Now that my standings predictions have concluded, it’s time to look even further into the future and predict who I think will win the league’s major awards; along with who I envision will win this year’s championship. As always, with the player predictions, they are always made with the thought of zero injuries.
NBA Executive of the Year
- Bob Myers – Golden State Warriors
There’s no point in making a top three or five list, this award should just be given to Bob Myers now. Last year R.C. Buford won this award for bringing LaMarcus Aldridge to a great situation in San Antonio, so bringing a top three talent in Kevin Durant to a team that just won 73 games in a season makes this an easy choice.
NBA Coach of the Year
- Stan Van Gundy – Detroit Pistons
- Steve Kerr – Golden State Warriors
- Brad Stevens – Boston Celtics
If Detroit can rise up the Eastern Conference into the top four, this will be Van Gundy’s award to lose. The Pistons aren’t as deep on paper as team’s like the Cavaliers, Warriors, Spurs, and Celtics, and if they can prove to be a home-court advantage team, then Van Gundy deserves a ton of praise. Steve Kerr comes in second in my rankings because his Warriors will undoubtedly end the season with the most wins in the league; this guarantees him votes for Coach of the Year. Rounding out the top three is Brad Stevens from Boston; a similar case to Van Gundy and the Pistons, but with a slightly better team.
NBA Most Improved Player
- D’Angelo Russell, PG – Los Angeles Lakers
- Aaron Gordon, SF – Orlando Magic
- Zach LaVine, SG – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Most Improved Player award generally goes to a young player, either second or third year in the league, whom is given more minutes and more opportunity to showcase their skills. No player fits that definition this year more than D’Angelo Russell. With the retirement of Kobe Bryant, the keys to the Lakers franchise have been thrust into his hands. He will get the majority of the shots for this team, and should put up solid scoring numbers as the number one option. My second choice for this award is Aaron Gordon in Orlando. He showed flashes last season, and with Vogel at the helm this team should be much better than they have been in the post-Dwight era. Finally, Zach LaVine should get some love for this award, but I don’t think he will put up the type of numbers that Russell will as he is more of a third option in Minnesota.
NBA 6th Man of the Year
- Marcus Smart
- Enes Kanter
- Evan Turner
Sorry Jamal Crawford, but I think your time as the renowned 6th man is over. For this award, my favorite is Marcus Smart; he will play major minutes for the Celtics and will be coming off of the bench. With Evan Turner gone, he will be the main guard when Isaiah Thomas needs a rest, and he should get a lot of recognition for the jump most expect this team to make. My second pick may not end up being eligible for this award, that all depends on Coach Billy Donavon; will he start Kanter, Ilyasova, ort he rookie Sabonis? If Kanter comes off bench, he will have a legitimate shot at this award. Rounding out the top 3 is Evan Turner, playing the 3rd guard role out in Portland. His usage rate should be pretty high, and on a playoff-level squad like the Trailblazers, he should accrue plenty of votes.
NBA All Rookie 1st Team
Buddy Hield, SG – New Orleans Pelicans
Jaylen Brown, SF – Boston Celtics
Joel Embiid, C – Philadelphia 76ers
Jamal Murray, SG – Denver Nuggets
Thon Maker, C – Milwauke Bucks
The players who are given the largest opportunities in their new squads are those who make the All Rookie teams. Out of this rookie class, I think these five have the best shot to make a real impact on their individual teams. Buddy Hield could be starting for the Pelicans with the Tyreke Evans injury, Jaylen Brown should be the backup small forward for a team with playoff aspirations, Joel Embiid is a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Jamal Murray will get a lot of shots once Denver realizes they aren’t a playoff team, and then there’s my sleeper. Thon Maker should get a lot of run, especially with the Middleton injury. His injury essentially takes them out of the running for a postseason spot, and therefore this season should be used to see what they have in their young guys. Monroe is still a bad fit for this athletic, and high upside squad, and if he can be sent out for a solid wing then that opens up a frontcourt rotation spot for Thon. I like his defensive potential alongside Giannis and Carter-Williams.
NBA All Rookie 2nd Team
Domantas Sabonis, PF – Oklahoma City Thunder
Brandon Ingram, SF – Los Angeles Lakers
Kris Dunn, PG – Minnesota Timberwolves
Dario Saric, PF – Philadelphia 76ers
Denzel Valentine, SG – Chicago Bulls
Continuing on with the second team, I have five guys who I think can show they have real futures in the league within their first season. Acquiring Sabonis was a nice move for Oklahoma City, he showed the ability to defend the rim, and stretch the floor during his time at Gonzaga, and you can’t look at Ingram without thinking of a young Kevin Durant. Kris Dunn has a chance to push Rubio out of town in Minnesota as an older rookie, and Dario Saric has played at a high level for many years, no reason to think he won’t be able to carry that over to the NBA. Finally, Denzel Valentine was one of the best players in college basketball last season, and after seeing older players like Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum find success, I tend to favor the older players.
NBA All-NBA Defensive 1st Team
Kawhi Leonard, SF – San Antonio Spurs
Marcus Smart, PG – Boston Celtics
Draymond Green, PF – Golden State Warriors
DeAndre Jordan, C – Los Angeles Clippers
Tony Allen, SG – Memphis Grizzlies
Four of these five are almost guaranteed to make the first All-Defense team, Leonard, Green, Allen, and Jordan. The first three are the best wing defenders in the league, guys that can be trusted to guard LeBron James, Kevin Durant, etc., and DeAndre Jordan is regarded as a top-2 rim defender. I might have reached with Marcus Smart, but if the Celtics perform as well on the defensive end (and overall) as I think they will, then he should get some attention.
