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Associated Press picks: The NBA award winners are … unclear

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (0) and Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) talk on the court after an NBA basketball game in Houston, Sunday, March 26, 2017. Both players are prime candidates for the MVP award. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)
Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (0) and Houston Rockets’ James Harden (13) talk on the court after an NBA basketball game in Houston, Sunday, March 26, 2017. Both players are prime candidates for the MVP award. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

It was so easy last year.

Stephen Curry was the unanimous Most Valuable Player, Karl-Anthony Towns was the unanimous Rookie of the Year, and most of the other NBA award races turned out to be very one-sided when the votes were counted.

That was then.

Here’s this year’s reality: When three NBA writers from The Associated Press made their picks, they were unanimous on nothing. And in two of six categories, everybody voted for someone different.

For the first time, the NBA will release all the award results on the same night – in a televised special June 26 in New York, instead of revealing winners sporadically throughout the playoffs.

And this year, intrigue will not be in short supply.

So in this, our final edition of “Around The NBA” for this season, AP Basketball Writers Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis, Brian Mahoney in New York and Tim Reynolds in Miami tell you their picks:

Most Valuable Player

Krawczynski: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City. At least four players have legitimate claim. When we look back on this season in 10 years, Westbrook’s performance will be the one everyone still talks about.

Mahoney: James Harden, Houston. Slightest edge over Russell Westbrook after playing a brilliant, all-around game at a new position to make the Rockets one of the best teams in the NBA.

Reynolds: LeBron James, Cleveland. You can argue for Russell Westbrook and make all the sense in the world. Same goes for James Harden, same goes for Kawhi Leonard. It was an MVP race like perhaps none other. But the MVP should go to the best player. Triple-doubles be damned, that’s still LeBron James.

Rookie of the Year

Krawczynski: Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee. Others, including Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, were flashier. But no one was more consistent all year long and had a bigger impact on a playoff-bound team.

Mahoney: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia. Yes, it was only 31 games, but when Embiid played he made the 76ers matter and sometimes made them pretty good, and neither has happened much in Philadelphia the last few years.

Reynolds: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia. I think there should be a minimum-games requirement, and if one existed the pick here would be Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon – whose value to the Bucks cannot be overstated. But even in 31 games, Embiid’s numbers were just that good.

And the consensus on some other awards:

Sixth Man of the Year

Eric Gordon, Houston. Harden has been great, but Gordon’s renaissance in his first year in Houston has been a major factor for the Rockets’ improvement as well.

Defensive Player of the Year

Rudy Gobert, Utah. Scoring often looks like it’s gotten easier in the NBA but that doesn’t seem to be the case around the center for the team that allows the fewest points per game in the league.

Coach of the Year

Mike D’Antoni, Houston. The Rockets were a mess last season. He came in, installed Harden as his point guard and has galvanized a team that entered the season with low expectations.


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