With the inaugural NBA Awards Show just hours away, let’s get some last minute predictions for tonight’s categories.
Note: these are predictions for the NBA’s regular season awards. All of these choices are based upon production in the regular season only. Postseason results and statistics are not factored into the decision making process.
Rookie of The Year — Joel Embiid
The least amount of games a Rookie of The Year has played during the regular season was 50. Patrick Ewing did it in ’86, and Vince Carter accomplished the feat in ’99. Having only suited up for 31 games, the hesitation to cast a vote for Embiid is understandable. Malcolm Brogdon and Dario Saric are justifiable picks, but neither had the impact that Embiid had when healthy. “The Process” was a terror on both ends of the floor. Even with a minutes restriction, he anchored the paint on defense, and showed versatility within his offensive game. Had he been able to suit up for more games, this race wouldn’t be much of a debate. The award is for the league’s best rookie – and that was clearly and plainly Embiid.
Most Improved Player — Giannis Antetokounmpo
‘The Greek Freak’ took a massive leap forward in his fourth season, asserting himself as an elite player in the league. Giannis’ skill level seems to have caught up to his freakish body — as he posted career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field-goal percentage. Making his first All-Star team appearance — along with winning this award — indicates that this is the start of something special for Giannis.
Sixth Man of the Year — Eric Gordon
There haven’t been too many times where two players on the same team were in the running for this award, but Gordon finds himself edging teammate Lou Williams (and the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala) by just a hair. Gordon kept the Rockets afloat throughout the year while James Harden rested — taking over ball handling duties and knocking down threes at a high rate. It was one of the best years of Gordon’s career, and it will be satisfying to see him be rewarded for it.
Defensive Player of the Year — Draymond Green
The bridesmaid finally has their day. Green takes home the Defensive Player of the Year after finishing as the runner-up in each of the last two seasons. The Warriors have talented defensive players across the floor in Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Iguodala, but the team takes it to the next level when Green is out there. His ability to switch onto guards, protect the paint, and disrupt passing lanes make him one of the league’s most feared defenders. Green was top-five in the league in almost all major advanced defensive categories, and set career highs in both Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box Plus/Minus. Golden State’s defense was elite when Green was on the floor all season long.
Coach of The Year — Erik Spoelstra
Mike D’Antoni has a legitimate gripe if the award doesn’t go his way, but we have to tip our cap at the work Spoelstra did this season. After starting the season 11-30, the Heat did a complete flip by finishing the season with a 41-41 record. Spoelstra is well regarded for his ability to get the most out of his players. Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, and Dion Waiters played the best basketball of their careers, and players like Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Tyler Johnson were solid contributors as well. Missing the playoffs hurt his chances, but that shouldn’t cloud the job he did with an imperfect group.
Most Valuable Player (MVP) — Russell Westbrook
With a month left in the season, this award belonged to James Harden. Then, “End of Season Brodie” happened. Westbrook lit up scoreboards with his mass amount of triple-doubles. No team leaned on their star player more than Russ, and he delivered time and time again with gutsy performances. Averaging a triple-double and breaking Oscar Robertson’s single season mark is impressive, but numbers don’t tell the entire story for Westbrook’s remarkable year. His energy level never faltered, as he continuously pushed the ball in transition for a Thunder team that lacked any other ball handlers. Russ was simply a force all season long.
Sources: Bill Streicher, John E. Sokolowski, Troy Taormina, Kyle Terada, Jeremy Brevard, Thomas B. Shea/USA TODAY Sports, GQ.com