MVP- Paul George, Indiana Pacers
George had a spectacular 2015-2016 year after missing most of the previous year healing from a broken leg. In 81 games with Indiana last year, George scored just over 23 points per game, seven rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. He’s a top five talent in the NBA and dominates on both offense and defense. PG-13 has increased his scoring average and shooting percentage from three in every one of his full seasons in the NBA.
The additions of Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague and Al Jefferson may take away a few of his offensive touches, but they can also open up and spread out defenses more. Indiana should be a top four seed in the East, which will certainly help his case to take home the MVP.
Honorable Mentions: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers; Kahwi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs; Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Defensive Player of the Year- Kahwi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
The two-time defending champion of this award, Leonard is in prime shape to take it home again. Despite losing Tim Duncan (strongest of tears) to retirement in the offseason, San Antonio’s team defense shouldn’t slip too much, thanks to Kahwi.
He’s the best perimeter defender in the game, and of the best overall players in the Association. He’ll likely lead the Spurs in points per game, which will give him serious MVP credentials as well.
Honorable Mentions: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers; Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks; Paul George, Indiana Pacers; Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics
Rookie of the Year- Buddy Hield, New Orleans Pelicans
With Ben Simmons going down to injury and likely missing a month or two, this Rookie of the Year race is wide open. Kris Dunn might be the favorite, but there is no guarantee that he will start over incumbent Ricky Rubio. Hield, however, has no one in line to start over him for the Pelicans.
The sharpshooter from Oklahoma was picked sixth overall, and played okay in the summer league. He scored 16.8 points per game, but it took him almost 20 shots to get there. His shooting numbers were awful, shooting just 24% from deep, but his track record points to a massive improvement in that area as he goes through the season.
Honorable Mentions: Kris Dunn, Minnesota Timberwolves; Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers; Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers; Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Most Improved Player- Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
Booker surprised everyone with his play last season for the Phoenix Suns, and is now being projected as a star in the mold of Klay Thompson rather than just a sharpshooter like JJ Redick.
He was stellar after the All-Star game when his minutes increased. Booker averaged just 10.9 points per game before the All-Star break and then poured in 19.2 after the break. He’s been lighting it up in preseason play, including a 34-point performance against the Portland Trailblazers.
Being paired with Eric Bledsoe is bound to get him open, as Bledsoe is adept at attacking the basket and kicking to open shooters. Booker is the go-to option on a young, inexperienced, and bad Suns team.
Honorable Mentions: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves; Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks; Dennis Schroder, Atlanta Hawks
Sixth Man of the Year- Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
This was the toughest award to project, but Brandon Knight is expected to put up big numbers off the bench in Phoenix. Knight is capable of playing either guard position, which will allow him to play alongside Devin Booker or Eric Bledsoe. In 52 games last year (50 starts), Knight scored 19.6 points per game.
With the emergence of Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe presumably being healthy, Knight will be moved to the bench under new head coach Earl Watson. Knight still has plenty of upside at 24, even though it seems like he’s been in the league for 10 years.
Honorable Mentions: Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics; Jeremy Lin, Brooklyn Nets; Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors; Brandon Jennings, New York Knicks
Coach of the Year- Brad Stevens
Brad Stevens is the next superstar head coach of the NBA, if he isn’t one already. He could have been considered for the award the last two years, but this should be his breakthrough season. He coached the Celtics to 48 wins a season ago, and with the additions of Jaylen Brown, Gerald Green and most notably, Al Horford, this Boston teams could/should win 50 games and contend for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
I don’t think this award should go to Steve Kerr in Golden State because his team is a cheatcode. Tyronn Lue could take it home but he has LeBron. There are a host of coaches that could win this award, but I think Stevens is the favorite.
Honorable Mentions; Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder; Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota Timberwolves; Terry Stotts, Portland Trailblazers; Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers
Eastern Conference Champion- Cleveland Cavaliers
Big surprise huh? LeBron has made the NBA Finals each of the last six seasons, and that won’t change this season. He’s still surrounded by Kyrie Irving, KLove, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith. That should be more than enough to walk through the East yet again.
Honorable Mentions… Boston Celtics (maybe), Toronto Raptors (possibly). Atlanta Hawks (I doubt it), Indiana Pacers (Can Paul George be cloned?)
Western Conference Champion- Golden State Warriors
Steph Curry. Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. That’s all you need to know. No chance for anyone else in the West.
Honorable Mentions… Los Angeles Clippers (probably not), Portland Trailblazers (ehhhhh), San Antonio Spurs (hmmm…), Oklahoma City Thunder (not a chance)
NBA Champion- Cleveland Cavaliers
Yeah, not going with Golden State. Choosing Cleveland is no upset, but it’s certainly not choosing the favorite Well don’t be surprised when Cleveland beats them again. Pretty much what I’m about to say you can hear from Colin Cowherd here. But if you want to hear it my own words you can keep reading.
LeBron James owns Golden State. Owns them. He is their daddy. Yeah he lost in 2015, but everyone has already discussed that. In the two Finals series vs Golden State, LeBron has averaged 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. As for the addition of Kevin Durant making a difference, LBJ is 13-3 lifetime against Durant, while scoring 28 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.
Losing Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezili may not seem like a big deal, but what does LeBron excel at? Driving to the basket. What did those two players do? Protect the rim.
We’ve all seen Steph Curry the last two finals, and it hasn’t been pretty. Kyrie Irving is more than capable of containing him for another series. J.R. Smith turned into a two-way shooting guard in the Finals, and bothered Klay Thompson all series. Tristan Thompson is also solid enough on defense to defend Draymond Green.
All the pressure is on Golden State after they assembled their super team (still couldn’t beat Tyler and Kevin though). LeBron liberated his city last year, and now has no pressure. The funny thing about this series is that James probably won’t even be the villain of it.
Cleveland wins 4-3
Cover Photo via Fox Sports
Other Photo via Sports from the Basement