With the NBA now underway and several of the NBA’s pieced together super-teams getting used to playing together, the discussion for which players/coaches will take home the top NBA Awards must now take place.
One key factor involved into these nominations include the personnel around the given nominee. With each NBA off-season seeming to surpass the previous season’s cosmic shift of talent, free agency undoubtedly now plays a factor in who is projected to win a given award. Plus, we would rather read this award preview than watch another awards show hosted by Shaq.
Cam Carter and Randy King take a stab at predicting who will be taking home the major NBA Awards by the end of the season.
Most Valuable Player:
Randy: Stephen Curry
Cam: James Harden
2018-2019 Winner: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Bovada.com Favored Odds: Giannis Antetokounmpo (+300)
Randy: Stephen Curry has all the reasons to win the MVP this season. In the past few years, the MVP has gone to players who have carried their team to success in the regular season while putting up gaudy statistics. Think of Russell Westbrook in 2016-2017 one year after the departure of Kevin Durant and willing the Thunder to the postseason.
Last year, it was Antetokounmpo who took home the MVP trophy while putting up 27.7 PPG (3rd in the NBA), 12.5 RPG (6th in the NBA), 5.9 APG (20th in the NBA), and a 35.3 player efficiency rating which ranked first in the NBA. Due to these statistics, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks gained the top-seed in the Eastern Conference which only helped his candidacy.
This season, Curry gets thrust back into the MVP voting due to the responsibility that he will have to shoulder. In the last few seasons, he may have had a few votes taken away due to his teammate and other MVP candidate Kevin Durant stealing some of the spotlight.
With Durant now in Brooklyn and fellow splash brother Klay Thompson out for a good portion of the season, Curry stands a good shot at the MVP due to the usage rate he will be shouldered with this season.
If the Warriors are able to earn a top-four seed in the highly competitive Western Conference and Curry finishes near or at the top of the league in scoring as well as shooting percentages from three, then he will join the elite club of three-time MVP winners like: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, among others.
Cam: James Harden has a new partner in crime in the backcourt in Russell Westbrook. With Westbrook having such a high motor and Harden’s scoring prowess, it’ll be hard to stop the Rockets offensively. The last NBA Finals appearance for both was together in 2012 when they were both members of the Oklahoma City Thunder and they are itching to do it again.
Not only do I believe that Harden will score at the same rate, but I also believe that his assists will go up as the season progresses with Russell being such a solid cutter partnered with the existing shooters on the team. A bad taste was left in his mouth after Giannis Antetokounmpo went home with the MVP award, arguably his third time being snubbed for the award. I don’t see it happening again.
Sixth Man Of The Year:
Randy: Lou Williams
Cam: Lou Williams
2018-2019 Winner: Lou Williams
Bovada.com’s Favored Odds: Lou Williams (+170)
Randy: Sweet Lou is the odds on favorite to win the Sixth Man of the Year, as expected. Williams won his record-setting third Sixth Man of the Year award last season and everything is in line for him to win yet again.
After scoring above 20 PPG for a second straight season, Williams now will not have to be the primary scoring option with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the fold. However, Williams will be the leader of the second unit and will most likely thrive with George and Leonard with no double-teams being drawn towards him.
Some reasonable competition for Williams is Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets and Terrance Ross from Orlando. Much like Williams, Dinwiddie will benefit from the star power added to the roster. Backing up Kyrie Irving and being in the same backcourt in crunch time will allow Dinwiddie to take advantage of his one-on-one match-ups.
When it comes to Ross he is a microwave of a scorer. He burst out as a true scorer for the first time in his career with a career-high 15.1 PPG last season, a whole 4.1 point bump from his previous career-high.
Cam: Lou Williams might have become the third option on his team this off-season, but he is the key to this new and improved Clippers team reaching their full potential. Lou is one of the best scorers in the league and he will have even more opportunities with the additions of the two best two-way players in the league on his team now.
Lou may have this award named after him one day and at the rate he scores given the team he plays for this season, it would be hard to bet against him.
Rookie Of The Year:
Randy: Zion Williamson
Cam: Ja Morant
2018-2019 Winner: Luka Doncic
Bovada’s Favored Odds: Zion Williamson (-130)
Randy: Never has there been a player with more hype around him since LeBron James. A player with the sheer size and athleticism at such a young age has the Big Easy beyond hyped. The NBA preseason has no doubt escalated the noise as he averaged 23.3 PPG.
Zion Williamson's first summer league buckets were so on brand. pic.twitter.com/b7vFpM3ukh
— Basketball Society (@bbsociety_) July 6, 2019
With Anthony Davis now in Los Angeles with the Lakers, the Pelicans need a new face of the franchise. Insert Zion.
With players like Lonzo Ball to give him the ball and running mates like Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, it will aide in the spacing on the court for Williamson to showcase his talents and produce immediately. He is not a feared perimeter shooter but as stated previously, not many players can contend with his blend of size and athleticism.
He can have a similar type of impact in his rookie year that Ben Simmons had two seasons ago.
