NBA Playoff Awards: First Round

A forgettable first round has come and gone. Two sweeps and four “gentleman’s sweeps” sums up the competitiveness in the first round. There was some fun to be had, though, and we’re going to give out some awards for that fun. Some of these awards are your typical NBA awards (Rookie of the first round) and other ones are just for fun. Let’s do this thing.

PLAYOFF RONDO AWARD: Patrick Beverley

The playoff Rondo award goes out to the player who showed the most grit defensively in the first round, they also took their game to another level for the playoffs. The ‘playoff Rondo’ moniker became a meme when Rajon Rondo was a member of the Chicago Bulls in the 2016-17 season, his only season with the team. The team underperformed during the regular season and was tasked with taking down the Goliath Boston Celtics led by David-sized Isiah Thomas. The Bulls jumped out to a surprising 2-0 season lead almost entirely due to Rondo’s suffocating defense on IT. Playoff Rondo came back last season with the Pelicans, sweeping the 3rd seed Trail Blazers in a crazy upset. He silenced Damian Lillard. In the first round of the playoffs, the Playoff Rondo award goes to Patrick Beverley.

Yes, the Clippers were eliminated in the first round. But they made the reigning champions fight for it. What should have been one of the quickest series’ in the first round became one of the most fun to watch. A key part of that was PatBev’s defense. The Chicago native took turns guarding nearly every Warriors player on the floor and made waves for his annoying of Kevin Durant. He even got KD ejected in game one. He was taking people’s lunch and taking charges all over the place. He took his defense to another level and managed to piss off every Warriors player and fan in the process. He may be eliminated from this year’s playoffs but his performance is not forgotten.

MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Rudy Gobert

Mannnnnnnnnn is Gobert just a regular season player? This is the second straight year he has been schemed out of a playoff series. The reigning DPOY couldn’t stay on the floor against the Rockets who beat his Jazz in five games, a merciful game four win was all they could muster. He was a -10 for the season. The third straight playoffs he has been a net negative for his team. Seeing as he’s only played in three playoffs, this is not good. Should the Jazz look to trade Gobert? He’s one of their most important players during the regular season but three straight playoffs is no overreaction. Quin Snyder is one of the brightest coaches in the game, I don’t see any improvements coming from there. Derrick Favors was actually a net positive for the team this year, despite losing four out of five games. Should he be the starting center from here on out? The Jazz could probably get some good value for Gobert but it would be less than his value. The center market is at a surplus and every team must know about his limitations by now. Rudy Gobert was schemed out of the playoffs before Enes Kanter this year, never forget this.

Note: Some people might be asking for Westbrook in this spot. We knew his limitations already, this performance (obviously not at this magnitude) was expected.

FIRST ROUND MVP: Damian Lillard

Hooooooo boy Lillard is a bad man. He is the only player in NBA history with two series ending buzzer beaters. He capped his shot against the Thunder with a wave goodbye and one of the most memed camera shots of the playoffs thus far. OKC had no answer for him, allowing him to average 33 points per game in the series. He added 4.4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2.4 steals. The most impressive thing of his performances, though, was his growth from last year. OKC used the same scheme that the Pelicans (and playoff rondo!) used last year to sweep Lillard’s Blazers. A frenetic trapping scheme that completely neutered Lillard last year. He took notes. The scheme didn’t come close to working this year and Lillard made them pay every time they tried to trap him. Go ahead and give him the Most Improved of the playoffs as well. The Nuggets (who had troubles with Derrick White) have their hands full in the next round. If it was ever going to be the Blazers’ season, it’s this one.

ROOKIE OF THE FIRST ROUND: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai was the only rookie starting point guard in the first round. He was tasked against the Golden State Warriors, also known as winners of the last two championships. He was guarded by either Steph Curry or Klay Thompson for a majority of the series, two well-known defenders. He could have easily buckled under the pressure. He could have played fine and still would have gotten praise for being so young. But he held his own. His stats for the series: 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1 steal. He also shot 50% from three. He’s 20. Yes, I know those numbers aren’t massive and the Clippers were eliminated. But I was thoroughly impressed by his poise on the floor. He never looked overwhelmed against the behemoth. He can get to the rim effortlessly and flashed a legit shooting touch in the playoffs. He has the brightest future at the position from this draft (S/O Sexton).

Note: I so badly wanted to write about Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell in this article, but I had too many Clippers for an eliminated team already. Just know they won the “Deadliest Pick and Roll Award”.

COMEBACK PLAYER: Kawhi Leonard

Why the NBA doesn’t actually give out this award is a shock to me. Maybe they think it’s too close to Most Improved. Just reserve it for players coming back from injury, whatever. Mine is Kawhi Leonard. The man played almost none of last season and regardless if it was from injury or other reasons he was still missing for nearly a year. He hasn’t missed a step. He and the Raptors beat the Magic four straight times after Toronto’s annual game 1 loss. He looks so dangerous, dropping 30.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. He has the third-best efficiency out of all playoff teams. He has been the best two-way player in these playoffs and shows no signs of slowing down. Meanwhile, San Antonio lost their first series in seven games and DeMar DeRozan was a net negative for the series. I wonder who won that trade.

That wraps up the first round awards for this years NBA playoffs. The second round should be more competitive and has been touted as ‘the best second round in NBA history’. Let’s hope it lives up to the hype.

  
Agu is a Junior at Marquette University pursuing a Business Management Major with a Spanish Business Minor. He is a Milwaukee native and somehow survived 10 years of mediocrity from his hometown team, the Milwaukee Bucks, and is now writing about them in the midst of their best season. He is new on the scene with no credentials but hopes to have a light Wikipedia page in the future.

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