NBA All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team
Serge Ibaka, PF – Orlando Magic
Ricky Rubio, PG – Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler, SF – Chicago Bulls
Avery Bradley, SG – Boston Celtics
Hassan Whiteside, C – Miami Heat
Ibaka hasn’t been the same defensive player he has been in the past, but his slowly reducing role in Oklahoma City definitely played a part in that. With Frank Vogel at the helm, and their possible defensive lineups, I see a return to form for the Son of the Congo. Rubio is a constant mainstay on All-Defense teams, Butler made his mark on the defensive end, Bradley is a consistent pest, and Hassan Whiteside is the runner up to being the best rim protector in the league.
NBA Rookie of the Year
- Buddy Hield
- Joel Embiid
- Jamal Murray
- Jaylen Brown
- Thon Maker
Rookie of the year, also known as the award for the rookie who stuffs the stat sheets the most. I really wanted to put Joel Embiid at that number one spot, but he is on a minute restriction, and probably will be for the most of the season. Therefore, I’m picking my favorite for this award as the sharpshooter in New Orleans. Buddy Hield will get a lot of chances to show what he did in college was no joke, Anthony Davis has been looking for a real number two option, and he may have finally got it. I love Embiid’s skill set and footwork, so even with the minute’s restriction I think he’ll put up big numbers on a bad Philadelphia team. Jamal Murray is of the same ilk as Hield, but Denver has more scoring options that won’t allow him to post similar averages to Buddy. Brown will be a solid contributor for the Celtics, but I don’t imagine him averaging double-digit points; his impact will be felt more in the ways that stats don’t show. Finally, had to throw my sleeper Thon Maker in here, if he can shoot anywhere outside of the paint then look out.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
- Kawhi Leonard
- Draymond Green
- DeAndre Jordan
- Marcus Smart
- Tony Allen
It has to be a three-peat for Kawhi Leonard, the guy is an absolute freak. His hands are bigger than dinner plates, and his wingspan covers a massive chunk of the court. Draymond Green is an amazing defender, but he’ll have to accept being 1b in the defensive category. Doc Rivers always drums up DPOY support for DeAndre Jordan, but with less dominant big men, the wings will continue to take the spotlight. Speaking of the minimal dominant big men, Marcus Smart will have to stay in front of elite point guards every game. He has the physical tools to be a top lockdown defender. Tony Allen is getting older, but even with this age and small frame, he continues to be a nightmare for attackers on the perimeter.
NBA All-NBA 1ST Team
Stephen Curry, PG – Golden State Warriors
Russell Westbrook, PG – Oklahoma City Thunder
LeBron James, SF – Cleveland Cavaliers
Kevin Durant, SF – Golden State Warriors
DeMarcus Cousins, C – Sacramento Kings
NBA All-NBA 2nd Team
Chris Paul, PG – Los Angeles Clippers
James Harden, SG – Houston Rockets
Paul George, SF – Indiana Pacers
Kawhi Leonard, SF – San Antonio Spurs
Andre Drummond, C – Detroit Pistons
NBA All-NBA 3rd Team
Damian Lillard, PG – Portland Trailblazers
Kyle Lowry, PG – Toronto Raptors
Draymond Green, PF – Golden State Warriors
Al Horford, PF – Boston Celtics
Karl-Anthony Towns, C – Minnesota Timberwolves
I don’t really have much to say about these picks, the first team should be a given. Maybe Leonard, or Harden could have something to say about being left off of the first team, but they are guarantees on the second team. Paul George with an upgraded roster, Drummond’s another year older, and Chris Paul didn’t show any reason to think that he’ll drop off. The third team has a top five league scorer in Damian Lillard, the leader of a top-5 NBA team in Kyle Lowry, a versatile big man on the best team in the league with Draymond Green, and the new, big impact player for the Boston Celtics in Al Horford. The slight surprise may be favoring Karl Anthony-Towns over DeAndre Jordan, but Towns should put up much higher scoring numbers, along with somewhat similar rebounding numbers.
NBA Most Valuable Player
- James Harden
- Russell Westbrook
- LeBron James
4. Kevin Durant
- Damian Lillard
Russell Westbrook is the Vegas favorite to win MVP this season now that Kevin Durant has fled to join Curry and the Warriors, but I don’t see the media making Westbrook their first choice selection if the Thunder can’t crack the top three in the West. Instead, a part of me really sees the offensive juggernaut Houston Rockets climbing high up the standings, lead by James Harden who could average 30 points, and double digit assists. LeBron James, and followed by Kevin Durant would be my next picks to have MVP seasons, the former will take too many nights off to be fully eligible, and the latter will split votes with his new running mate. Rounding out my top five would be my sleeper MVP candidate, Damian Lillard. I don’t know what to say, the guy just has a winning demeanor. Portland coming in the top five in the West would require a huge season from Dame Dolla’, and that would bring MVP buzz.
NBA Finals Matchup, Winner, and Finals MVP
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Champions – Cleveland Cavaliers
Finals MVP – LeBron James
It’s boring, it’s not a crazy prediction, but it’s my real thought on how this season will shake out. The re-match is going to happen, the Celtics and the Raptors won’t be able to topple the Cavaliers out East, and the Warriors will coast to the first seed in the West, and will outgun either the Spurs or the Clippers. I’m picking the Cavaliers to repeat, however not in the same fashion as last year. The Warriors will cruise through the season, all the way to this Final’s matchup, where confusion will arise as to who makes the clutch plays; who takes the big shot. Whereas, another year of continuity for the Cavaliers will prove to be too much, as Kyrie Irving takes a further step in his playmaking abilities, and Kevin Love’s confidence continues to rise. LeBron James’s Finals career numbers: 28 PPG, 8.8 RPB, and 6.8 APG. A near triple double guy, who else is going to get the Bill Russell MVP Award?