Cam: Ja Morant was the common second in most predictions behind Zion Williamson for rookie of the year made by fans. However with the number one pick sidelined the next 6-8 weeks to start the season, Morant has a chance to leap ahead of the pack this season. Statistically, Morant will be in a unique position where most rookies have a lot of variables that are out of their control. Morant will have struggles playing at the hardest position in basketball and having a tough match-up every night, but with athletic big men in Jaren Jackson Jr. and rookie Brandon Clarke, Morant’s special passing ability will be on display every night and do not be surprised if he finishes with at least eight assists on average. Morant is in the perfect opportunity to make his case, the question really is if he is ready for the NBA.
Michael Porter jr. suffered a back injury before summer league last season which sidelined him all the way up until training camp. Trae Young’s AAU teammate might be the dark horse for rookie of the year if he can carve out minutes on a deep team with talent.
MPJ is a gifted scorer and has always been able to get the ball in the basket, but his case for ROTY will be made on the defensive end. Mike Malone reiterated that in the preseason when addressing the media.
“My biggest takeaway is he’s got to give the defensive end just as much attention as he does on the offensive end.”
Defensive Player Of The Year:
Randy: Rudy Gobert
Cam: Kawhi Leonard
2018-2019 Winner: Rudy Gobert
Bovada’s Favored Odds: Rudy Gobert (+145)
Randy: No other center in the NBA has had more of an impact on the defensive side of the ball than Rudy Gobert. In order to earn his second Defensive Player of the Year award last season, Gobert had to finish 3rd in BPG, 4th in Defensive Rating, second in Defensive Win Shares, and first in Defensive Box Plus/Minus.
No doubt the addition of former All-Defensive Second-Team member Mike Conley will help halt opponents scoring on the perimeter. Must be nice for Utah Jazz Head Coach Quinn Snyder to have Conley in his backcourt and Gobert being his rim protector.
Gobert has appeared on the All-Defensive First-Team three consecutive times and since his rookie season, he has not dipped below 2.2 BPG. His ability to alter shots at the rim, disrupt passing lanes with his 7’9″ wingspan, and recover on blow by’s makes him versatile enough to guard all five positions.
While fellow Defensive player of the Year candidates Leonard and George are quite the scary defensive duo on the Clippers, they ultimately do not have as big an impact as Gobert. Expect another year with Defensive First Team honors for Gobert and possibly leading the Jazz to become the top defensive unit in the NBA.
Cam: Kawhi Leonard will take home DPOY this season and I he’ll show his dominance beside another elite two-way wing in Paul George. Let’s start with the stat that proves that Kawhi is a cyborg! Embarking on his tenth season, Kawhi Leonard has more steals (829) than personal fouls (793). Which is insane!
Kawhi received a first place and third place vote last season, while also carrying a heavy offensive load and resting. His first game in a Clippers jersey, Leonard doesn’t have a minutes restriction according to Doc Rivers. Moe Harkless was traded to Los Angeles and will also be another above average defender on this team as well. The Clippers are about to be a deadly team on that end lead by the upcoming DPOY Kawhi.
Most Improved Player:
Randy: De’Aaron Fox
Cam: Lonzo Ball
2018-2019 Winner: Pascal Siakam
Bovada’s Favored Odds: Jayson Tatum (+1000)
Randy: The emergence of De’Aaron Fox has been the buzz for of a lot people when discussing who will come out of the Western Conference. Not only does Sacramento possess the ability to get into the playoffs, but their uberly talented point guard in Fox may soon become the NBA’s next dominant guard.
The system is perfect for Fox to play in with new Head Coach Luke Walton who likes to run and get easy looks in transition. Fox led the Kings to the eighth spot in terms of PACE last season and looks to get that number higher. With a fairly young roster, the Kings should have no problem replicating the success they had last year as they get ready to build some post-season experience.
Fox went from averaging 11.6 PPG and 4.4 APG in his rookie season to 17.3 PPG and 7.3 APG. If he is able to take full control of the Kings offense and score 20+ PPG and lead them to their first playoff appearance since the 2006-2007 season, then Fox will be the clear cut favorite to take home this honor.
Cam: Lonzo Ball is in a unique situation, he has the familiarity of his teammates and has an amazing supporting cast to distribute the ball too. When he was traded to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis block-buster deal, Ball was not only dealing with rehab, he was also trying to develop a new jump shot, and he was battling personal issues. Ball is playing for himself and his daughter and he is making all the decisions in his life now.
Another name to consider is Bam Adebayo. Bam will be stepping into a new role as the starting center in Miami and he has a very good chance to shine. The Pinetown narrative is going to play a very pivotal role in Miami’s offense this season and he told Shandel Richardson of The Athletic that he has reached out to a few guys this off-season to prepare for his new role. Malik Allen, who replaced Michigan’s head coach Juwan Howard on the Miami staff, and Chris Bosh have been two people that have had meaningful impacts on Bam taking his game to the next level. The more his jump shot improves, the more impactful Adebayo will become as the season progresses.