(Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/a1/58/paul-george-james-harden-getty-041219-ftrjpg_10mkzscqdjvsc10u3d5jn1cyo3.jpg?t=308202506&w=500&quality=80 Let the arguments commence.I’ve been voting for MVPs in the NBA for almost 20 years, and this year’s choice was as difficult as any, with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rockets’ James Harden engaged in a duel all season. It was a brain-twister, but I finally made my decision. NBA Most Improved Player list1. Pascal Siakam, Raptors2. Nikola Vucevic, Magic3. Domantas Sabonis, PacersDisclaimer: This is a silly award. It is too often given to a player who just had some early-career struggles and bounced back to fulfill the potential he was supposed to have from the beginning. If former No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell of the Nets wins this year, he will be a case-in-point.As far as guys who have actually changed their games and elevated their positions in the league, none has done so more than Siakam, who looked like a low-skill guy who could stick around in the NBA because he played within his role and played with high energy.He shattered all those preconceptions about him this year, averaging 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists, playing top-shelf defense and making himself an essential player on a championship-caliber team.He even improved within the very year that he should win Most Improved. After the All-Star break, Siakam averaged 19.0 points on 54.5 percent shooting and 42.1 percent 3-point shooting. From energy dude to budding star? Now that is improvement. NBA MVP list1. James Harden, Rockets2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks3. Stephen Curry, Warriors4. Paul George, Thunder5. Nikola Jokic, NuggetsThe hunch here is that Antetokounmpo will win this trophy, and just about any voter would concede that either Harden or Antetokounmpo would make a worthy choice.The question, essentially, is whether the seven more games won by Antetokounmpo’s Bucks outweigh the enormous offensive load that Harden had to carry. Everything — Harden’s usage percentage, Antetokounmpo’s shooting percentage, Antetokounmpo’s excellent defense, Harden’s subpar defense, Harden’s historic scoring mark, Antetokounmpo’s perimeter struggles — can be filtered through that lens.Antetokounmpo had better and healthier players, top-to-bottom, around him in 2018-19 and helped push those players to near-maximum output. Harden’s team was wracked with injuries — three starters missed at least 14 games — and questionable front-office choices (Carmelo Anthony) before being rebuilt as the season went on.The Rockets’ regular starting five was together for just 26 games, but that group had a 21-5 record. The first three players off the Houston bench heading into the playoffs were not with the team when the season started.Additionally, Houston plays in the West, where eight teams won at least 48 games. The Rockets won 53, the Bucks 60.Statistically, the two players stand out in their own ways. Antetokounmpo’s combination of length and athleticism shone through in his numbers: 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.5 blocks. Harden’s smarts and toughness shone through in his: a league-high 36.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists.But the load Harden had to carry with such a beaten-up and mish-mashed Rockets roster gives him an edge. It’s a slight one. Antetokounmpo likely will win, and there should be no complaints if he does. The vote here, though, goes to Harden. NBA Defensive Player of the Year list1. Paul George, Thunder2. Rudy Gobert, Jazz3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, BucksIt’d be an upset if George wins this award, but watching his performance against opponents’ top perimeter players over the course of the season has to garner him consideration. And the numbers suggest the kind of impact he has had: Opponents’ offensive efficiency is 111.7 when he is not on the floor, but plummets to 106.0 when he is on the floor.Antetokounmpo and Gobert play for the top two defensive teams in the league and may wind up with more votes because of it. But George has had a heavy load for the No. 4-ranked defense in the league, and he’s been up to the task. NBA PLAYOFFS 2019:Full schedule | West breakdown | East breakdownThe rest of the ballot for this NBA awards season wasn’t quite so difficult. The winners for Coach of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and Rookie of the Year should be consensus picks, with Defensive Player of the Year and maybe Most Improved providing small bits of controversy.With that, SN’s 2018-19 award winners… (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/8b/15/pascal-siakam-getty-010819-ftrjpg_1qn78p7xlc82u13tejno9sgg73.jpg?t=775098656&w=500&quality=80 NBA Rookie of the Year list1. Luka Doncic, Mavericks2. Trae Young, Hawks3. Marvin Bagley III, KingsThe difference between Doncic and Young in this race was that Young’s early-season struggles hit much harder than Doncic’s late-season shooting slump (41.1 percent from the field, 26.8 percent from the 3-point line over his final 18 games). Doncic was simply more consistent over the course of the year, while Young came on strong in the final few months.The final stats are not so out-of-whack. Young had 19.1 points per game and 8.1 assists, shooting 41.8 percent and 32.4 percent from the 3-point line. Doncic had 21.2 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists, shooting 42.7 percent and 32.7 percent from the 3-point line.Both appear headed for stardom. But for this year, Doncic seized control of the Rookie of the Year race in the early going, and Young’s late surge was not enough to take it away. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/6d/33/james-harden-getty-041219-ftrjpg_138ycsi1cg2271kdgrruuypfkd.jpg?t=308512002&w=500&quality=80 NBA Sixth Man of the Year list1. Lou Williams, Clippers2. Domantas Sabonis, Pacers (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/0/0/mike-budenholzer-getty-010819-ftrjpg_vittiyjg8zqq1xmu19xyuzhhe.jpg?t=775078720&w=500&quality=80 NBA Coach of the Year list1. Mike Budenholzer, Bucks2. Mike Malone, Nuggets3. Doc Rivers, ClippersIt’d be wrong to say that the Bucks made no personnel changes from last year to this year. Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova were signed in the offseason. The team traded for George Hill in December and Nikola Mirotic in February. So there were changes.But the crux of the Bucks — Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Eric Bledsoe — remains the same. Yet this was a team that started 7-0 and hung around the top of the Eastern Conference for the duration of the season, finishing with the best record in the league.It wasn’t the players who changed. It was the coach. Bringing in Budenholzer was the perfect move for this roster, as his spread-the-floor offense helped create room for Antetokounmpo to make an MVP run and played to the team’s strengths.Defensively, parking Lopez near the rim and using the team’s long-armed perimeter guys to intercept passing lanes was brilliant, and the Bucks wrapped the year with the No. 1 defense in the league.This was a 44-win team that was eliminated in the first round last season under Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty. Budenholzer has turned it into the best team in the league, with much higher postseason expectations ahead. (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/58/c1/lou-williams-ftr-020218jpg_1hb99glhagjde1kif643ws3fsg.jpg?t=1486864865&w=500&quality=80 (Getty Images) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/1/21/luka-doncic-getty-041219-ftrjpg_1ok8c1dfffnww1xgvf3luqx9cq.jpg?t=308640002&w=500&quality=80 3. Spencer Dinwiddie, NetsWith due respect to Danilo Gallinari, Williams has been the best player on the most pleasantly surprising team of the year, and he has done it off the bench. He’s averaged 20.0 points and 5.4 assists, the league leader off the bench in both categories.Williams is a shoo-in to win, which would make him a three-time recipient of the award.