With the regular season starting in just two weeks, it’s time to make some predictions on who will walk away with each award this upcoming NBA season. Odds are the actual results will be drastically different from my guesses, but whatever. Let’s get started:
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves
Tom Thibodeau has been a highly regarded head coach in the NBA for some time now. What he was able to do this summer by acquiring Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Taj Gibson is going to give this team something they haven’t had since Kevin Garnett was in his prime: an identity. This is going to be a gritty and hard nosed defensive team, that can also score the basketball. Pairing that with the emerging young talents that are KAT and Wiggins, I fully expect this team to make the playoffs this year. That would be a huge jump for them compared to where they were at last last year, which should be enough to earn Thibs coach of the year in my eyes.
Rookie of the Year: Dennis Smith Jr., PG, Dallas Mavericks
All the rookie hype is surrounding Lonzo Ball right now, who many expect to walk away with this award. However, I think DSJ is the right choice here. While Lonzo might be better at creating for others, I like DSJ’s ability to not only do that, but create for himself as well. The NBA is a flashy league, and DSJ has plenty of flash to his game. Just look at some of these dunks and see for yourself:
He is one of, if not the most, athletically gifted guards in his class and was slept on big time on draft night. He is going to get a ton of chances to wow us in Dallas this season, and I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people with his skill set. His ceiling to me is a young Derrick Rose, who also won rookie of the year. I think DSJ can and will do the same.
Sixth Man of the Year: Marcus Smart, G, Boston Celtics
Okay, hear me out on this one. For starters, Smart is coming into this season slimmer than he’s ever been by dropping 20 LBS during the offseason. Being the elder statesman in Brad Steven’s system, he most likely knows best how Brad wants things done. Adding Gordon Hayward as another guy who can put up 20+ on any given night not only helped out IT (now Kyrie), but all the other guys coming off the bench. They don’t have to be relied on nearly as much for point production, which should result in guys taking less, but more efficient, shots. I think that’s going to help Smart out tremendously. We’ve seen the things he can do when playing at a high level, and he looked damn good in that preseason game the other night in terms of moving up and down the court. Also given the fact that he is in a contract year, what better way is there to increase your value other than going all out and winning sixth man of the year?
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Antonio Spurs
Is that Kawhi Leonard’s music? Kawhi is always quietly one of the top three best players in the NBA every year it feels like. This season, the two time defensive player of the year will add a third award of this kind to his collection. There’s no doubt he’s the best defender in the NBA, you could even argue that he should’ve won this award last year. I really shouldn’t have to explain myself much on this one.
Most Improved Player of the Year: Kristaps Porzingas, PF, New York Knicks
This award is a hard one to project, but I went with Kristaps Porzingas. Porzingod will only get better now that Carmelo Anthony is finally out of the mix in New York. He’s the face of the franchise now, and with that comes the responsibility of being it’s leader. Being the focal point of New York’s offense will show us a side of Kristaps we haven’t seen yet, and I think his wings will spread far this season.
MVP: LeBron James, F, Cleveland Cavaliers
Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal MVP campaign last season, but the additions of Paul George and Melo in OKC might weigh his chances down a bit this year. When you talk about guys who can do it all, LeBron James is still the best of the best in that category. With IT being out the first couple months of the season, LeBron is going to have to shoulder a load he hasn’t had to carry since returning to Cleveland: point guard. He was already their primary ball handler, but he could rely on Kyrie to do it as well. With him out of the picture, I think not only will LeBron be carrying the weight he left behind, but he’s also got something to prove. He will use anything he can as a motivational advantage, and I think Kyrie wanting out will give him that motivation to ball out and reclaim his title of most valuable player.
So like I said before, these are probably going to be completely off come the end of the season. Feel free to bash me in the comments, or maybe tell me who you have winning each award. I’ll be doing another one of these around the all-star break and at the end of the season.
Written By: Nick Cherico (@NickCherico2)