The NBA awards are right around the corner now. This is the time when it is determined who the best of the best are. The time when the first guy off of the bench can win a prize. And it is also the time when the people who pretend to know sports can learn yet another name in the NBA to try to talk about besides LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. So without further ado, here are the predictions for this season’s NBA awards.
MVP- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry has not only impressed NBA fans across the country with his tremendous play, but he has also broken records (some of which were his own), been both healthy and consistent, and has led his team to the top spot in the Western Conference.
Known mainly for his knock down three point shot, the former Davidson star has shown this season that he is capable of carrying a team with more than just the hottest hand in the NBA. His stat sheet resembles Charles Barkley, in that both could use a larger frame to contain the sheer amount of mass contained inside of them; he was top six in the NBA in points, assists, steals, three point percentage, and was the league leader in three pointers made as well as free throw percentage. Oh yeah, he also broke his own single season record for most three pointers made in a season. Now that he has proven himself more of a leader, rather than simply an outstanding shooter, he is an MVP type player.
Defensive Player of the Year- Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
Although I believe Kawhi Leonard is the best defender in the league, Draymond Green is not too far behind; however the award goes to Green because he has anchored the best defense in the league, which has been the pattern of the winners the past few seasons.
Just to show that players don’t have to be the best defender to win the award, two of the past three seasons the defensive player of the year hasn’t even been on the NBA all defensive first team; however they were anchors of some of the top defenses in the league, which is why Green wins it over Leonard. Draymond Green is an extremely versatile in that he has the size and strength to guard players much larger than him, yet he has the speed to compete with guards and perimeter players. The development of Green into the great defender he is today has helped Golden State move from a playoff team to a championship team, and that is why he deserves this award.
Rookie of the Year- Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
There was no one that had more hype surrounding him than Andrew Wiggins had this season, and he did the best he could to live up to that hype. Although Minnesota was the worst team in the league this past season, Wiggins was one of the few things for Timberwolves’ fans to be excited over.
Unfortunately Wiggins wins this award somewhat due to a process of elimination, as several preseason contenders ended up missing out on most or all of the season in Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Joel Embiid. Wiggins led all rookies in scoring, averaging over 16 points per game, with a season high of 33 points when he was matched up with none other than LeBron James. He caught fire late in the season as well, averaging an entire five points more after the All-Star break than he had before. Wiggins may have been on the worst team in the league this season, but averaging almost 17 points per game in the NBA before being allowed to drink is a mighty big accomplishment in my books, hence the reason he is the Rookie of the Year.
Most Improved Player- Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
Jimmy Butler shocked the NBA this season by being the player taking charge, along with Pau Gasol, when the Bulls’ star Derrick Rose went down once again. Until this season Butler was a highly touted sixth man; a guy who had shown potential as a Gordon Hayward type player but never could perform on a consistent basis. This season he showed he was capable of carrying a team, putting up 20-5-5 on a regular schedule.
He increased his scoring output by over seven points per game, and also averaged higher numbers in every other major statistical category. The league has seen flashes of greatness from Jimmy Butler before, most notably in several postseason games the past few seasons, however this year everyone saw Butler living up to his full potential and showing what he was capable of, and that is why he is the most improved player in the league.
Coach of the Year- Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks
Most people say that Steve Kerr is the Coach of the Year, and when he may very well win the award, there is no one that deserves it more than Mike Budenholzer. Unlike the All-Star surrounding Kerr, Budenholzer was handed a team that was not likely to make the playoffs, and one many thought should consider tanking to start rebuilding with younger players.
Budenholzer made lemonade out of lemons however and led this preseason joke of a team to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. How Mike Budenholzer was able to take a team of this talent to the top spot in the conference was one of the most impressive feats of the season, right up there with Klay Thompson’s 37 point quarter and Russell Westbrook’s triple double streak. With Budenholzer now entering the playoffs with his Hawk’s team, led by Al Horford and Paul Millsap, it is time to see if the best coach of this season can make some noise on the road to the finals.
Sixth Man of the Year- Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics/ Phoenix Suns
Isaiah Thomas shouldn’t be a sixth man in this league, because he has shown nothing except starter worthy play since he first stepped foot in the league. He started only one game this season for the Phoenix Suns, and after he was obtained by the Celtics he still wasn’t named a starter.
You may think the Celtics would want to start him considering he is their leading scorer; I’m no GM but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a team would want their top scorer and second leading assister on the floor more than the 25 minutes that Thomas is currently receiving. After Boston acquired Thomas they finished out the season 16-5 to make the playoffs. Coincidence? Nope. Thomas averaged 19 points with the Celtics as a sixth man and over 15 as the sixth man for the Suns. Isaiah Thomas may not be an Isiah Thomas, but he is the best sixth man in the league.
NBA All First Team
G- Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
G- Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
F- LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
F- Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
C- DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
This season is interesting, in that either Russell Westbrook or James Harden, the league’s top two scorers in the league, will not make the All NBA First Team. Westbrook has certainly looked like the best player in the league this season, as he won the scoring title but also showed he could do so much more than score, which is sometimes a difficult task for Westbrook’s former teammate in James Harden.
However Harden gets the benefit of leading his team into the second seed in the West, while Westbrook and the Thunder disappointed by not making the postseason at all. These selections should not be based on how well a team performs but instead based on individual play… the team awards will come in the postseason. Hence Russell Westbrook over James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins over Tim Duncan, even if neither player could carry his team to the postseason. Curry, Davis, and James are obvious choices, then Cousins and Westbrook were simply outstanding this year, both having to do practically everything for their respective teams.
It is very similar to the Jimmer Fredette or Doug McDermott situations when they won the Wooden Award, each guy doing everything he could for his team, yet neither ever beat one of the top teams in the nation but instead put up jaw dropping performances night in and night out. So did the Thunder or the Kings have a tremendous season? No, but each team boasted one of the best players in the league, and that should be reflected in the NBA All First Team.
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