Exciting night ahead for African talent
The 2019 NBA Awards will take place this evening, 3am CAT to be exact, and there is hope that two of the top African players in the league will be presented with accolades at the prestigious occasion.
The third edition of the ceremony, which will honour the top performers from the 2018-19 regular season, will be hosted at the Barker Hangar in Los Angeles, California.
The main awards for the night will be the Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man Award, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year.
Of the six top awards, African names appear on three of the finalist lists. Nigerian-Greek forward and leader of the Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo is in line to win the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) awards, while Cameroonian forward and current NBA champion Pascal Siakam is one of the frontrunners for the Most Improved Player award.
Popular opinion is that the MVP race is a two-horse race between James Harden and Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game, while Harden led the league in scoring at 36 points per game while also managing in 7.5 assists, 6.6 rebounds and two assists per game.
According to Basketball Reference, Antetokounmpo has a 48.1 percent chance to win, while Harden has 29.3 percent.
Both players were instrumental in leading their teams to great regular season performances, but Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to 60 wins along with the number one overall seed, while the Rockets finished fifth, seven games behind the Bucks.
However, on the back of another strong season the current MVP has a strong case as well. Harden had 32 consecutive games with 30 or more points and nine games with 50 points (the most since Kobe Bryant during the 2006-07 season), Harden became the first NBA player to score 30 or more points against all 29 other teams in one season.
However, despite another MVP worthy season by Harden, many believe this is Antetokounmpo’s time to lift the trophy.
In what also seems to be a race between two players, Pascal Siakam is up against Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell, who also had a breakout season, for the Most Improved Player accolade.
However, when it comes to all-round improvement, Siakam had a bigger jump than Russell. The big man from Douala more than doubled his production for the Raptors and established himself as a starter.
He averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists in the 2018-19 season, up from 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists the season before, where he only started in only five games. Besides his presence in the paint, Siakam’s three-point shooting jumped from 21.6 percent to 36.8 percent.
Although the final results are yet to be announced, based on numbers alone, tonight could see two African players winning NBA awards.
Additional stats for this articles were sourced from NBA.com and Basketball Reference.