Ah, the NBA season is finally here, which means the Cavs are getting ready to hoist their first ever Championship banner tonight. It also means, awards prediction time. Let’s get right into it. I’ll be giving you my pick, as well as a sleeper for each award.
Coach of the Year
My Winner: Quin Snyder (Utah Jazz)
The expectations are high in Utah, filled with some real young talent, balanced veterans and a elite defense. Coming off a 40 win season last season, it’s safe to say the future is bright. Expect a huge year from Utah, as I believe they’ll compete for a top 4-5 seed in the tough Western Conference.
My Sleeper: Nate McMillan (Indiana Pacers)
Nate McMillan is back with Indiana after the exit of well liked head coach Frank Vogel. Newcomers Jeff Teague, Thad Young and Al Jefferson should help Paul George and company submit themselves as Eastern Conference contenders. Watch out for McMillan to creep up in COTY voting if Indiana fulfills expectations.
Defensive Player of the Year
My Winner: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Kawhi Leonard, again? Yes. Kawhi Leonard again.
My Sleeper: Avery Bradley (Boston Celtics)
Almost everyone connected in the NBA universe knows Avery Bradley is a lock down defender, but does he get enough credit? Bradley anchors the defensive unit for the Celtics and with Boston expected to be well in the spotlight this year, expect that to help Bradley’s case to win DPOY.
Sixth Man of the Year
My Winner: Brandon Jennings (New York Knicks)
I reserve the right to cancel this pick if Derrick Rose gets hurt again. Just kidding. One of my favorite signings this off-season was Jennings to the Knicks. In speaking to Jennings this summer, he couldn’t wait to play for the Knicks. He’s excited and motivated to play in New York. Jennings should take on a huge role and is expected to play alongside Rose at times when the Knicks go small.
My Sleeper: Will Barton (Denver Nuggets)
Will the “Thrill” Barton was quite productive coming off the bench last year for Denver. Barton has made it clear he wants to start (and will for the first month with Gary Harris out). Barton sets exceptions high for himself, and will improve on a pretty good 2015 campaign.
Rookie of the Year
My Winner: Joel “The Process” Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
If the pre-season is any indication, Joel Embiid is going to put numbers this year. Yes, Embiid will be on a minutes restriction to start the year, expected to play roughly 20-22 minutes off the gate but I don’t think it matters. Embiid should run away with this award.
My Sleeper: Buddy Hield (New Orleans Pelicans)
Buddy Hield is the man. His journey to the NBA is something else, and I am a huge, huge fan of his game. Playing alongside Anthony Davis is going to translate into open looks which is exactly what Buddy needs. He can space the floor and knock down a shot from anywhere. If Embiid falters, Buddy can step up and win this award.
Most Improved Player
My Winner: D’Angelo Russell (Los Angeles Lakers)
I’ll say it now. DLoading is going to have a huge year. The childish antics are behind him and Russell is going to explode into the NBA scene in his second year in the league. Luke Walton is on the record saying this is Russell’s show, which will only help the young mans confidence heading into the season.
My Sleeper: Karl Anthony-Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
It’s hard to imagine a guy like Towns would be in this conversation, but he likely will be. KAT will be one of the best players in the league by 2017-2018 and I expect him to make a huge leap in his sophomore season. Don’t be surprised if Towns isn’t in the MVP discussion as well.
Most Valuable Player
My Winner: Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Do I really need to say much? This is Russell Westbrook’s award to win, and he’ll win it. A motivated, hungry, something to prove Westbrook will be on the prowl. Wouldn’t be surprised if he averages 30, 10 and 8. Beast.
My Sleeper: Damian Lillard (Blazers)
For a guy who hasn’t been treated with the best respect (Team USA snub, All-Star snub, etc) it’s time we start. Lillard believes hes the best player in the league, he believes he can do all things on the court that the best can do (even rap). With another year under his belt and high expectations in Portland, expect Lillard to make a case for MVP.