likely follow in the footsteps of Donovan Mitchell, who used a strong second half to close the gap before comfortably finishing second.

Most Improved Player

Global NBA.com Prediction (1st place votes in parenthesis)

  • 1st Place: Pascal Siakam (14)
  • 2nd Place: D'Angelo Russell (1)
  • 3rd Place: De'Aaron Fox

It's a regular season award, but there's perhaps no better way to articulate Pascal Siakam's growth than by looking at what he did in Toronto's final playoff series in each of the last two years. In the 2018 loss to the Cavaliers in the second round, Siakam averaged 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in just over 20 minutes off the bench. In the 2019 NBA Finals, the third-year forward averaged 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, including 26 points and 10 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher.

MORE: Siakam's report card from 2018-19

Though he may not have made the All-Star team, he was knocking on the doorstep and will certainly be right there in the discussion next season regardless of whether or not Kawhi Leonard remains with the Raptors.

D'Angelo Russell did make the All-Star leap in Brooklyn and De'Aaron Fox showed significant progress in his sophomore season. But make no mistake, Siakam is the overwhelming favourite to win this award after transforming from an end of the rotation defensive piece to a two-way force that at times serves as a primary option and matchup nightmare.

Sixth Man of the Year

Global NBA.com Prediction (1st place votes in parenthesis)

  • 1st Place: Lou Williams (13)
  • 2nd Place: Montrezl Harrell (1)
  • 3rd Place: Domantas Sabonis (1)

It's been over 25 years since a player won Sixth Man of the Year two years in a row. Lou Williams is a strong bet to do just that after averaging 20.0 points per game while coming off the bench in all but one of his 75 games for the Clippers last season.

He starred for a Clippers team that sorely needed his scoring punch as they went 13-3 in games he scored at least 25 points. Williams also had two different 40-point games, giving him five for his career off the bench, which is the most by any player over the last 35 years.

Should Williams win it, he would tie Jamal Crawford for the most Sixth Man of the Year awards with three.

Coach of the Year

Global NBA.com Prediction (1st place votes in parenthesis)

  • 1st Place: Mike Budenholzer (9)
  • 2nd Place: Doc Rivers (5)
  • 3rd Place: Michael Malone (1)

It was a deep crop of candidates that extended beyond the top three finalists as Kenny Atkinson (Nets), Steve Clifford (Magic), Terry Stotts (Trail Blazers), Nate McMillan (Pacers) and Nick Nurse (Raptors) all were among those who warranted consideration.

Budenholzer is the odds-on favourite after he took a good Bucks team and made them great, overhauling the offence to play to the strengths of Giannis Antetokounmpo while also trotting out what was the league's top-ranked defence. They jumped from 10th to fourth on O and 18th to first on D.

Rivers led the Clippers to 48 wins despite the team trading away arguably its best player, Tobias Harris, at the trade deadline. He leaned on a bench player as the team's leading scorer (Lou Williams), a rookie starting point guard (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) and coaxed a career year out of Montrezl Harrell, transforming him into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.

Malone had the Nuggets in the running for the best team in the loaded Western Conference despite having just one All-Star in breakout centre Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets dealt with a litany of injuries, missing more games due to injury than any of the 16 playoff teams.

The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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