Sacramento Kings

Raptors’ Pascal Siakam takes NBA Most Improved Player award over Kings’ De’Aaron Fox

Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) shoots around New Orleans Pelicans forward Christian Wood (35) during a game at Golden 1 Center on Sunday, April 7, 2019 in Sacramento.
Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox (5) shoots around New Orleans Pelicans forward Christian Wood (35) during a game at Golden 1 Center on Sunday, April 7, 2019 in Sacramento. pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox didn’t come away with the Most Improved Player trophy, but his breakout sophomore season was recognized for the world to see at the NBA Awards on Monday night in Los Angeles.

The award was presented to Pascal Siakam, who made a quantum leap in his third season to help the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA championship. Siakam received 86 first-place votes and a total of 469 points.

Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell finished second with 255 points. He received 12 first-place votes, 59 second-place votes and 18 third-place votes.

Fox finished third with 77 points. He garnered one first-place vote, 13 second-place votes and 33 third-place votes. The TNT broadcast included highlights of Fox, who later took to the stage to present an award.

Kings guard Buddy Hield was fourth in Most Improved Player voting with 22 points. He received four second-place votes and 10 third-place votes. Hield averaged 20.7 points points per game this season, shooting 42.7 percent from 3-point range.

Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein received one third-place vote after averaging 11.9 points and 8.4 rebounds this season.

Finalists for NBA awards were chosen by a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. The author of this story was one of those voters. Ballots were due April 12.

Siakam, 25, demonstrated extraordinary growth after becoming a starter this season in Toronto. He averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists, up from 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists last season. He has also established himself as an exceptional defensive player.

Fox, 21, showed tremendous improvement in leadership and production in his second NBA season with the Kings. He averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game after averaging 11.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 20187-18.

Fox also demonstrated considerable improvement in his ability to shoot, draw fouls and finish around the basket following an intense offseason workout program that focused on shooting and strength training. His shooting percentage improved from .412 to .458 and his 3-point shooting jumped from .307 to .371. He also attempted 5.1 free throws per contest after averaging just 2.7 as a rookie.

Russell, 23, started 81 games for the Nets this season and played an instrumental role in their run to the Eastern Conference playoffs. He averaged 21.1 points, 7.0 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting 36.9 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range.

One of his most memorable moments came in a 123-121 victory over the Kings on March 19 at Golden 1 Center. He scored 27 of his 44 points in the final period to help the Nets overcome a 25-point fourth quarter deficit.

The MVP award was presented to Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. He edged the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George.

Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks won Rookie of the Year. The Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young was second. The Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton was third.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams took home the Sixth Man Award for the second year in a row. The Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis was second. The Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell was third.

Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was named Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Antetokounmpo was second. George was third.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer won Coach of the Year. Clippers coach Doc Rivers was second. Denver Nuggets coach Michael Malone was third. Former Kings coach Dave Joerger tied for sixth. Joerger received one first-place vote.

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