Following up every NBA season are the season awards that are given to the best players/coaches of each category. These awards consist of the most improved player, sixth man of the year, rookie of the year, defensive player of the year, coach of the year, and most valuable player. With a little over a month left before playoffs start, I’m here to give my predictions of who will win each award.
Most Improved Player
First up we have CJ McCollum from the Portland Trailblazers. In 61 games so far, CJ has averages of 20.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 35 minutes per game. In 62 games last year, CJ had averages of 6.8 points, 1 assist, 1.2 rebounds, and 0.7 steals in 15.7 minutes per game where he only started three games. That’s a 14 point, 3.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game differential. Starting all games this season, CJ, along with Damian Lillard, are leading the Blazers to a 33-30 record this season, good enough for the 7th seed in the West currently. CJ is only 24 years old and in his third year in the league. The skies the limit for this kid and am excited to see what more he can do in this league.
Next we have Jae Crowder from the Boston Celtics. He has current averages of 14.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game in 63 games this year. Last season, where he was traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Celts, he held averages of 7.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 0.9 steals in 82 games. His numbers may not jump out at you or be as big of jumps as McCollum’s numbers, but it’s his heart and leadership that puts him on this list. The Celtics are currently the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference with a 38-25 record. He is a key contributor to the team and a big time player at the end of games, shooting an 83.3 field goal percentage on game-tying/go-ahead shots. He is also shooting 77.8 percent (7-9 from the field, 3-4 from on 3-pointers) in the final minute of one-possession games. He is a difference maker for this team and a huge reason for this success.
And lastly, Steph Curry. Yes, Steph Curry. I know you’re wondering, why Steph, a man who won MVP last year and most likely again this year? It’s simple; his scoring is nearly up 7 points from last season (23.8 to 30.7). Although he is averaging an assist lower than last season (7.7 to 6.6), he makes up for it by averaging 1 more rebound (4.3 to 5.3). He is shooting an incredible 47 percent from three, and he already broke his own record of most threes in a season (currently at 293 with 22 games left this season). He’s the best player on the best team in the NBA. Although awards like this aren’t given to superstars like Steph, the numbers don’t lie. He is having a far better season than his last and the numbers aren’t even close.
Prediction: CJ McCollum
6th Man of the Year
First up we have Will Barton. Who? Exactly. Will Barton went from a player people only knew for his dunking abilities to a player that can do way more than dunk a basketball. Traded from Portland to Denver last season, Barton held averages of 6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. This season in Denver he has averages of 15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 62 games this season, only starting once. He’s had fourteen 20+ point games and two 30+ point games so far off the bench this season. Barton is also a player to discuss for the ‘Most Improved Player’ award. Don’t be skewed by Denver’s current record (24-38, the 11th seed in the West). Barton is a huge asset and contributor to this team. He’s proving both his worth and that he belongs in this league with his strong bench play this season.
Next up we have Ryan Anderson. A power forward for the Pelicans, Anderson finds himself on the bubble of starting and coming off the bench. In games where Anthony Davis is injured, Anderson gets the nod to start. But when Davis is healthy Anderson finds himself coming off the bench. Anderson is averaging 16.9 points per game this season, with fourteen 20+ point and two 30+ point games so far this season, similar to Barton. Anderson should without a doubt be starting next to Anthony Davis, where he averages 21.4 points as a starter. In the end, it is Alvin Gentry’s decision to keep having Anderson coming off the bench, which will only strengthen his chance to win this award.
Lastly, we have Ryan Anderson’s teammate, Jrue Holiday. Like Anderson, Jrue could be a starter on this Pelicans’ team, especially with Tyreke Evans out for the remainder of the season. But Alvin Gentry continues to have him come off the bench, where he has had fifteen 20+ point and one 30+ point games so far this season. Believe it or not, Jrue produces better off the bench than he does when he starts; only averaging 11.1 points as a starter compared to his 17.1 points coming off the bench. Maybe coming off the bench is the best fit for Jrue in New Orleans and we shall see if his play this season wins him this award.
Prediction: Will Barton
Rookie of the Year
First we have the first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl-Anthony Towns. This dude is balling this season, averaging 17.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per game. He has won four straight Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards and ranks fourth in the league for most point-rebound double-doubles with 35. He’s ranked 2nd for points per game for rookies only behind Jahlil Okafor, 1st for rebounds per game among rookies, and 2nd for blocks per game only behind Kristaps Porzingis. He’s killing it this season and looks to become the 2nd straight Timberwolves player to win Rookie of the Year.
Next we have Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis. PorzinGOAT. PorzinGOD. Kristaps is a man of many nicknames and there is a good reason why. Averaging 14 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game so far his rookie season, Kristaps is proving lots of people wrong. From being booed after being drafted 4th overall to the Knicks nearly a year ago, to being in contention for Rookie of the Year, this kid knows how to silence the haters. Every game he plays he proves why he belongs in this league and why Knick fans should be ecstatic about this man’s very bright future in New York.
