With the NBA preseason in full swing and the regular season right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to predict the winners of the league’s most prestigious hardware for the upcoming season.
6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford
With the Clippers not adding any depth to their bench in the off-season, it’ll be the Jamal Crawford show once again for the second unit.
Even though Crawford is wildly inefficient and would be a non-factor on a team with a functional bench, he wins this by default because the scoring will be there, and his closest challenger, Andre Iguodala, will see his role diminish with Golden State’s acquisition of Kevin Durant.
Most Improved Player: Devin Booker
Booker is one of four players in NBA history to have over five 30+ point games in their under-20 season. The other three players are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant, who have all won at least one scoring title.
In what will be a tight race with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, that fact that Booker has more room for improvement will propel him to this award, as he only put up 13 points per last year, but will see a serious uptick in minutes for the upcoming season.
Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid
Before a series of injuries kept Embiid from playing for two full seasons, he was highly touted as the most talented player in a draft that included Andrew Wiggins, and was drawing frequent comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon.
Even though preseason is usually a poor indicator of eventual NBA success, it’s the only thing we have to go on at this point. And thus far Embiid has proven silky smooth in the post with some surprising touch from the outside.
Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green
Draymond has been the runner-up to Kawhi Leonard for this award in consecutive seasons, and that’s the reason we’re picking him to triumph this season.
If we’ve learned anything from LeBron not winning an MVP since 2013 it’s that voter fatigue is real, and it seems unlikely that the voters give Kawhi the nod for a third straight season in what will be another close race.
MVP: LeBron James
We know that LeBron stopped trying in the regular season ages ago, but we came to this conclusion through process of elimination.
KD’s departure to Golden State pretty much rules out both he and Steph Curry as contenders, so we’re left with 3 (maybe 4) serious contenders: Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, maybe James Harden, and the King.
Russ and Harden can be ruled out because their teams will be teetering on the edge of the playoffs, and every MVP winner in the past 30 years has led his team in a top-2 seed. And the Spurs’ socialist-style offense holds back Kawhi from putting up MVP-numbers. So there’s only one clear favorite for this award.
Scoring Title: James Harden
Believe it or not, Harden was the league-leader last season in terms of total points. That can be attributed to his ridiculous usage rate, but that rate is only going to increase this season with the departure of D-12.
Right now it’s a toss-up between him and Russell Westbrook, but we’ll give Harden the benefit of the doubt because of his uncanny ability to get to the line.