We have compiled a list of all the award winners during the 2008 season, a year filled with player movement and a ton of drama. This was the season where Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce in Boston, and the Celtics later won the NBA title by defeating Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals. By gathering the winners and the runner-ups for all major awards, it is time to revisit history during the 2007-2008 season.
Most of the award races were tight for the majority of the season but some award races (including Rookie of the Year) were not very close at all. Some names were expected to win a particular award due to their track record in the NBA, but others might have flown under the radar. To revisit one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, the list of these award winners will showcase the playing power of multiple All-Stars during that time.
Most Valuable Player - Kobe Bryant
2nd place: Chris Paul; 3rd place: Kevin Garnett
This was the season that the great Kobe Bryant finally won an MVP Award because he was long overdue. Many fans and pundits claim that Steve Nash stole an MVP from Bryant because the shooting guard was the most unstoppable player in the game during his time. Offensively, we hadn’t seen a player as skilled as Bryant since Michael Jordan hung up his shoes. But losing games and not having a winning team came against Kobe because he had to struggle with a poor roster for years after Shaquille O’Neal was traded.
Once the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol, everything changed. The Lakers found Kobe some help, Phil Jackson built the team by bringing in some veterans and hustle players, and the team finished with a Western Conference-leading record. Kobe was spectacular, averaging 28.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 5.4 APG. He was hell-bent on winning his 4th championship, although he would come up short against a superteam Boston Celtics led by Defensive Player of the Year, Kevin Garnett. Because Kobe finally got help and had a winning record (57-25 which was the #1 seed in the West), he earned his long overdue MVP Award ahead of superstars Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett.
Defensive Player Of The Year - Kevin Garnett
2nd place: Marcus Camby; 3rd place: Shane Battier
There was stiff competition for the Defensive Player of the Year award, mainly because blocks leader Marcus Camby and lockdown perimeter defender Shane Battier were so impactful for their teams. Camby averaged 3.6 BPG, an extraordinary number for a strong Denver Nuggets squad that finished with a 50-32 record. Battier averaged 1.0 SPG and 1.1 BPG, although his impact came in the way of defending 3 positions at an elite level. But there is no doubt Kevin Garnett had the biggest defensive impact.
The Celtics made massive moves to acquire Garnett and Ray Allen to pair with Paul Pierce, but the big man was simply the biggest player during the regular season. He put up 1.4 SPG and 1.3 BPG, and his raw intensity on defense made the Celtics horrifying on defense. Garnett’s presence in the paint forced many players to alter their shots and even force perimeter shots because running into The Big Ticket often meant a solid contest or a blocked shot. Already making All-Defensive Teams in his career, Garnett solidified himself as one of the greatest defenders ever by capturing the elusive DPOY Award.
Rookie Of The Year - Kevin Durant
2nd place: Al Horford; 3rd place: Luis Scola
Easily the most lopsided award race, Kevin Durant completely ran away with Rookie of the Year. It came to nobody’s surprise because the forward was exceptional as a 19-year-old offensive phenom with a scary skillset. Even if he did not make an All-Star until his 3rd season, Durant was already a star from the first minute he stepped on a professional basketball court. The forward averaged 20.3 PPG and 4.4 RPG on 43.0% FG shooting. Even if Durant was razor-thin with zero physical strength, he showed outwardly athleticism and scoring ability at many points during the season. Of course, this was the last season where the Seattle SuperSonics would exist, becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder the following year.
Al Horford had a solid rookie season, putting up 10.1 PPG and 9.7 RPG for the Atlanta Hawks, good enough for the All-Rookie Team. The big man shot a cool 49.9% from the field and showed defensive prowess as a rim protector and capable help defender (0.7 SPG and 0.9 BPG). A 27-year-old Luis Scola was also in the running for Rookie of the Year, because the big man was very experienced due to time abroad in Spain as a professional basketball player. Scola put up 10.3 PPG and 6.4 RPG for the Houston Rockets, making the All-Rookie Team. While Horford and Scola were great, Durant was exceptional and ran away with the ROY award.
Sixth Man Of The Year - Manu Ginobili
2nd place: Leandro Barbosa; 3rd place: Jason Terry
The Sixth Man of the Year award was interesting for most of the season, thanks to the growing presence of Leandro Barbosa and Jason Terry as capable scorers off the bench. But future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili was exceptional in 2008, averaging a career-high 19.5 PPG on 46.0% despite only starting 23 games during the season. Despite his All-Star capabilities, he accepted a bench role to help the Spurs blitz teams when he came on the court. With the utmost trust of Gregg Popovich, Ginobili earned his respect by winning 6th Man of the Year.