Last up we have Jahlil Okafor. He leads the rookies in points per game with 17.5 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Many say Okafor will be a star in this league while others say he’s only putting up these numbers because he’s on the 76ers and they have nobody. With Jahlil’s usage rate sitting at 27.3 on the season, you can definitely argue that case. I’m curious to see what Jahlil’s future has ahead of him. As long as he stays out of trouble and keeps up his averages, I can see him being a great player in this league.
Prediction: Karl-Anthony Towns
Defensive Player of the Year
First we have last year’s winner Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. Kawhi’s defensive abilities are second to none. He’s arguably the best lock down defender in the league and can defend most positions in a game. His 6’6 height and 7’3 wingspan help make him so deadly defensively. His steals (1.8) and blocks (0.9) per game aren’t crazy numbers, but his defensive rating of 94.5 (third best in the league) stands out. If your team is playing the Spurs, expect Kawhi to try and shut down your best player.
Next we have Hassan Whiteside from the Miami Heat. Hassan Whiteside really went from nothing to something in this league in a very short time. He broke out last season, his first with Miami, and kept it going this season as well. He leads the league with 3.9 blocks per game and with a 92.6 defensive rating. Along with his 8.5 defensive rebounds per game (11.7 in total), Hassan proves to be a defensive beast.
Lastly, we have Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. Draymond does a little of everything for the Warriors, with averages of 1.5 steals, 1.2 blocks, 8.0 defensive rebounds (9.7 in total), and a 99 defensive rating this season. He’s the glue that keeps the team together defensively and holds it down in the front court alongside Andrew Bogut.
Prediction: Hassan Whiteside
Coach of the Year
First we have 3x Coach of the Year winner Gregg Popovich. Pop and the Spurs have already clinched a playoff spot with 21 games left in the season. This is the 19th straight season the Spurs have made it to the playoffs, all under Popovich. With a 52-9 record, the Spurs are only three and a half games behind the one-seeded Golden State Warriors. It’s incredible how well the Spurs do year after year. It seems like they always get better as the players get older.
Next we have Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors currently sit atop the Western Conference standings with a 55-5 record, on pace to snap the 95′-96′ Chicago Bulls’ 72-10 record for best record in the regular season. It’s a great record and all, but it’s worth noting that Steve Kerr missed the first 43 games due to recovery from back surgery. Although Steve Kerr wasn’t present at games, he was at practices and guided interim coach at the time Luke Walton to a 39-4 record.
Lastly, we have Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics. What’s there not to love about this year’s Celtics team? They play hard, fight till the end, and are entertaining as hell to watch. There are no real stars on this team unless you argue that Isaiah Thomas is a star in this league. This is a team made up of guys that were told they weren’t good enough and now they’re proving that they are pretty damn good. Sitting at 3rd in the Eastern Conference with a 38-25 record is something nobody expected from the Celtics this year. So why are they so good? Easy answer, Brad Stevens. Brad Stevens is one of the youngest, brightest coaches in the NBA at 39-years-old. His play calling is magic and is arguably one of the best coaches in the NBA. He hopes to be honored as the best coach this year winning this award.
Prediction: Brad Stevens
Most Valuable Player
First we have 4x MVP winner LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron is arguably still the best player in the world, and will continue to be until the day he retires. His averages of 24.8 points, 6.6 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game are some of the league’s best. He holds the Cavaliers together. Who knows what kind of team Cleveland would be like without LeBron. He isn’t putting up the greatest numbers of his career, but you have to expect that from him as he ages. Once the playoffs start up, expect LeBron to turn into the best LeBron James we have ever seen.
Next up we have former MVP winner Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. I was torn to pick between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but ultimately decided to pick Durant. His averages of 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists are the reason for this team’s success. Russell Westbrook is a big reason as well, but let me explain. Last season Durant only played 27 games. This caused Westbrook to take over and put up insane averages the whole year. BUT, they missed the playoffs. You can almost guarantee a top playoff spot for the Thunder if both Durant and Westbrook are healthy. The Thunder is currently 42-20 and 3rd in the Western Conference. When Durant is healthy OKC is a deadly team. He’s the difference maker and reason the Thunder are as good as they are.
Last we have last year’s winner Steph Curry. What is there really to say? He’s averaging 30.7 points, 6.6 assists, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He tied the single-game record for most threes in a game with 12. He broke his own record of most threes made in a season (288) and currently has 293 three-pointers made with 22 games left this season. His PER of 32.8 is the league’s highest. The Warriors (55-5) are on pace to break the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls record for best regular season record (72-10). I don’t see a reason why he wouldn’t win MVP for a second straight year. He’s arguably the best player in the NBA.
Prediction: Steph Curry