During Monday’s NBA Awards, it was announced that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was named the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season.
Gobert, who was also named to the 2017-18 All-NBA Defensive First Team, becomes the second Jazz player to ever win the accolade, joining Mark Eaton who garnered the award in 1985 and 1989.
After missing 15 games from Dec. 16 to Jan. 17 with injury, Gobert returned to the lineup on Jan. 19, playing in every game to finish the season. After Gobert’s late January return, the Jazz posted the second best record in the NBA (30-8), the best defensive rating in the NBA (97.5), the best net rating (10.8), the lowest opponent scoring average (97.4) and were tied for the lowest opponent field goal percentage during that stretch (.431). The 7-1 center averaged the most contested shots per game (15.0) on the year and had the second-most blocked shots in the NBA after the All-Star break (55).
Led by Gobert, the Jazz had a top-five defense for the second-straight season with a defensive rating of 101.6, the second best rating in the NBA and had the fifth-best net rating in the NBA (4.6) in 2017-18. On the year Gobert owned averages of 13.5 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.4 assists in 32.4 minutes per contest.
A native of France, Gobert becomes the fifth international player to ever garner Defensive Player of the Year, joining Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Dikembe Mutombo (Dem. Republic of Congo), Marc Gasol (Spain) and Joakim Noah (France).
Other finalists for the award included New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
James Harden of the Houston Rockets was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, beating out four-time winner LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Pelicans at the NBA Awards on Monday night.
Harden joined Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and 1.7 steals in a season.
He led the league in scoring, 3-pointers and 50-point games with four while helping the Rockets to an NBA-leading 65 wins.
James didn’t attend the show in Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport amid speculation about his future. He has until Friday to tell the Cavaliers if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or opt for free agency.
Harden, who is from Los Angeles, led his mother on stage before he accepted the trophy from Commissioner Adam Silver.
“I’m not going to get emotional,” he said from behind dark sunglasses. “She’s my backbone in good times and bad times.”
Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers won Rookie of the Year.
The guard averaged 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, joining Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only rookies to post those numbers in a season.
Simmons helped Philadelphia to a 52-30 record, including ending the season with a 16-game winning streak.
He beat out finalists Donovan Mitchell of Utah and Jayson Tatum of Boston.
Guard Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers earned Most Improved Player.
He averaged 23.1 points in his first season with the Pacers while nabbing his first All-Star berth. He also led the league in steals for the first time.
Lou Williams of the Los Angeles Clippers took Sixth Man honors.
The guard became the first player to average at least 20 points for the first time in his 13th season or later. He led the league in fourth-quarter points and scoring average.
Williams kissed his two young daughters on his way to the stage after becoming the Clippers’ third winner in the last five years.
Dwane Casey was chosen Coach of the Year for his work with the Toronto Raptors, who fired him last month. He has since become coach of the Detroit Pistons.
“Can’t look in the rear view mirror,” Casey said backstage. “Winston Churchill said success is measured by failure, failure, and then come back with enthusiasm, and that’s what I’ve done.”
Casey led the Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time in franchise history after winning a team-record 59 games. Casey coached the East in the All-Star Game for the first time.
Casey won over Quin Snyder of Utah and Brad Stevens of Boston.
Robertson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from presenters Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
After Barkley mentioned last year’s recipient Bill Russell, Boston’s Hall of Fame center flipped his middle finger in Barkley’s direction.
Robertson is the career leader in triple-doubles and was the first player to average one for a season. His antitrust case against the NBA also ushered in free agency for players, which Robertson said was his most important assist.
Backstage, Robertson commended the activism of today’s players, although he wondered why more white athletes aren’t speaking out.
“The only thing that really bothers me is where are the white athletes when this is happening?” he said. “This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It’s all around.”
Robertson went on to say he hopes “the whites and the blacks get together, even with the football,” a reference to NFL players who have taken a knee or sat in silence during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.