Since incredibly early predictions are what we do here, NBA expert Zach Short gives his picks for who will win each regular season award at the end of the year.
Coach of the Year
I thought I would just work my way from the bottom to MVP, maybe build a little suspense if I can. That being said, my favorite for this award is Doc Rivers of the Clippers. He’s a great and experienced coach, and I think with a breakaway team this year he has the chance to really impress. He was nominated last year, and I think if he can tear up a drastically altered Eastern conference, he can really stand out from the crowd. While Gregg Poppovich of the Spurs is always a solid contender, no one really wants to see him win every year (although he might deserve it). The greatest competitors for this award are probably Steve Kerr of the Warriors and Brad Stevens of the Celtics. Their fate ultimately lies in how they perform though, as Kerr would have to have a great record that exceeds expectations and Stevens would have to win at least sixty games to break past the expectations for the Celtics.
Most Improved Player
This is probably the hardest one to pick, because it is impossible to guess who is going to break away spontaneously. It would not be impressive if it were not to happen at random, and it would not be at random if it could be guessed. Therefore spontaneity is a must for this award. That being said, the best possibility that I can posit is Patrick Beverly. The dude is all hustle all the time and with a little something more to play for (Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and a real chance to make the Finals), I think he could really step out and shine. He already has a little more name recognition than the usual recipients of the reward, but I think he could very well surprise fans with an impressive season.
Defensive Player of the Year
This is also hard to pick, because defense is just not quite as fun to watch as offense in the NBA, not to mention it isn’t always as noticeable even. The best defense often ends in nothing more than forcing teams to take bad shots. With that in mind, I’m going to place the reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo as my choice. One of the reasons that the Bucks have seen so much success is because they have a superstar that’s willing to go all the way on both ends of the floor. I don’t see Giannis as the kind of player to win MVP back-to-back, at least not yet, but I still find him to be an elite player who will be recognized accordingly.
Sixth Man Award
The winner of this award will have to be a team with a reasonable amount of depth, as they need to have a good starting lineup to demand someone good on the bench. While that seems very obvious, it does limit the selection tremendously. My pick for the award is Nêne, as the Houston Rockets have a dynamite starting lineup, and Nêne on the bench is no slouch. He’ll come in to grant some much needed breaks and perform just like a starter is expected to do.
Now to the ones people actually care about.
Rookie of the Year
It’s not Zion. He may be a great player, but he just can’t get to the place he needs to be starting the season with an injury. Rookie of the Year this season will be Ja Morant. He’s an incredible player who could quite possibly do some damage this year, and he’s playing on a team where he can make a name for himself. After all, while we don’t expect a lot from our greatest rookies, we still expect the very best rookie to surely win more than 20 games. Big apologies to R.J. Barrett and the Knicks on that one.
Most Valuable Player
As I see some of the lesser awards going to the Clippers, I can’t imagine them picking up a third, eliminating Kawhi and George from the running. I already said I don’t see Antetokounmpo being a repeat winner, and I don’t expect another award for LeBron. Curry is a maybe, it just depends on how he adapts to a very different supporting cast in Oakland. My best bet for the award is Anthony Davis. He’s going to do everything he can this year to cement himself as one of the greats, and he has a team that can make him look good enough to do it. The Brow, like Antetokounmpo, falls under the small umbrella of superstars who can play both ends of the court well. I fully expect some impressive scoring with some dominant defensive stats to complement it, and I think he will be met with the respect he deserves come awards time.