Giannis, Luka, Rudy, Pascal: NBA awards show world has game
MIES (Switzerland) - The soaring level of global basketball was on display at the 2018-19 NBA awards gala as four international stars snatched up honors on a historical night.
The NBA awards in Los Angeles were highlighted by Greece superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo claiming the trophy for the Most Valuable Player. Slovenian sensation Luka Doncic picked up the Rookie of the Year award while Rudy Gobert of France won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year honor and Pascal Siakam of Cameroon was named the Most Improved Player.
Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
The 'Greek Freak' guided the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA's best record and the Eastern Conference Finals. He ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive efficiency and finished in the top three in Defensive Player of the Year voting. The 24-year-old, who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, became the first NBA player to win the MVP after claiming the NBA's Most Improved Award, which he won after the 2016-17 season.
Antetokounmpo is the second European to be named NBA MVP following Germany's Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks in 2007. He has represented the Greece national team since 2014, playing at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014, FIBA EuroBasket 2015 and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2016.
Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic, Slovenia
Doncic led the Dallas Mavericks in points (21.2) and assists (6.0) and was second in rebounds at 7.8 per game while finishing in the top 25 in the NBA in scoring. He claimed 98 of the 100 votes for the Rookie of the Year. Doncic made a sensational debut for the Slovenia national team a couple of years as well, guiding the country to its maiden FIBA EuroBasket title in 2017 and being named to the All-Star Five.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert, France
Gobert became the 10th player in NBA history to win the Defensive Player of the Year more than one. The France big man helped the Utah Jazz post the league's second-best defensive rating in 2018-19, while blocking the second-most shots in the league (187 - 2.3 per game). He also posted career highs in points per game (15.9), rebounds (12.9) and assists (2.0) while leading the league in field goal percentage (66.9 percent) and posting an NBA record with 306 slam dunks this season.
Gobert has long been a staple for the France national team defense as well, having played for Les Bleus since 2014, helping them to third place at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014. Gobert and France also took third at the FIBA EuroBasket 2015 and were sixth at the Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament 2016. He averaged in 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in two games in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers.
Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam, Cameroon
Siakam helped the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA championship this season as he averaged 16.9 points per game in his third year in the NBA, up from 7.3 points last season. Siakam has yet to play in a FIBA competition though he would be a major addition to Cameroon's long-term hopes.
He has previously told FIBA.basketball: "I would like to play for the senior national team. It's one of my career goals and it is on my mind. Every player wants to represent his country at international level and I would like to do so too."