On June 25, the NBA will honor Season 2017-2018’s top individual performers in its Awards Night at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California.
With barely over a week away from the much-awaited ceremony, only James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Western Conference’s losing finalists, looks a cinch to clinch the much-coveted Most Valuable Player honor in the eyes of the CBS Sports Awards experts, who are unanimous in their pick.
Making up the Awards experts panel are sports journalists James Herbert, Brad Botkin, Reid Forgrave, Colin Ward-Henninger, Jack Maloney and Chris Barnewal.
Other top contenders for the highest individual honor are Russell Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, controversial winner of last year’s derby who failed to lead his team past the first round of the playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward LeBron James, Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and Warriors teammates Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry of back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Contenders were named as a result of fan votes that gave players five vote for first place, three for second one for third.
The names of Durant, this and last season’s back-to-back Finals MVP, and Curry were not included in the original list of nominees and were added only after the Warriors beat then Rockets in seven games to arrange the stage for a showdown with the Cavs for the title.
Both are considered long shots though to win the top award, which put premium more on individual performance of the contenders their value to their teams.
Awards experts are one in selecting Harden for MVP, but not everyone sees eye-to-eye when it comes to Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year or who should be Coach of the Year.
Five of the CBS experts choose Ben Simmons for the ROY award with one voting for Donovan Mitchell. The DPOY went to Rudy Gobert, who garnered four votes as against Joel Embiid’s two.
If the experts’ choice comes true to form, Boston’s Brad Stevens should win the Coach off the Year honor at the expense Toronto’s Dwayne Casey same with Daryl Morey who looks to have the edge over Danny Ainge for the Executive of the Year race.
Like in the MVP derby, the CBS panel seems to favor Victor Oladipo as the Most Improved Player. Ditto for Lou Williams as the Sixth Man of the Year.
Besides the league’s top awards, including the MVP, ROY and DPOY, also to be announced are the composition of the All-NBA teams as well as several honors dunk of the Year and Performance of the Year.
Harden emerges as the runaway winner of the MVP, panel member Botkin reason out, for being the best player on the best team all season. He led the league in scoring at over 30 a game and was fourth in assists.
“And, most importantly, he’s been the runner-up two of the last three years. It’s his turn. You can argue about whether that should (be used) as factor into the award, but the reality is that it does. Harden will win MVP, and it won’t be close.,” Botkin explained.
By EDDIE G. ALINEA