With the 2017-18 NBA season almost two months away, here are my way too early predictions for next year’s NBA Awards.
Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook
Last season, Westbrook became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple double over a season. After almost singlehandedly bringing his team to the playoffs, the reigning MVP does not look to be slowing down. With the addition of Paul George to the Oklahoma City, the Thunder look to finish high in the Western Conference and possibly make a deep playoff run. Some might say George will take away stats from Westbrook and make him have a worse year, but I see this as untrue. Look for Westbrook to use the much improved Thunder offense to bolster his stats. His assist numbers should grow from last season, and I don’t see him scoring or rebounding much less if any at all. Westbrook will win his second straight MVP. He is just that dominant.
Runner Up: Kawhi Leonard
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden
Rookie of the Year: Lonzo Ball
Ball will go into his rookie season as a starter. This is an opportunity that many rookies will not have as most will start out on the bench. The Lakers point guard will make an immediate impact on his new team and will look to build off his impressive, MVP winning Summer League season. Ball has the potential to be a triple double machine. We all know he is an incredible passer, unarguably the best coming out of college. But he also possesses great athleticism allowing him to score driving to the basket and to outjump other guards for rebounds. Although he started out poorly this summer, he was able to find his jump shot and showcase his amazing three point range. Ball will make the most of the many minutes he’ll get this season. There is no doubt that he’ll be the bright spot in another poor Lakers season.
Runner Up: Dennis Smith Jr.
Honorable Mentions: De’Aaron Fox, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, Milos Teodosic
Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert
If the media wasn’t so obsessed with the Golden State Warriors, Gobert would have won this award last season. The big man was superb last season, making a name for himself as one of the NBA’s best centers. Gobert is arguably the best shot blocker in the league, averaging almost 3 blocks per game last season. He also grabbed almost 13 rebounds a game, 9 of those being defensive boards. Gobert will be playing with a chip on his shoulder this year as he seemed extremely disappointed with Gordon Hayward’s move to the Celtics. That will only motivate him more, and expect Gobert to have the best season of his career by far this year. He will make a very strong case as the best defender and the league, and the media surely won’t overlook him this time.
Runner Up: Avery Bradley
Honorable Mentions: Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Hassan Whiteside, Draymond Green
Most Improved Player: Kris Dunn
Dunn was selected fifth overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. He failed to live up to his potential in his rookie season as he served as the backup point guard behind Ricky Rubio on the Timberwolves. Dunn was traded this past June to the Bulls in a package deal for Jimmy Butler. This will be beneficial for his career as Dunn will most likely become the Bulls starting point guard. The former Providence star will get a lot of minutes this year on a struggling team. With more playing time, Dunn will show his ability and prove why he was picked so early in the draft. He is one of the most athletic players in the league already and has exhibited glimpses of his high potential last season. An already defensively sound player, Dunn will improve greatly in his offensive game. Expect him to shoot fairly well from outside and use his speed and strength to score inside and get assists. A year from now, Dunn will be known as a solid all-around point guard in the league.
Runner Up: D’Angelo Russell
Honorable Mentions: Jusuf Nurkic, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, Thon Maker
6th Man of the Year: Kelly Olynyk
It’s hard to pick this award considering I don’t know this year’s starting lineups yet. However, it seems that the Heat will keep their same starting five from last year. I predict Olynyk to be the first man off the bench for the Heat, and he will provide a huge impact to the team. Although he has received a lot of ridicule for his appearance, the man can flat out play. The whole country saw his heroics for the Celtics in their Eastern Conference Semis Game 7 victory against the Wizards. The big man can score from any part of the floor. He can stretch the floor with this three point shot. He can take slower big men off the dribble and score driving the lane. He has even shown his ability to imitate Dirk Nowitzki with his post fadeaway. Yeah, he has some flaws, but he puts the ball in the hoop. In addition, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is known for getting the best out of his players. Look away Celtics fans, cause Olynyk will have a great year.
Runner Up: Eric Gordon
Honorable Mentions: Enes Kanter, Andre Iguodala, Patty Mills, Jamal Crawford
Coach of the Year: Tom Thibodeau
The former Celtics assistant and Bulls head coach has already won this award once in 2011. During his tenure as a coach, Thibs has made a name for himself as a defensive guru and one of the smartest coaches in the NBA. Now, he will be reunited with all star Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, a solid role player, who he coached on the Bulls. The Timberwolves have an exciting team with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins along with former all star point guard Jeff Teague filling out the starting five. Veteran scorer Jamal Crawford will come off the bench making the Wolves a force in the west. Thibodeau has proved what he can do with a good team in Chicago and he will do so again this year. He will lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs in a strong Western Conference for the first time since the 03-04 season.
Runner Up: Brad Stevens
Honorable Mentions: Erik Spoelstra, Gregg Popovich, Billy Donovan
Executive of the Year: Bob Myers
Was there ever any doubt who this would be? One year after signing Kevin Durant, the Warriors GM has won free agency again. He was able to keep all of his star players and important role players from his championship team from last season while adding Omri Casspi and Nick Young to great contracts. These players will provide an offensive and shooting spark off the bench. I hate to say it, but the Warriors have gotten better since last season, and that’s thanks to Myers.
Runner Up: Scott Layden
Honorable Mentions: Danny Ainge, Daryl Morey, Sam Presti