2019 PBT Awards: Most Valuable Player

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Kurt Helin

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Paul George, Thunder

4. Kevin Durant, Warriors

5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

It’s incredibly close between Antetokounmpo and Harden. I eventually leaned toward the Greek Freak because while Rockets’ system is built around Harden and he has to be otherworldly for them to be a contender — and he did that for much of the year — the Bucks’ system is similarly built around Antetokounmpo and his inability to be stopped one-on-one (they just surround him with shooters). Combine that with Antetokounmpo’s superior defense and he just slightly ahead in one of the hardest decisions to make.

Dan Feldman

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Paul George, Thunder

4. Stephen Curry, Warriors

5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

In some ways, MVP is a product of circumstance. I choose MVP based on which player contributes the most during the regular season. Even among the NBA’s top players, some have more opportunities to produce than others – and therefore an advantage for my MVP pick.

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo both had huge opportunities to produce this season – but for very different reasons. The Bucks built their offense and defense around Antetokounmpo’s incredible talent. The Rockets, because of injuries and depth issues, needed Harden to completely carry them for a while.

Both players delivered, and I went back and forth on my pick several times. This race was even tighter than Russell Westbrook-Harden a couple years ago.

Ultimately, Antetokounmpo’s defense put him over the top. He’s close enough to Harden offensively that the massive gap on the other end made the difference. That this was so close is a tribute to Harden’s historically great offensive season.

Not much separated Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant. Nikola Jokic also drew strong consideration.

Dane Delgado

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks

2. James Harden, Rockets

3. Paul George, Thunder

4. Stephen Curry, Warriors

5. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Antetokounmpo is this season’s MVP. That’s because the MVP is not an award based strictly in numbers, no matter how much the fans or front office in Houston wish it were. The MVP is about narrative, and the narrative of Antetokounmpo rising from a wiry young prospect to the league’s best two-way player is the most compelling one at hand. Harden may be having a historical offense of season, but the narrative around him is that he’s still an absolute chore to watch play basketball. If anything, George is a more complete, interesting watch and he could have taken the second spot save for Harden’s unparalleled efficiency. James Harden may be a mathematically perfect basketball player on offense, but god help you if you like watching him outside of a highlight package.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers


The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.

NBA plans for 2023-24 include in-season tournament (if approved)

2022 NBA Finals - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
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The NBA is planning for the inaugural version of its in-season tournament – should it become reality – to begin early next season, according to a memo sent to teams.

If the tournament is approved, 80 regular-season games for each team would be announced in August, with two more games set to be scheduled depending on which eight teams make the tournament’s knockout stage. Those games would be added in-season to the schedule.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has pushed for the past several years for the in-season event to be added. Talks have gone on about it since at least 2016, and in 2019 the league even created a proposal in which teams would play eight divisional games in the group stage, followed by quarterfinals for the top eight clubs and then semifinals and finals at a neutral site in December.

That evidently remains the footprint. Teams, in Wednesday’s memo, were told to plan for tournament quarterfinal games in early December 2023 – again, the caveat being that the event has yet to be approved.

“It’s something that I remain excited about,” Silver said in September. “I think it continues to be an opportunity within the current footprint of our season to create some more meaningful games, games of consequence, during an otherwise long regular season. … I think fans might really ultimately enjoy another competition during the season, some sort of cup competition. Certainly not rising to the level of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, yet something else significant to play for.”

Silver has often compared the notion of an in-season tournament to what is commonly seen in European soccer.

“It’s all about fan interest,” Denver coach Michael Malone said Wednesday night. “I know they do this a lot in soccer around the world, these in-season tournaments. I don’t know how it’s going to work, the details of it. But if it’s good for the game and the league supports it, obviously all 30 teams and all 30 head coaches will be on board as well. ”

The scheduling process for next season starts with teams telling the league what dates their home arena is available. The NBA wants that list by Dec. 9; the process continues for the next several months.

Wednesday’s memo included clarity on several key dates for the 2023-24 season. Training camps will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 3 for most teams, except those participating in overseas preseason games; they can open camp on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The season begins Oct. 24 and ends April 14, 2024. The play-in tournament will be April 16-19, 2024, and that means that season’s playoffs would begin on April 20.

Three things to know: Royalty shows up to watch Tatum, Celtics, this season’s NBA royalty

The Prince And Princess Of Wales Visit Boston - Day 1
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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Royalty shows up to watch Tatum, Celtics, this season’s NBA royalty

When you’re the Prince and Princess of Wales, there’s no casually just going out to catch a game.

