It’s almost time ladies and gents.
As the preseason begins to slow down, and teams switch from training camp focus to season focus, it is time for my favorite sport to begin to get underway. With the season starting to pick up pace, this means every writer (myself included) gets to put on our “Smarterest Preddictor” hats, and act like we know the future. So, without further ado, here we go…
Awards (in descending order)
Coach of the Year – Brad Stevens, HC of Boston Celtics
Not exactly the hottest of takes coming right out the gate. In reality, it is a pretty easy assumption, since they are the reigning #2 team in the East following the Cavs getting divorced by the player/owner/GM/coach that was LeBron. However, there are a lot more than just winning the East that earns Brad this award. He’ll get it by managing the egos and playing times of numerous head cases on the team, and by getting Kyrie and Gordon back up to speed. He has to keep the Celts in the top 5 in both offense and defense, while maintaining the potential trade value of all players (because Danny Ainge is still the GM here). The spotlight of the East is shining the brightest in Boston going into this season.
Defensive Player of the Year – Joel Embiid, C Philadelphia 76ers
I struggled with this choice since I am personally a huge fan of both Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert. I also think DeAndre Jordan (deciding to finally sign a deal in Dallas) will have a better year than he did last year. But the West is strong. Very strong. So strong, that I believe that it will be super difficult for these spectacular centers in the West to really have consistent play throughout the year. This is why Joel will take the crown. With the best center in the East after him being an argument between Al Horford and Dwight Howard (since Joel proved Hassan Whiteside can’t measure up to him in the slightest), it should be easy to get a big distance between himself and the other competitors for this award.
Most Improved Player – Brandon Ingram, F Los Angeles Lakers
I was going to pick Dejounte Murray for this, but alas, Murray will more than likely not play a single minute this year. So, I will pick the guy that, while I was not high on him a couple years ago, looks to be a sure-fire candidate for the Showtime Lakers to make a comeback. His FG% had nearly a 12% increase from his 2nd season to his 3rd, and when Lonzo went down he turned into a Point-Forward, taking the ball up the court and being responsible for their Full/Half Court offenses. If he can finish the year healthy, then he is my candidate (I also think he is the key for the Lakers success this season, but that’s a side point).
6th Man of the Year– Lou Williams, G Los Angeles Clippers
This may have been harder than any pick I have had to do this year. With how the 76ers are planning to roll out a weird lineup that could have JJ Redick or Dario Saric being the 6th man, I couldn’t do that. With how the Pacers may do a 3 guard lineup of Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, and Tyreke Evans (or even have Vic be the 1 and Evans be the 2), I stayed away from Tyreke. That just left me with Lou Will and (Scary) Terry Rozier. I think the plethora of talent in Boston will hurt Terry, and the lack of star power on the Clippers allows Lou Will to not only claim that role, but be the sole provider of buckets for this team. He’s an offensive god, and his playmaking is off the charts. On a team that has sold out defense for offense this year, expect their primary ball handler (lol) to be lights out on that end, especially with the fact his defensive limitations will keep him from starting.
Rookie of the Year – Luka Dončić, G Dallas Mavericks
I mean, it only seems right to say that Donovan Mitchell should win it based on what occurred last year, but life sucks…unless your name is Luka. Dončić is going to be a phenom this year. His only competition is a combination of Jaren Jackson, Wendall Carter, Collin Sexton, and Kevin Knox. Ayton and Young are too raw/bad for me to give them serious consideration. Jaren and Carter are both big men, and expecting rookies (let alone rookies that defenses revolve around) to lock NBA offenses up is nearly impossible. Knox can put up the numbers, but his team won’t win. Sexton is the only one that I can see contest Luka for the crown, but his team (even though it resides in the dumpster fire of the East) is bad.
Luka (even though his team resides in the pinnacle of good TV basketball that is the West) has a supporting cast Sexton is dreaming of. Luka has a former DPoY at center, an electric PG that scream Russell Westbrook comparisons, 2 solid defensive role players rounding out the rest of the starting lineup, and a man that has a fadeaway named after him. The reason why Simmons and D Mitch did so well was because they had a supporting cast that could take the spotlight off of them and allow them to mature at their own pace while still getting the touches they needed. Expect to see that from Luka, especially since he showed in the preseason he had the capability to guard the 1-4 position (something very unexpected).
Top 4 Losing Vote-Getters for MVP (in no particular order)
- LeBron James, F Los Angeles Lakers
- Russell Westbrook, G Oklahoma City Thunder
- Anthony Davis, C New Orleans Pelicans
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, F Milwaukee Bucks
Most Valuable Player – Kawhi Leonard, F Toronto Raptors
I was THIS close to picking Giannis. It took me making a complete pro/con list between the two (and trust me, it is VERY thorough). The simple reason comes down to one fact: the Raptors have a better defensive team…on paper. I think the Bucks are a great team, and I think Giannis will be an absolute monster in a conference where only a handful of people have the chance to guard him. Unfortunately, the best one happens to be Kawhi.
Expect Kawhi to absolutely tear up a division and put 2k-esque numbers up. The best defense in the league won’t be a team from the West or the Celtics, the team from the North will take that crown. The switch ability of this team is outstanding, and almost every player 1 through 10 on this team has the potential to guard minimum of 2 positions. Kawhi will lead this team through the East and will be top-dog if not 2nd in the East come playoff time. Why am I saying this about a guy that didn’t play at all in the 2017? Simple really: 2016 Kawhi was easily one of (if not, the best) player in the league. Expect his “F*ck the Spurs” tour this year to be something beautiful to behold.