NBA Awards: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic lead winners of league's biggest honors

The NBA’s elite turned up in Los Angeles to see Shaquille O’Neal rap and the NBA’s major awards handed out, capping off a wild year in the league.

The league MVP was won by a player who is still only 24, the Rookie of the Year saw its first European recipient since Pau Gasol and two awards saw back-to-back winners.

Giannis Antetokounmpo win Most Valuable Player

After dripping with potential for years, Giannis Antetokounmpo finally received his official coronation as one of the premier talents in the league as the 2019 Most Valuable Player.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while shooting a mind-boggling 57.8 percent from the field. The Greek Freak was strong enough on defense to garner a Defensive Player of the Year nomination (more on that below) and was the dominant force behind the NBA’s best record in the regular season.

The most exciting part about Antetkounmpo’s win is that at only 24 years old, we still might only be seeing the beginning of a reign atop the league.

Antetokounmpo faced a strong challenge from Houston Rockets guard James Harden and his mind-boggling 36.1 points per game. That average beat second place by more than eight points. Still, Antetokounmpo’s dominance on defense and on the boards ended up giving him the win.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George was the other finalist, and might have been a stronger contender had it not been for a midseason shoulder injury.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo through his career
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Giannis Antetokounmpo through his career
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 27: Giannis Antetokounmpo shakes hands with NBA Commissioner, David Stern after being selected number fifteen overall by the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2013 NBA Draft on June 27, 2013 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 27: Giannis Antetokounmpo poses for a portrait after being selected during the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 27, 2013 in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dec 11, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reaches for a rebound during the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at BMO Harris Bradley Center. San Antonio won 109-77. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 20, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives to the basket against New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) in the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives past New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith (8) in the 4th quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 3, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight (11) celebrates withy guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) and center Zaza Pachulia (27) after shooting the game-winning three point basket in the final seconds against the New York Knicks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks beat the Knicks 101-98. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots the ball as Brooklyn Nets guard Deron Williams (8) defends in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots in the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks in the third quarter during the game against the Denver Nuggets at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks beat the Nuggets 92-74. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
December 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors forward Brandon Rush (4) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 23, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) reacts after scoring a basket in the second quarter during the game against the Houston Rockets at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 3, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) looks to pass against Brooklyn Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (24) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dribbles the ball past Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5) in the first quarter in game two of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Greek basketball players, brothers Thanassis (L) and Giannis (R) Antetokounmpo attend an event at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens, Greece, June 24, 2017. Picture taken June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Michalis Karagiannis
Oct 20, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) dunks the basket in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
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Rudy Gobert wins Defensive Player of the Year

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert won the Defensive Player of the Year award thanks to a dominating presence in the paint. Gobert finished second in the league in blocks with 187 while also averaging 12.9 rebounds per game.

Gobert is the first back-to-back winner of the award since Kawhi Leonard three years ago. He also set the NBA record for dunks in a season, which has nothing to do with defense but is still pretty cool.

Gobert beat out fellow finalists Antetokounmpo and George, but the pair likely had a bigger award on their mind.

Mike Budenholzer wins Coach of the Year

For taking the Milwaukee Bucks from the middle of the Eastern Conference to the best record in the NBA, Mike Budenholzer was awarded Coach of the Year.

Budenholzer took over a team that finished seventh in the East last season at 44-38 after firing Jason Kidd, and soon presided over a team that led the NBA in defensive rating and watched Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise as one of the top players in the league.

Obviously, votes for the award were cast before the playoffs, where Budenholzer and the Bucks fell to Nick Nurse’s Toronto Raptors.

Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone and Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers were the other finalists for the award.

Lou Williams wins Sixth Man of the Year

For the third time in his career, Lou Williams won the Sixth Man of the Year, tying Jamal Crawford for most times ever winning the award.

“You can never have too many of these, right?” Williams said after winning the award.

Williams averaged 20.0 points per game off the bench for a Los Angeles Clippers team that surged into the playoffs after trading away star Tobias Harris. Funnily enough, this is also the fourth time in six years that a Clipper won the award.

WIlliams blew away the field with 96 out of 100 first-place votes. The other finalists were Clippers center Montrezl Harrell and Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis.

Pascal Siakam wins Most Improved Player

Given that votes are made before the playoffs, it should tell you something how good Pascal Siakam was to win Most Improved Player.

The Raptors forward averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists during the regular season, then helped push the Raptors to their first championship in franchise history. Pretty good for a guy who averaged only 7.3 points per game last year and was taken late in the first round out of New Mexico State during the 2016 NBA draft.

Siakam gave a moving speech while accepting the award, remembering the support he received from his father.

Siakam received 86 first-place votes. Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell (12 first place-votes) and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (one first-place vote) were the other finalists, and Derrick Rose also received a first place vote.

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Toronto Raptors 2019 championship parade
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Toronto Raptors 2019 championship parade
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard raises the trophy on top of the bus during the Toronto Raptors Championship parade on June 13, 2019 in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- JUNE 17 - Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) as the Toronto Raptors hold their victory parade after beating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in Toronto. June 17, 2019. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Fans cheer as they wait for the Toronto Raptors Championship parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- JUNE 17 - Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) as the Toronto Raptors hold their victory parade after beating the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in Toronto. June 17, 2019. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Toronto Raptors player Pascal Siakam rides on the bus during the Toronto Raptors Championship parade on June 13, 2019 in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard takes a selfie holding his playoffs MVP trophy during the NBA basketball championship team's victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy up for the fans during the NBA basketball championship team's victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, left, holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy as forward Kawhi Leonard holds his playoffs MVP trophy during the NBA basketball championship team's victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Raptors fans celebrate during the NBA basketball championship team's victory parade in Toronto, Monday, June 17, 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Luka Doncic wins Rookie of the Year

Luka Doncic had some strong competition, but the Dallas Mavericks guard’s well-rounded game unsurprisingly ended up winning out in the Rookie of the Year race.

The Slovenian star won the 2019 Rookie of the Year award on Monday after averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists while establishing himself as the foundation of the Mavericks’ future.

Doncic was a nearly unanimous as the Rookie of the Year, winning 98 of 100 first place votes.

The Mavericks reached an agreement to acquire Doncic from the Atlanta Hawks after he went third overall in the 2018 NBA draft. The price — 2018 fifth overall pick Trae Young and 2019 10th overall pick Cameron Reddish — was significant, but few in Dallas are complaining about the team’s new core going forward.

Funnily enough, it was Young who finished second in the Rookie of the Year race after averaging 19.1 points and 8.1 assists per game. Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton was the other finalist, with Memphis Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Collin Sexton rounding out the top 5.

Mike Conley, Bradley Beal among other winners

In addition to the above awards, the NBA handed out the following minor awards at the show:

  • Hustle Award: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

  • Sportsmanship Award: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

  • Teammate of the Year: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

  • Moment of the Year: Derrick Rose going for 50, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Community Assist Award: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

  • Sager Strong: Robin Roberts, ABC

  • Executive of the Year: Jon Horst, Milwaukee Bucks

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

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