Cell phone cameras were out in the TD Garden as Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton took in the Celtics’ game against the Heat Wednesday night.

(In case you’re curious, the royals are in Boston for the Earthshot Prize, a competition on ways to reduce climate change.)

The royal couple saw this season’s NBA royalty: Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics. Tatum put on a display for the guests from England, scoring 49 and leading Boston past Miami for the win. And he wasn’t waiting around to do it.

Tatum got some help from Malcolm Brogdon, who has been hot of late and added 21 points, including five 3-pointers.

The Heat, playing again without Jimmy Butler, got another strong game from Bam Adebayo, who finished with 23, as did former Celtics player Max Strus, who had five 3-pointers of his own. Tyler Herro added 22 points.

But Miami couldn’t slow the royalty that is the Celtics’ offense. When Boston gets Robert Williams back — which could be sooner than expected, coach Joe Mazzulla suggested — this team becomes the clear title favorites this season,

2) Devin Booker drops 51 the Bulls’ “defense”

To be fair, every team has trouble slowing Devin Booker, he’s one of the best bucket-getters in the league — and he was feeling it against Chicago. Booker scored a season-high 51 points in just three quarters on Wednesday night.

“It felt like a double-sized rim out there,” Booker told the AP after the game. “If I rise up, it’s going in.”

However, part of the reason Booker got going (and the Suns won 132-113) was a terrible defensive performance from the Bulls. Coach Billy Donovan kept trying different defenses — aggressive man defense, blitz doubles, even a box-and-one at one point — but his team executed its help defense poorly all night and paid the price.

Frustration grew all night long with the Bulls. Usually zen Nikola Vucevic let teammates have it, Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan had some heated words over a blown coverage, and Donovan even glared at Ayo Dosunmu, normally one of his better defenders. It was an unimpressive outing from the Bulls and Booker took advantage and put on a show.

3) Russell Westbrook drains two wild buzzer-beaters in Lakers win

You know it’s your night when Russell Westbrook is draining buzzer-beaters. Plural. Not one but two for the Lakers against the shorthanded Trail Blazers.

In addition to Westbrook’s bombs, the Lakers got what they needed to pick up the win: 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves pitched in 22, and the Lakers took control of the game in the third quarter and cruised to another win.

And for the second straight game, a Laker fan drained a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

Everybody was hitting from half-court in Los Angeles.

Watch Devin Booker drop 51 points in 3 quarters, Suns rout Bulls


PHOENIX — Devin Booker made the Chicago Bulls pay for some mediocre defense with a couple early mid-range jumpers. Then he made a few more. And a few more.

Suddenly, it was one of those nights for the Suns All-Star guard.

“It felt like a double-sized rim out there,” Booker said. “If I rise up, it’s going in.”

Booker scored a season-high 51 points in just three quarters, Deandre Ayton had 30 points and 14 rebounds and Phoenix stretched its winning streak to six games with a 132-113 victory Wednesday night.

Booker scored 25 points in the first half and had 26 more in a sublime third quarter that included 10 of 11 shooting. After a contested 3-pointer splashed through the net, “MVP! MVP!” chants broke out across Footprint Center, and the 26-year-old is certainly making an early season case.

“It’s the best,” Booker said about the home crowd. “I don’t know how many sellout crowds that is in a row, but it’s impressive. Mondays, Tuesdays, Saturdays, it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. They show up and show out.”

The two-time All-Star had a steal late in the third before sprinting downcourt and flushing home a dunk for his 50th and 51st points. He added six assists and four rebounds.

“A guy like that gets in a rhythm and it’s too late,” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said. “He gets it going and it’s over.”

Booker didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the Suns holding a healthy lead.

Even more remarkable than Booker’s point total was his efficiency. He shot 20 of 25 from the field, going 6 of 7 from 3-point range. He is the second player over the last 25 years with 50 points and 80% shooting through the first three quarters of a game, joining James Harden in 2017, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

“There’s not a level where he can’t score,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “He can use both hands, he can score with a hand in his face and he’s willing to take the tough shots.”

It was Booker’s second straight 40-point game. He had 44 in a victory at Sacramento on Monday night. The Suns have the best record in the Western Conference at 15-6 and have won 12 out of 13 home games.

The Bulls struggled on defense the entire night, particularly against Booker and Ayton. Chicago coach Billy Donovan was particularly irritated in the third quarter, angrily calling a time out after Phoenix scored a couple of easy buckets.

DeMar DeRozan led Chicago with 29 points. Zach LaVine added 21.