Credit needs to go to Leandro Barbosa, who was the reigning 6th Man of the Year from the 2007 season. The guard was special in 2008, putting up 15.6 PPG off the Phoenix Suns bench a year after putting up a career-high 18.1 PPG. The speedy guard was an amazing contributor for a contending Suns team, and so was a 30-year-old Jason Terry. Terry put up 15.5 PPG for the Mavericks, nailing 37.5% of his threes. As great as Barbosa and Terry were, they could not keep up with Manu’s scoring ability as part of a Big Three with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Most Improved Player - Hedo Turkoglu
2nd place: Rudy Gay; 3rd place: LaMarcus Aldridge
The Most Improved Player of the Year race was extremely close because 3 players truly deserved it. Hedo Turkoglu had not averaged 15 PPG once in his career before the 2008 season when he put up 19.5 PPG and 5.7 RPG as a member of the Orlando Magic. The Turkish forward was an amazing all-around player, helping the Magic start improving around Dwight Howard before their Finals run a year later. But Turkoglu had stiff competition from an athletic swingman and a budding All-Star big man.
Rudy Gay went from averaging 10.8 PPG and 4.5 RPG in his rookie season to 20.1 PPG and 6.2 RPG the following season, as his minutes jumped from 27 MPG to 37 MPG. Analysts argued that Gay’s stats jumped because he started getting starter’s minutes, and he also attempted nearly 17 shots per game. Memphis force-fed Gay at times, although the young man certainly delivered. LaMarcus Aldridge also took a massive leap, averaging 17.8 PPG and 7.6 RPG after putting up 9.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG in his rookie season. Despite the jump in numbers by both players, Turkoglu’s impact for a contending team earned him the Most Improved Player award.
Coach Of The Year - Byron Scott
In his first All-Star season in the NBA, Chris Paul led the league in assists per game as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. The point guard averaged 11.6 APG and would go on to lead the league in APG 3 other times after an amazing run with the Hornets as a youngster. The 6’0” point guard led the league in assists in 2008 as a 22-year-old, and also led the league in steals. CP3 also led the Hornets to a 56-26 record which was good for 2nd in the Western Conference. Alongside All-Star David West, Chris Paul was a dominant force on the court because the team went as Chris Paul went, and the point guard’s playmaking skills made him one of the best players in the league during the 2007-2008 NBA season.
But this award was all about Byron Scott, the man who formulated a tremendous offense with Paul at the helm. Scott was the undisputed leader for the franchise that finished 2nd in the Western Conference, only 1 game behind the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite the presence of Doc Rivers and even Phil Jackson, Scott ran away with the Coach of the Year award because nobody expected a team led by an undersized point guard to have that much success in the season.
NBA Champions - Boston Celtics
Runner-up: Los Angeles Lakers
With their Big Three (Big Four including Rajon Rondo) leading the way, the Celtics were simply a better team than the Lakers. It was their time to win a championship, and each of their stars had fantastic Finals series. Paul Pierce won Finals MVP, Kevin Garnett was dominant defensively, and Ray Allen put a ton of pressure on the Lakers' defense with his range. The Celtics made a big stamp in the series in Game 1, earning a 10-point victory led by Garnett’s 24 points. Game 2 was more of the same, although they had to survive Kobe’s 30 points. Game 3 went to Los Angeles thanks to Kobe’s 36, but a pivotal Game 4 effectively ended the series with a big performance by Pierce. With the Lakers keeping alive in Game 5, the Celtics blew out the Lakers to win their championship in Game 6 which sent Kobe and company home.
Finals MVP - Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce was the most vital player for the Celtics in the Finals, averaging 21.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 6.3 APG on 39.3% shooting from three. The clutch small forward also had the most iconic moment during the Finals that involved a wheelchair, effectively turning the momentum to his team’s favor. Pierce also had big performances throughout the series to counter Kobe’s averages of 25.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, and 2.7 SPG. Garnett (18.2 PPG and 13.0 RPG) and Allen (20.3 PPG) were critical for the Celtics, but Pierce was the undisputed Finals MVP for being the go-to scorer in a series against a rampant Lakers squad.
2008 NBA Season - All-Star MVP, All-NBA Teams, All-Rookie Teams, All-Defensive Teams
All-Star MVP: LeBron James
All-NBA First Team: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard
All-NBA Second Team: Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Amar’e Stoudemire
All-NBA Third Team: Manu Ginobili, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Carlos Boozer, Yao Ming
All-Rookie First Team: Kevin Durant, Al Thornton, Jeff Green, Luis Scola, Al Horford
All-Rookie Second Team: Juan Carlos Navarro, Rodney Stuckey, Jamario Moon, Thaddeus Young, Carl Landry
All-Defensive First Team: Kobe Bryant, Bruce Bowen, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Marcus Camby
All-Defensive Second Team: Chris Paul, Raja Bell, Shane Battier, Tayshaun Prince, Dwight Howard