The 2018 NBA playoffs are underway, which means it’s time to hand out some awards to the best former Kentucky players the league has to offer. Here are your BBNBA 2018 end-of-season awards.
Most Valuable Player
This is the easiest one. Anthony Davis has been without a doubt the best former Kentucky player of this past season. He’s a top-5 overall MVP candidate, mainly because of the terror he’s caused to the rest of the NBA since the DeMarcus Cousins injury. Davis finished second in the NBA in points per game with 28.1 per game, trailing only James Harden, the likely MVP winner. When Cousins went down, there was an overwhelming feeling that the Pelicans would fall from their playoff spot and be forced to run things back next season, Davis made sure that didn’t happen. In the 33 regular season games without Cousins, Davis averaged 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field. He was a beast. He’s a future NBA MVP and this season was only the beginning.
Also, he tried to troll both the Big Blue Nation and all of America by “shaving” his unibrow as an April Fools prank. But, come on Davis, we all knew you could never do that to us.
Second: Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Third: Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
Fourth: Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers)
Fifth: Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee Bucks)
Defensive Player of the Year
Well, would you look at that? Another award for Anthony Davis. Davis led the NBA in blocks by a huge margin, finishing the season with 193 total blocks and a per game average of 2.6. Similar to how he was at Kentucky, Davis makes people reevaluate their shot solely because of his presence around the rim. He can swat anything out of the air with arms that cover the entire area of the paint.
Anthony Davis with 4 blocks tonight.
In the regular season, Davis led the NBA with 193 total blocks. The difference between his total and the second highest shot blocker Clint Capela is 56 blocks. 56 blocks is also the difference between Capela and the 25th highest shot blocker.
— Playoff Kyle Lowry (@ZackGeoghegan) April 15, 2018
Davis was easily the best defender among former Kentucky players this season and he’ll likely finish in the top-3 overall voting for the Defensive Player of the Year along with being selected to an All-NBA Defensive Team.
Second: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Hornets)
Third: Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers)
Most Improved Player
Most Improved Player goes to the guy I’ve been hyping up since the second the season began. Julius Randle has been a completely different ballplayer this year after having a HUGE offseason. He was the Los Angeles Lakers best player throughout the whole season and has made the Lakers reconsider what they should do with him once he becomes a free agent. Randle has averaged 16.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game this season while shooting 55.8 percent from the field. His numbers post All-Star break are even more absurd, as he averaged 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists while still shooting 55.5 percent from the field. He was an absolute tank this season. There was hardly any player in the NBA that could even attempt to slow him down when he gained a full head of steam. He became much more proficient in transition, running the break and playing a little bit more like Draymond Green. His defense saw significant strides as well, he’s much more disciplined when staying in front of defenders and was solid at timing blocks. Randle is only 23 years old but to see him take the leap he has this season is incredibly promising.
Second: Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Third: Darius Miller (New Orleans Pelicans)
Rookie of the Year
When I handed out midseason awards, this one went to Bam Adebayo. Now, I’m going to have to give it to De’Aaron Fox of the Sacramento Kings. Fox was given the keys to the Kings offense midway through the season and showed plenty of signs that he can be a big-time point guard in the NBA. He averaged 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.6 assists after the All-Star break, taking full advantage of the unlimited minutes his head coach gave him. Fox wins this award mainly because he had plenty of chances to show off. With Adebayo, the Miami Heat were trying to make a playoff run and had to use Adebayo in more favorable situations whereas the Kings’ season was over before it even began. Even still, both of these 20-year olds are going to have bright futures.
Player to look forward to in 2019
There’s one player in particular that I think we should all be on the lookout for heading into next season. The sophomore campaign is going to be huge for Malik Monk. Monk, who was drafted with the 11th overall pick last season, struggled to see the floor during the first half of the season and even into the second half, as well. It wasn’t until the Charlotte Hornets were out of the playoff picture and backup point guard Michael Carter-Williams was injured that Monk began to get some consistent reps. But once he got them, he dazzled fans with high-level shooting exhibitions.
He only averaged 6.7 points per game on the season, but when we look at his numbers in March and April, we see what he can do when given the chance. In that month and a half time span, Monk averaged 12.1 points and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 40.3 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three. He finished the season on a hot streak, scoring at least 16 points in his last six games, including three straight games of at least 20 points. Charlotte’s head coach Steve Clifford was recently fired after the organization brought in a new General Manager. It’s unclear of the exact direction the team will take (to tank or not to tank, that is the question), but it will almost assuredly include Monk being a focus for the future. Hopefully, a new coach and new offensive system will allow Monk to thrive as the sniper he truly is.
First Team All BBNBA
Guard – John Wall (Washington Wizards)
Guard – Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
Forward – Enes Kanter (New York Knicks)
Forward – Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers)
Center – Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
Second Team All BBNBA
Guard – Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets)
Guard – Eric Bledsoe (Milwaukee Bucks)
Forward – Darius Miller (New Orleans Pelicans)
Forward – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Charlotte Hornets)
Center – Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)