With the playoffs inching closer and the end of the NBA season upon us, there’s been one debate that has taken over the league – NBA awards. Whether it be the MVP, Rookie of the Year, or Defensive Player of the Year, everyone has their own opinion on which players should win each award.
Each award has a bunch of different candidates who have a realistic shot at taking home the trophy. And with how well the Boston Celtics have played during the second half of the season, a few players on the roster have entered their names into the ring.
On an April 5 edition of Celtics Post Up, NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg lobbied for four different Celtics to earn NBA honors this season. He argued that Robert Williams should make All-Defensive First Team, Jayson Tatum should make All-NBA First Team, Ime Udoka should win Coach of the Year, and Brad Stevens should win Executive of the Year.
Forsberg’s Case for Each Celtics Candidate
Starting with Williams, Forsberg brought up the fact that opponents shoot a whopping seven percent worse when defended by him. Thaference leads the entire league.
“Rob is the leader in the NBA for all players with at least 500 shots defended,” Forsberg pointed out. “Better than Gobert, better than ‘Triple J’ in Memphis, like all the other all defense candidates.”
Forsberg also mentioned that, if Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid can be voted onto All-NBA teams as forwards, then Williams should get that same treatment. With how flexible voting has become, Williams should be eligible to receive votes at the forward position.
For Tatum’s All-NBA First Team case, Forsberg turned to point differential. He noted how much better the Celtics are with Tatum on the court this year.
“Plus 13.5,” Forsberg proclaimed. “That is the net rating differential for Jayson Tatum this year Essentially, Tatum is plus 11.5 when he’s on the court. So the Celtics are 11 .5 points per 100 possessions better than the other team when he’s out there. When he’s not out there, it drops to -2.0. So they are 13.5 points better overall.”
He went on to state how the only player ahead of Tatum in terms of net rating differential is Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets. Tatum is ahead of guys like Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets, and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Next up, Forsberg argued that Udoka’s ability to improve Boston’s playmaking is a primary reason for his Coach of the Year candidacy. Forsberg reflected on one of Udoka’s first promises as head coach during his argument:
Ime Udoka’s first press conference, what did he say? ‘Brad Stevens, 27th in assists percentage last year? That is unacceptable.’ Pretty much calls out his new boss. But then he had to go out there and show it, and for the first half of the season, the Celtics weren’t great at it. But now, that ball is whipping, around Ime has gotten every single player on the roster to buy in. We’ve seen Jaylen Brown go up as a facilitator, Jayson Tatum has gone up to levels as a playmaker, Marcus Smart is completely bought in, and now the Celtics are whole. And part of the reason they have the number one offense in the league since January 23 is that ball movement.
Lastly, Forsberg looked at the multitude of moves Stevens made in his first year as President of Basketball Operations. It was no easy task, but he took on the challenge with a full head of steam.
“Brad had to hire the coach,” Forsberg began. “He makes the mid-season trade to get Derrick White which, again, took some gumption, because you had to give up a pick, you had to give him a future pick-swap. These were not easy moves to make, and Brad could have like, just kind of eased into this new role. No, he was like full leaps, flames coming everywhere. He was willing to give this team the best chance to make it work.”
Forsberg also brought up the Al Horford trade from this past offseason, where Stevens traded Kemba Walker and a first-round pick to bring back a player who has become crucial to Boston’s defensive system.
Celtics’ Competition In Award Races
As mentioned, guys like Gobert, Adebayo, and Embiid could stand in the way of Williams making All-Defensive First Team. And even if he does become eligible at the forward position, he’d have to go up against players such as Antetokounmpo, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mikal Bridges.
For Tatum, the competition is just as stiff. With both Jokic and Embiid eligible at forward, it’s very possible that both could end up on All-NBA First Team. Add in Antetokounmpo to the mix, and that would be both forward positions already filled up. Tatum is eligible to make the team as a guard, but most voters will likely pick him as a forward.
There are also plenty of coaches who have a chance to win Coach of the Year this season. Taylor Jenkins has done incredible things in Memphis, J.B. Bickerstaff helped accelerate the Cleveland Cavaliers’ timeline tenfold, and Monty Williams led the Phoenix Suns to their best regular season in franchise history. Udoka has been phenomenal, but so have a ton of coaches around the league.
Stevens, however, might have a much clearer path to winning Executive of the Year. Elton Brand could have a case for pulling off the James Harden trade, Zachary Kleiman assembled an amazing Grizzlies roster, and Andy Elisburg did a great job of finding hidden gems for Miami’s roster. But when it comes to the perfect mix of trades, signings, and extensions, Stevens’ year has been toward the top of the pack.
With how tight every award race is right now, anything could happen. Boston has a ton of guys in the running to take home an award, and with how great they’ve been as of late, dominating the NBA Awards would be the perfect storybook ending (outside of an NBA Championship).